Ditching work can do some incredible things for your team. Getting people out of the office opens up new perspectives, and can spur discussions and relationships that don’t naturally happen at work.
The question is, how do you make sure your offsite doesn’t fall flat?
Whether your event is based on work stuff or it’s purely designed for team-building, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few guidelines to help you plan a fun, useful, and memorable team event.
1. Exit the building
Seriously, get out of there. Otherwise, people will fall into the same roles and routines they do every workday. And if you stay in the office, your team may feel pressure to answer emails and tackle work to-dos.
You want people to be fully engaged in the event you planned, so it’s important to embrace a change of scenery. Even if you’re planning a low-key activity, head to a park or make a reservation at a local hot spot so your team can truly get away from their day-to-day.
2. Plan ahead
To avoid an offsite that’s more flop than fun, get the details in order well before go time. Try these tips:
- Get team buy-in before you plan. Are there “wish list” topics people want to cover? What sounds better: a museum visit or a hands-on class?
- Find the ultimate locale early on. Make a lunch reservation a few weeks before, or find a hip, accessible spot—just make sure to book it well in advance. During your search, keep the following things in mind:
- Proximity to the office
- A/V hookups
- Natural light
- Know your goal. Whether it’s year-end planning or bridging the gap between different personalities, write down exactly what you want to accomplish.
- Create an agenda. If it’s casual, this could mean outlining lunch, breaks, and end time. If you’re planning on completing an objective, say crystallizing a new strategy, make it more formal, and build in time at the end to reflect on how the day went.
- Delegate. Encourage team members to take ownership of different aspects of the event, from lunch to brainstorm sessions.
3. Include a mix of structured activities and downtime
You can’t require everyone to put their phones in airplane mode for a day and never look back. Downtime gives your team the chance to have natural conversations, while structured activities keep the event from dragging.
Try to think of an activity that has a good balance of both. While it can be tempting to squeeze productivity out of every last moment, remember that often the unstructured moments are when the magic really happens.
Not sure what type of outing to plan? This list of team-building activities will give you a solid place to start.
4. Make it (somewhat) educational
If you want to plan an outing your team will remember, tie in some fun. Studies have found that when people are having fun, it reinforces their ability to learn. Likewise, when people are learning something new, it gives them a dopamine boost.
You’ll get double points for planning an activity that requires the team to learn something new together, like a cooking class, rather than an activity that requires competition, like go-kart racing. Remember, the aim is for your team to unite, not win.
5. Keep it inclusive
While a circus class might sound like fun in theory, if some team members lack the strength (or interest) needed to participate, they’ll probably be bored on the sidelines. You want to make sure your event pushes people to try new things without isolating anyone.
6. Schedule the offsite during work hours
People have lives outside of work, and most will appreciate an employer who respects that. By planning your offsite during the time people would normally be at the office, you’ll likely increase attendance, too.
If you’re worried about losing those precious hours of work time, consider hosting an event that’s part work and part play. Divide the day in half and dedicate the morning to a team-building activity and the afternoon to reaching a strategic decision.
7. Be considerate of your nonexempt employees
Company events during work hours can be construed as work under the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA. To minimize their liability, some employers make events voluntary for nonexempt employees. If you want to be sure your nonexempt team members attend, consider the following:
- Pick a time that’s outside of normal work hours
- Don’t talk about work stuff during the event
- Don’t have any nonexempt employees perform tasks during the event
8. Think about passing out a legal waiver
Whether your event involves hiking local trails or goal-setting in an art deco space, you want to protect yourself against mishaps. One way to minimize risk is to have everyone sign a waiver that protects you if an injury happens or things get out of control.
Read through this sample form to get an idea of what a waiver covers, and then talk to your employment attorney to get one made that is specific to your company and event.
Your offsite can now be on point. Follow the tips above and watch as connections and breakthroughs emerge. Who knows? You may even be tempted to make your offsites a more regular thing.