What happens in Vegas theoretically stays in Vegas. But where company outings are concerned, what happens outside of work doesn't stay outside of work. Which can actually be a really good thing.
Teambuilding activities help your employees know each other as people, not just as workers who get stuff done. No matter how closely your employees work together, that doesn't mean they know -- much less appreciate -- each other as individuals.
Still, you can't force camaraderie. You can't force "togetherness." That just doesn't work. Try to force it and what you may have intended as a positive outing or get-together is anything but. It becomes 'forced fun'.
So, what can you do?
First, start small. Bringing in lunch -- and creating an environment where everyone shares the meal instead of carrying plates back to their desks -- is a perfect way to help humanize your workplace and create small personal bonds between the people who work there.
Sharing food is, across almost all, a nearly universal platform for creating and strengthening bonds of attachment and friendship: Talking, learning, teaching, sharing... not for nothing is family dinner considered an extremely important aspect of family life.
Bring in pizzas. Or sandwiches. Or better yet, let your employees choose. Deciding what they'd all like to eat is in itself an exercise in problem solving and teambuilding.
Then go farther. Try an outing. Just make sure you pick a theme that works for your employees, and for your goals as a leader.
For example, at LogoMix we've done an escape room. (This escape room in Boston is great.) We've done city scavenger hunts. They're fun activities that get us out and around, break us loose from our everyday environment, make us solve problems and find creative solutions together, and shatter traditional hierarchies and roles while allowing people to show sides of their personality they people they work with might seldom get to see.
There are other things you can do. Have Santa attend a kids' Christmas party. (Feel free to play Santa.) That's a great way to allow families to interact -- which is a perfect way for people to show their human sides. Or have a picnic at a park and play some silly games. Go outside and try an experiential learning game.
What happens when you do? The payback from simple and relatively inexpensive outings is obvious.
At the most basic level, everyone enjoys having a few friends at work. But friends don't just make work more fun. Closer relationships increase employee engagement and productivity. Gallup research shows that close relationships at work boost employee satisfaction by as much as 50 percent.
(How's that for a productivity increase?)
As researchers said when recapping another Gallup study, "When employees possess a deep sense of affiliation with their team members, they are driven to take positive actions that benefit the business -- actions they may not otherwise even consider."
Which means that the team that plays together doesn't just stay together -- they do bigger and better things while they're at work, too.
Which means a small investment in company outings that build a sense of camaraderie and teamwork can pay huge dividends.