On-site vs. Off-site Team Building

Like any other business decision, evaluating the pros and cons of on-site versus off-site team activities is an exercise that takes into account the organization’s goals and objectives as well as time and budget. The distinction with a team-building event is consideration of the fun factor to drive employee enthusiasm and positivity.

Off-site team building

Partnering with team-mates away from the office environment can be a refreshing change with less chance of interruption. With a goal of energizing and challenging employees, some companies organize such off-site events as rock climbing, rafting or bungee jumping. These action-oriented experiences can create a high level of synergy. Outdoor programs may be more conducive to larger groups and works well when a full day away from the office can be scheduled. However, that does not work for everyone. For some, a rigorous sport is exciting while for others, it is stressful and too physically demanding. It’s important to consider what is suitable across diverse team members.

An alternative off-site event is community service. Getting the team together for charity can promote an ebullient bonding as employees work together to help others. Seek out a one-day community service opportunity such as cleaning up a park or playground, or stocking shelves at a food pantry. Removing the staff from the office to work together in a different capacity can stimulate a fresh perspective of collaboration and teamwork. Some team building facilitators offer programs that merge more fun-focused team building activities with community service goals (hint: we’re one of them!). 

On-site team building

When holding an on-site event, it is a good idea to set some ground rules to keep everyone focused. Discourage such behaviors as running back to work stations during breaks to check for messages or emergencies. Alert the other people in the office that there should be no interruptions. Also, arrange for the room to be stocked with refreshments. Changing the environment is a key part of breaking down the natural barriers that develop between individuals and groups. Anything you can do to facilitate a feeling that you’re truly stepping out of your work environment is a positive for team building.

Predicate the decision of venue on the overarching objective of your team building. For example, if a communication breakthrough is vital to the team, there would be value in a program with games that can easily be designed for an on-site conference room setting. Tailored play is a fun way to foster creative thinking, listening, trust, time management and crisis management. This situation lends itself to a relatively small group and is advantageous when a full-day commitment is not feasible.

Link team-building experience to action

Regardless of the setting, ensure the camaraderie carries over to the workplace. Some find a debrief session helpful with this. Guide the group to think about how their experience can help them in their day-to-day roles while avoiding an overly abrupt transition from “team building” to work roles.  Results can be specific skills or less tangible yet valuable improvements in outlook and morale . Link discoveries to work situations, and encourage a commitment to carry any breakthroughs forward. Conduct follow-up sessions.. Identify what is working well, and always remember to celebrate success.