Escape rooms. Obstacle courses. Raft building. At some point in our careers, most of us have taken part in one of the classic workplace away day activities, as part of a fun way to decompress and bond with colleagues outside of the office.
However, new research suggests that a whopping £100m per year is being wasted by UK firms when it comes to organising such away days.
According to a recent study conducted by Opinium, on behalf of one of the UK’s leading brand experience agencies, The Park, a huge amount of money that is being spent each year on company away days is ineffective and therefore fundamentally being wasted. Of the £200 million believed to be spent annually, over 50% isn’t working.
Away days are popular among UK businesses across multiple sectors and are seen as crucial for boosting morale, increasing retention and helping with staff development as well as aligning the workforce with the company values and vision.
They take a variety of formats with the basic premise being to take staff away from their day-to-day role to take part in different team building and social activities as well as presentations from senior members of the company.
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The research uncovered a number of interesting statistics proving that currently there are a number of issues that need to be addressed in order to make them effective and therefore providing value for the huge investment.
The main issue is the disconnect between senior management within a business and those with no management responsibility, what we currently have is a “top-down” approach which isn’t working.
A sign of how ineffective “top-down” away days are can be seen by the responses to the question of what people look for in an away day. Alignment (8%), company strategy/goals (16%), and company values (17%) all score towards the bottom whereas the top answers are dominated by fun (40%), team bonding (39%), a chance to speak to colleagues (34%) and an escape from everyday work/stress (34%).
There is a correlation with seniority - 90% of CEOs think away days are important vs just 50% of those with no management responsibility. A further sign of away days currently being (incorrectly) top-down focussed.
There are clear gender differences with women being significantly more likely to be looking for fun (45% vs 31%), team bonding (48% vs 26%), connection with their team (36% vs 18%), and a chance to speak to colleagues (42% vs 23%).
In a sign that away days need a renewed approach, the top answers for “what do you feel team/company away days are lacking?” were “something for everyone” and “a sense of purpose”
But away days are seen as very important. 80% of people think being together in person is an important part of company culture, including 75% of people that work fully remotely, 66% of people think team/company away days play an important role in that.
The perceived value of away days is correlated with age - from a high of 78% of 18-24s thinking they’re important (but only 50% currently enjoying them) down to just 41% of those aged 55+. Interestingly, the same correlation is visible when asking whether their company holds away days, suggesting some self-selection at play - people gravitating towards companies with the sort of culture they associate with.
There is an interesting regional split, with 81% of Londoners seeing way days as important (but just 67% enjoying them). Company size also plays a role, as you might expect. 79% of people in companies with more than 250 employees think away days are important vs just 53% of those at companies with fewer than 50 employees who are likely to have full company gatherings more organically.
There is no significant difference in opinions of those that work in the office vs those who are hybrid with regards away day importance.
A sign of how times have changed in that just 9% look for alcohol at an away day (the thirstiest region is the North East with 15% looking for alcohol at their away days, and the thirstiest sector, possibly unsurprisingly, is media at 21% and tech at 22%).
Commenting on the research, Will Worsdell, The Park’s Global Strategy Director, said: "It's clear that away days and team gatherings are an important part of company culture and productivity, but currently they are being approached in the wrong way. There's a pressing need to focus less on top-down approaches, and more on areas such as creativity, collaboration and connection."