One of the most exciting things about working at Fifty is meeting up with our international diaspora once a quarter. Our most recent meet-up was in Prague, the next is in Barcelona. Reykjavik is the one after. Obviously we are choosing fun, not sucky cities. Its easy, as that is where our team have chosen to live. Ok not Reykjavik, that really is picked for fun.
Functional away days can be incredible, none more so than the ones I have experienced at London 2012. We have learnt to sing, dragon boat race and walked over the Millennium Dome looking like super heroes in blue jump suits. They stick in my memory more than the Games themselves. Sadly one had Boris Johnson banging on about being the murder capital of the world, so even the best organisation can get it wrong.
Yet, Boris was not as jaw dropping or sucky as the off-site that I attended in Goa.
Here is a summary of what I learnt on how to royally screw up.
Subdiffusion: “Tell nobody what is happening”
No one was formally told about this away day. Unless you count office gossip. The one formal email explaining the travel arrangements was sent the night before by the office manager. None of the leadership team explained the plan or issued an agenda. This was a great way to create a sucky start to the experience and let rumours fly. It was only when I saw people from the office at Nizamudean train station did I actually think I might make it to Goa.
Torture Them “Make traveling hell”
For a truly sucky work experience take 40 people on a 31 hour train trip in 2nd Class AC across India and hope that they can hold their alcohol. Which frankly, we couldn’t. If that wasn’t enough, ensure that there was a little food poisoning from all the onboard food to add into the overall drama.
Lie or “Actions speak louder than words”
So when 40 people arrive in Goa almost in one piece, let them know you have them on false pretenses. In this case don’t actually book tickets to the conference that we think we are attending. Somewhere in planning and budgeting it was decided that having everyone in the office on the journey was more important than the destination. Understandable, however for the vast majority of my professional team mates it caused much embarrassment and broken appointments when we weren’t where we said we would be.
Knowing Me Knowing You*
Once management have; stressed out, poisoned and embarrassed one’s teams it is an ideal opportunity to build some great relationships. As we were in south Goa and everything fun was in North Goa little office tribes formed around hired cars and mopeds as people escaped our pool and beach. It turns out that only the leadership team could actually swim and nearly everyone preferred to dance. On the way to LPK an extraordinary club I learnt more about the inner working of the company, coffee vodka and boys roadside peeing habits than is appropriate for this write up. At LPK I learnt that I could still break up a fight a skill I acquired at the BBC. And I didn’t learn anything about the Russians rumoured to be mafia but I think our Finance Director did.
Create Your Own Office Politics
Talking about the Finance Director, we all have an office character and a colourful away day is an ideal opportunity to enhance their credibility. Make sure you get lots of video footage of them dancing inappropriately with strangers in clubs or making a James Bond dash out of the sea in tight swimming trunks. If that doesn’t work pretend to be a new romantic interest and stalk via text messages for the entire trip.
If you happen to be on a sucky away day, pretend its a holiday. Go with the flow take what you need, dance on the beach at dawn and pick up the pieces later. By the end of that year we had experienced a 70% turnover of staff. Noticeable the people still working there included the Finance Director and not the stalkers.
* The title is from McLachlan who kindly groups the away day into a couple of helpful headlines. The activity-filled team builder, The stress-buster, The away-from-desk brainstorm, Knowing me Knowing you and the we-always-have-an-away-day day.