Do you feel your employees need new thinking, innovative ideas and a stronger drive to perform? Do you find the pace of work slowing down, the usual rigour being lost in your company in spite of the best facilities in the office? It's time you boosted energy levels at work by giving your employees some time to unwind. Take them outdoors.
Outdoor activities such as sports, picnics, camping, cultural events etc can significantly nurture employee commitment, team work and bonding, while breaking the monotony of everyday office routine. If planned at the right time and with the right objectives, there can be no close substitute to such activities. Partha Patnaik, GM, HR and admin, Four Soft Ltd, a logistics company, explains, "Outdoor activities can significantly improve employee morale and the overall work culture. Sports and cultural activities can remove barriers and bring out a sense of healthy competition and enjoyment of participation. Fun events like treasure hunts and outdoor adventures like trekking, rock climbing, rafting etc. where one is not only dependent on their own skills and abilities, but also on that of their partner or team helps increase the employees' confidence and also make them appreciate others. This is a win-win situation for an organisation especially during challenging times when a critical task is to be completed, or there is a time constraint".
Kalavedika Patnaik from Four soft explains, "Typically, there is a lot of inter and intra team bonding after such events as each employee sees the other in a different light. It also helps in reducing the distance between an employee and his/her manager as the task and team work seem more important than individual achievements alone".
The process of planning the activity should encourage participation from the employees. The Hard Rock Café team points out, "A lot of thinking has to go into the planning of outdoor activities. Small details for team work and cooperation at work have to be imbibed into the plan. Employees often try to stay in their comfort zones and be with people they're comfortable with. So, try to ensure that the room partners are different, maybe someone they do not know or should be working very closely with".
A spokesperson from Hard Rock Café throws light on the major challenges of organizing outdoor activities and tips to overcome them, "Getting people together for an outdoor activity is fraught with operational and logistic challenges. In the service sector, long operation hours are a major problem. Budget if not planned for the year, can be another constraint. However, breaking these barriers is possible if planned ahead of time. One must choose a time that is favourable to the business. Plan an activity that interests the maximum number of participants. However one cannot please everyone if it defeats the purpose of activity. Choose a destination which saves travelling time, prefix or suffix the outdoor with a holiday or a weekly off, create hype by sending teasers to keep the interest levels going. Involve people and get them to plan and do things rather than doing everything for them".
Training and non training activities, if planned outdoors, can have far reaching results and impact on performance. Prashant Nair, president and head, HR, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd explains, "Some of the non-training activities can be free movie/restaurant passes, celebrating employee birthdays and festivals outside office, etc. Such activities invite the employee to reflect their teamwork and enthusiasm more naturally. It helps them learn new characteristics, skills and talents of other individuals which in turn can be useful within the organisational structure. Activities like these can help an individual realise or build his/her internal calibre which can be contributed to his/her job or other part of his/her life as a productive element. Some hurdles in planning these are lack of alignment between design, exercises and the intended output of the exercises. It is also important that the entire program does not just become 'feel good' training".
Clearly, while outdoor activities come with a lot of plusses, care must be exercised at all points of planning and executing them, so as to not lose sight and the ultimate purpose of it all!