Growing Professionals, Growing Associations
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May 22, 2013
By Beth Brooks, CAE

“Staff team building.” And no, I am not talking about trust exercises and Myers Briggs training (although I still like those, too).  Maybe it was the recent finale of The Office and their many office adventures, but I got to thinking of what fun or different ways there are to interact with your coworkers and take a break from your desk.

I find the discussion on team building to be interesting and sometimes a bit frustrating.  Why? One, because work is always there – it never goes away, and two, planning something that the entire staff will like to do is hard.  (For example, suggestions of zip lining, Segway tours, or trapeze lessons did not go over with everyone here.)  But, the real frustration is when I hear of offices that do nothing. Work, work, work and no play make can make for really boring office environment.   

What you do doesn’t have to be expensive. Some offices have held staff cook-off’s or dessert competitions. Holiday-themed competitions are also a popular option (think Halloween costumes). While it may or may not work for you, another idea is to have a regular weekly break. This company brings in some wine and snacks every Wednesday afternoon to avoid the midweek slump. 

Last summer, TSAE created Summer Break as a way for members to get out and have some fun. Several associations brought their entire staff and used it as a team building opportunity. They could bowl together, play poker or video games, rock climb, and enjoy great food and drinks – there was something for everyone.  It only took four hours out of the work day and everyone had a blast and went back to the office refreshed. We are excited to bring this back on June 4.

These type of out of the office opportunities can also give your group a sense of community, especially if you all work on a volunteer project. Some of our member associations have their staff volunteer in teams each month for Meals on Wheels or go read at a nearby elementary school.    

I like the idea of getting out of the office and doing something fun and memorable.  I think it helps with morale and is another way to say thank you for a job well done. Of course, our staff is only seven so that makes it easier to do things together. Recently, our staff took an afternoon off and went on Austin Eats bike and food tour. Riding electric bikes, we toured East Austin and ate samplings at six different venues. This is the second year we have done this particular outing as it was a huge hit with all the staff.  Not only did we get to visit outside of the office, but we saw the growth and changes in East Austin.  

Taking the heed from tech companies, I think it is important to foster a culture that is attractive to all ages and interests. Doing things that give you a break from your desk helps create an environment where you can better know your coworkers, think outside the box, and hopefully have a more cohesive and productive staff.

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TSAE team building with Austin Eats