With the holidays just around the corner, it is the season for gatherings. The holidays remind us of the importance of coming together: to reconnect, create new shared experiences, and deepen bonds. It allows us to practice small talk, or civil discourse—with restraint. We may trash talk each other’s favorite football teams, but then happily make plans to watch more games together. If things go well, we will leave with a better understanding of each other and at least a civil relationship with that one person who tends to raise our blood pressure.
Gatherings are important not only for personal relationships, but in the workplace, as well. I was reminded of this when several of us Yes&ers gathered recently with one of our clients for an after-work happy hour. It was the team’s first full gathering since before the pandemic, and there were changes. In those two-and-a half years, some new people joined our partnership, and others left. Some started teleworking outside of the local area; others go into the office once a week, but not necessarily on the same day.
Like so many work teams today, we are geographically scattered. Gathering in person not only let us meet—some for the first time—but it also let us see each other beyond our virtual meeting platform. With some effort to steer the conversation away from work, we learned things about each other that hadn’t come up in virtual settings. By the time we left, we didn’t just work with communications professionals of all levels, but also a figure skater, an opera singer, and a horse showman. People who barely knew each other bonded over shared interests.
Are social gatherings necessary to achieving work goals? No. But done right, they can go a long way in building the kind of cohesion that makes for a great team.
Here are a few tips for a great workplace gathering:
- Don’t talk about work. You’ve presumably talked shop or otherwise been consumed with work all day. Try to let it go after hours, and if you can’t let it go, at least keep it light.
- Pick a venue close to the office or in the office if you have quality space away from the main work hub. Requiring people to travel outside their usual area may cause some to skip it.
- Help people get to know each other. Have some ice breaker questions ready for any awkward silences.
- Know your team. If some may be uncomfortable at a happy hour, make it a potluck lunch or an after-work ballgame. The point is to bring people together; alcohol is not a prerequisite.
With staff coming back to the office, and during this season of gratitude, it’s a good time to reconnect in person with our work teams. What can’t be measured in output can be seen in camaraderie and support for taking on any task.