The benefits of company away weeks

The benefits of company away weeks

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Summary

Time spent not working has a huge impact on time at work – this is especially true when we spend time away from work as a team. Last year, we all went to Brittany for a week. We had fun & we found a range of ways to make our business even more effective. And the most important benefit? We all believe in the strategy we identified there, so we all work harder towards making it a reality.

As we prepare for 2017’s movemeon away week, take a look at this article about the benefits of company away weeks, summarising our 2016 trip to Brittany.

 


 

Ever felt like you’re so busy at work that you don’t have any time to step back and think? I’m sure it’s a very familiar feeling for most of us. It certainly is for me.

Most organisations are very bad at scheduling regular non-working time while ‘at work’. By that, I mean time where everyone comes out of the weeds, closes the to-do list, comes together and reflects on how work’s going. We’ve probably got even worse at this since the birth of email and constant inbound stuff we can be doing (even if it’s not value-adding).

The irony is that time spent not working has an enormous impact on the time spent working. So it’s about the worst thing you can de-prioritise. You can do this daily or weekly on a personal level. Block time in your calendar, change location, leave the laptop behind and go think, plan, prioritise. Let your brain work strategically rather than operationally.

However what’s most interesting to me – as a start-up founder – is the impact of taking time away with your whole team.

Right now we’re all in Brittany. We’ve come for 7 days. We kicked off with a weekend of fun. No work allowed. Since then we’ve split our days evenly between day to day operations (we still have a business to keep ticking over), fun activities and time to relax (at least 3 hours in the afternoon) and strategy sessions on stuff we need to problem solve around (2 sessions a day, at least 3 hours in total). 

So what’s the impact been?

We’re going to do it even more

That’s the headline. The business feels so much more efficient for having had these discussions at length. So we’re going to block one afternoon per month and also do another away spell (perhaps a 4 day weekend) around Christmas.

We are a better team

Frankly, everyone knows one another better on a personal level. We’re doing fun stuff every day. We’re living in the same house (a big one). We’re taking it in turns to cook (we’ve split into pairs and each pair prepares a 3 course meal one evening). So we’re better friends which improve communication – vital to any well-run business.

We’re solving long known problems

Every team in any business has problems. Niggles that are always present but never sorted. Or worse still, never raised or even admitted. Be that internal operations or processes. Or what we’re offering to our customers. They get properly aired in a week like this. We asked everyone to write down best bits & worst bits. We shared best practice (the collective best bits) and properly sorted the worst bits (or at least a decent action plan to sort them).

We have a strategy we all believe in

We asked all the team on the spot to write down their 5-year vision, 1-year goals and strategies to achieve them. They were remarkably similar. And they were remarkably similar to what I’d written down too. Tied together, it’s a strategy we all believe in and that we can drive towards – individually and as a team.

This approach also works really well with management teams too

The best management session we’ve had was over an extended lunch, well away from the office.

As a small business, an away week might seem like a scary expense. But the return on investment from the decisions made during this week, will make it some of the best invested time (and money) we’ll have spent. What’s more, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Our flights were £45 per person return. A large house out of peak season doesn’t break the bank. And you could achieve most of the benefit – getting away from the office and switching laptops, phones and internet off – for next to nothing; by all heading to the park for the afternoon or going away for a couple of days camping.

So, next time you cancel a strategy type session. Or cut short team time. Or delete protected time from your diary. Think again. And if you’re a team in a big business or a smaller business, consider an away week. It’s a big commitment but personally and professionally, the impact can be extraordinary.

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