As vaccinations become more widespread and things begin to reopen, in-person teambuilding events are once again becoming a viable option for fostering teamwork and growth in your company. However, while the situation is definitely improving, COVID-19 is still active and most COVID safety guidelines, including social distancing among other things, are still in effect around the world.
The majority of teambuilding events require participants to get much closer than six feet of one another, so how can companies safely incorporate in-person teambuilding and navigate this new normal? A daunting question, but we’re here with some guidelines and resources to help you plan an in-person teambuilding event in 2021.
The first and most important thing to know before planning your event is the COVID guidelines. Check out these two links for the CDC Guidelines for hosting large in person events:
The main point of these guidelines is to reduce risk as much as possible. We recommend reading over the most up to date guidelines before planning your event, as they are always changing, but some of the biggest points:
- Outdoor events are preferable to indoor events, as it is easier to keep people distanced and the ventilation is better. If outdoor events are not a possibility for your company, consider increasing the size of the indoor space with a lower number of attendees, so everyone has space to maintain social distancing.
- The CDC recommends everyone wears masks, especially when they are around people not in their household and when social distancing rules might sometimes be hard to stick to.
- While there is no recommended number of attendees, the CDC instead recommends focusing on limiting contact between individuals.
It is also important to keep in mind, that a lot of these guidelines have been created for static conferences (seated participants listening to a speaker), and they do not take into account the movement usually necessary with a teambuilding event.
While the national guidelines are important to know, it is also necessary to research your state’s guidelines, as states vary slightly in their COVID policies.
For those of you in California, here’s a great PDF that specifies the CA specific guidelines for large events: https://files.covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-private-events–en.pdf?fbclid=IwAR04lg5baKw_0iChxCPQLOVIatyoIuy4VP2-kVXgmGa28fjUFfXFLHQD2l0
There are not many significant differences from the CDC Guidelines in the California Guidelines, with the main differences coming with the tier system, which is how California tracks the number of positive COVID cases. The tier list goes by county with Purple being the worst, then Red, then Orange, then Yellow. The majority of California is currently in the Orange Teir, while seven are in the Yellow, notably Los Angeles and San Francisco. As your county moves down the tiers, the restrictions on events lessen slightly. See pages 5-6 of the above pdf for tier restrictions on number of attendees. To find what tier your county is in, here is an interactive map with data up to May 4th, 2021 https://www.mercurynews.com/2021/05/04/map-of-california-covid-tiers-may-4/. Cases and tiers are updated on a weekly basis, so make sure to check back in frequently to see if your county has moved down a tier.
Besides the changes that apply based on your county’s tier, the same restrictions of social distancing, face masks, and large ventilated (preferably outdoor areas apply). The CA Guidelines do also specify that any “high-touch equipment,” like microphones, mic stands, remotes, and audio/video equipment should not be shared and should be frequently sanitized. This sanitation guidelines applies to all “high-touch equipment” not just the examples stated above.
Please read the following link for New York Guidelines for Large Events (https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2021/04/doh_covid19_updatedgraduationguidance_042721.pdf)
The above link is labeled as applying to “End of Year Academic Celebrations,” but on the bottom of page three it also says these guidelines are “In alignment with the safe, gradual return of congregate social and commercial activities (e.g., sports competitions, performing arts and entertainment, in-person and catered events)” (3), so they likely also apply to in-person teambuilding events, though it is definitely worth checking with your venue if you are planning to host an event.
The main differences in the New York Guidelines
Required Contact Tracing
- One person from each household must provide their name, address, email, and phone number so in the case of a positive test they can be notified.
- These contacts should be kept for a minimum of 28 days after the event.
Required Health Screening
- Before the event, a health screening asking about current or recent COVID-19 symptoms must be sent out and attendees must fill it out and bring it to the event.
- People who fail the health screening will not be admitted to the event.
- The *current limit for non-residential social gatherings outdoors is 200 people, while the limit for indoor is 100.
- The only way a gathering can exceed these numbers is if everyone attending shows proof of either full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
*However, these gathering limits are changing starting May 10th for outdoor and May 19th for indoor according to https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-governor-murphy-and-governor-lamont-announce-significant-easing-covid-19. Starting May 10th, the outdoor limit for non-residential social gatherings will increase to 500 people. On May 19th, the indoor limit will increase to 250 people.
Importantly, gatherings exceeding these numbers still require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, and all the above guidelines as well as the usual social distancing and mask mandate still apply.
It is also important to note that Contact Tracing and Health Screenings are recommended by the CDC for all events but are specifically required in New York.
Included in this business guidance document are the gathering rules for Pennsylvania (https://www.governor.pa.gov/covid-19/business-guidance/).
The Pennsylvania Guidelines stress the continuance of following the general safety measures, like wearing masks and remaining six feet apart. The most important thing is the gathering limits. No matter the size of the venue, capacity for gatherings is limited to 25% for indoor venues and 50% for outdoor venues, and this is still requiring that six feet of distance is able to be maintained between participants with these limits.
Importantly, starting May 31st, 2021 all of the restrictions on gathering limits will be lifted.
Arizona is significantly different from the three other states above, as there has never been a statewide mask mandate, focusing on educating and encouraging people to take responsibility for their own well-being and wear them. As of March 25th, 2021, (https://azgovernor.gov/governor/news/2021/03/arizona-hits-3-million-vaccine-doses-administered-governor-ducey-announces-new) many of the restrictions on both businesses have been lifted or at the very least changed into recommendations instead of requirements.
Before the New Executive Order (on March 25th) gatherings over 50 people required approval from your local government. Under the executive order, that restriction has been lifted, so as long as it is a private event not open to the public you should not need to get special approval. Though we recommend checking with your host city to see if there are any special requirements.
These events are still recommended to follow all CDC guidelines and maintain physical distancing.
SO, WHAT’S THE ANSWER?
Planning an in-person teambuilding event can be daunting but it is possible if you know the COVID guidelines from both the CDC and your state. Regardless of your state, here is our master list for what you should look for and have the right to ask for when planning or hiring someone to plan an in-person teambuilding event.
- Masks should be worn at all times.
- Six feet of social distancing should be maintained.
Outdoor is preferred. If you have to go indoor, make sure it is a large enough space to maintain social distancing.
- Whether you are outside or inside, reexamine the space needed to do specific activities. You will need more space to allow people to participate while still safely distancing.
Cut down on shared objects.
- Sanitize any high-touch objects frequently.
- Look into possibly providing gloves for those who want them.
- Prescreening App/Questionnaire about COVID symptoms that can be sent out ahead of time to attendees to show upon entry.
- Temperature checks at the door.
- Alter events and the specific games so they can be played in a way where they remain socially distant or so they can have less people playing at a time.
Be sure to check your state guidelines to see if any of these are required and remember that the goal of a team building event is to bond, grow, and have fun as a team and company. You’ll want to make sure that your guests feel comfortable in the physical setting and participating in the activity that you are choosing!