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The joy of being together again

5 ways to make the most of your away day

As restrictions lift, more and more teams are coming back together, working in a hybrid way and thinking of ways to reconnect. We have been asked to help facilitate several team away days and team sessions across numerous charities and social good organisations. Often we are given the following brief:

We want a team away day, in person, as soon as possible. Something really useful. Oh – and can you make it fun please. But not in a cheesy way.

We love an open brief, and getting the chance to be creative so our answer is nearly always – of course we can, yes please! That said, it is useful to spend some time thinking about how to make an away day a positive experience for everyone, something that is truly memorable for all the right reasons. And not at all cheesy.

These are the five things we think about when putting together a brilliant day – you can use these too to plan your own special session:

1. Purpose

Having an away day because you feel like it’s the right thing to do is great. But to make sure your away day really lands well, and is seen as a useful way to spend precious work time, your away day needs a purpose. There are several reasons for holding an away day: future gazing, past reviewing, collective learning, group problem solving and individual skills development. By identifying a purpose for your away day, you can then identify what you want to get out of it. Try asking these questions:

  • What is an important topic for your team right now?
  • What do you want to see happen after the away day?
  • What themes do you see as relevant?

2. People

Team away days are a great way to connect people. By getting people away from their usual workspace, and into a neutral place leaves them free from distraction, and therefore able to be fully present with their colleagues. Try mixing people up, getting them to work with colleagues they are not so close to. Be careful however with ice breakers and activities – remember everyone is different. One person’s fun is another person’s horror. To make your day enjoyable, focus on collaboration, not competition. Try asking these questions:

  • What do you want people to do on the day?
  • How do you want them to feel?
  • What can you do to accommodate individual preferences?

3. Pace

Lots of teams have been working online for a couple of years now, and have become used to a different way of working. Even if that isn’t the case, the pandemic has taken its toll and people are tired. A team day is an opportunity to inject some energy and creativity into the team. However, take heed: we have noticed in our training events that people fatigue very quickly. A full day in person can cause overload and for some it’s a bit too much. Consider your pace: start the day high energy, include plenty of breaks and breakouts, and finish early. Try asking these questions:

  • How used to being in person are the team? Will this be an adjustment?
  • What can you do to boost energy?
  • What can you do to vary the pace over the session?

4. Priorities

Linking together your purpose and pace, you also need to consider priorities. It is very useful to have an agenda and a plan for your day. Think about each part of the day, and the outcomes you want from them. However, you may need to be prepared to cut your content. If the team are flagging and need time out, or if something interesting comes up that you want to explore further, it is helpful to know in advance where your culling should be. Our pro tip is to plan for loads, plan to cut, prepare to drop. Try answering these questions:

  • What are the must-have items you want to cover?
  • What would be some nice-to-have items?
  • At what points during the day do you need to take stock and make decisions?

5. Process

Paying attention to process is just as important as content. This is not going to be the only team day you are involved in. And your team are going to come together in other ways at multiple points. Therefore your team away day is a great source of information about what works well when you come together, and what you might want to do differently in the future. Gather feedback from everyone that was there, and use that learning. Think about ways you can emulate the good in your other team interactions, such as team meetings or other gatherings. Try asking these questions:

  • How can we put our learning or ideas into action? Who will do what, by when?
  • What went well and how can we do that again?
  • What might a future team gathering involve and focus on?

Making the day purposeful, comfortable, useful and meaningful is not easy, but it can be done. Using these ideas you can plan and deliver an enjoyable and productive team away day.

If you would like some help in putting together your team day, or having a facilitator for the day, get in touch to speak with one of our Senior Consultants. Call 020 7978 1516 or email yvette@managementcentre.co.uk.

 

 

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Laura Slater

About Laura Slater

Laura specialises in project governance and management, as well as leadership and management development. Laura has 8 years’ experience in the charity sector, in particular developing and delivering regional...

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