27/07/17, Cate Nelson-Shaw

Getting away from it all: What's the point of an away day?

team building, team work, organisational culture, innovation, inclusivity

Fresh from a day’s volunteering, we reflect on the benefits of a day away from the office can bring to team building…

“Wear a sturdy pair of shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting mucky; and gloves might be a good idea”. So said the briefing notes for our team day volunteering at Edinburgh’s Gorgie City Farm. Dressed in suitable kit and with our lunch box provisions, we arrived energetic and up for a challenge. It’s amazing how a day away from the desk, from emails, from phones, from meetings can change your perspective and give you chance to engage with colleagues informally and on a level playing field – no one knew what the day held in store.

As it turned out we were split into two groups – one to give the new sheep shed a second coat of paint and one to weed and tidy up the approaching cobbled path. We set to work.

We gathered and shared tools, we seamlessly and systematically worked together, we intuitively knew when team mates were flagging or needed a hand. We chatted and got to know more about each other, we had a wee sing song, we shared funny stories about not-so-dead rabbits and we had fun. We came together for our packed lunches, lazing on the grass without the time pressures of lunch hours, to do lists, imminent meetings. We were one team, one common purpose, the same sense of achievement (and aches and pains) at the end of the day.

“Our recent experience demonstrated the benefits of escaping the day-to-day routine and doing something a bit different”, says our Chief Executive, Peter Russian.

“It tested our skills as team, how we talked to each other, our resilience, how we worked together; but most importantly it was about spending time together, having a chance to talk about work things, about non work things - it didn't matter, so long as we got to know a bit more about each other by the end of the day. It even tested our innovation skills (what is the best way for 8 people to paint a sheep shed in an organised fashion?); and we learnt to be inclusive (who dislikes heights and doesn’t want to climb the ladder to paint? Who has a bad back and can’t bend to weed?). The team rose to the challenge, got themselves organised, worked collaboratively and kept up a continuous flow of communication to make sure we achieved the tasks we had been set”. 

Ours is truly a Remarkable Team Culture – bring on the next away day, we say!

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