Fresh from a Galibier jaunt to Belfast, we’re looking at whether the company away day has a place in a modern PR agency.

If someone mentions a company away day, what do you think of? It might call to mind memories of gazing wistfully out of the window at the sun whilst being lectured in a stuffy meeting room at a chain hotel. You might imagine attempting to build a raft out of sticks with your co-workers, or wrapping an egg in homemade newspaper constructions in the hope it won’t break when dropped.

Some are put off by the fear of taking everyone out of the office at the same time. Some say “what’s the point?”, recalling having left a strategy session on a Friday full of optimism, only to return to their desks on Monday morning with the same gloomy sense of despair.

So, in 2018, when we can communicate perfectly well from great distances, does the traditional company away day have any real value? I’d argue that it does – and that’s not just because I enjoy the free food.

We’ve done a fair few activities in Galibier’s away-day history, all voted for by the team, ranging from breakout rooms and crazy golf to fine restaurants and drunk pottery painting. All of these have had three things in common: the whole team’s attendance, really good food and drink, and incredibly helpful creative strategy sessions.

For our March 2018 away day we opted for a change of scenery. In the midst of several days sampling the food, drink and attractions of the amazing city of Belfast, the strategy part of our trip proved more than worthwhile, in more ways than one.

Perspective

No matter the good intentions, it can be incredibly hard in the day-to-day to simply stop, sit back and take stock. Repositioning the team away the office gives us a chance to really focus on the agency – our clients, our employees, our longer-term objectives.

Aside from deflecting a few of the usual daily media issues, all of our attentions could be focused on how to fine-tune the way we work, or how we can be prepared so that Galibier’s continual expansion can keep running smoothly. Clearly defining our aims, together, means that we can be confident that we’re moving in the same direction.

Creativity

Creative agencies are nothing without their people, and having the whole crew together is a pretty powerful blend. Sessions where we all chip in and different people owning different workshop ideas give an incredible boost to the inventiveness of the team.

This is especially true when removed from the distractions of the inbox, and without time constraints and deadlines. If done correctly, you come away feeling inspired, refreshed, and motivated, with a suitcase full of new ideas.

Culture

Everyone likes to feel valued. The Galibier team are the first to celebrate each other’s successes and we always have each other’s back in a crisis. I’m not saying pick one day a year to praise people, but I am saying that when away days are done right, they make employees happy. People who feel appreciated are more productive, creative, and more likely to stay with the agency – it’s science.

As the Galibier team grows, it’s important for us to make sure our culture grows with us, and equally important to make sure we don’t lose the heart of what makes such a successful culture today. We had a really good debate on this during our strategy session, and it really built on the sense of pride we have both for the agency and our work. The trip was also full of so many fun Belfast activities (yes, visiting the traditional Irish bars featured on the itinerary) that we know we’re cared about enough for the company to invest in us.

Actions

In the end, our away trip was incredibly beneficial and more than worth the snow storms and cancelled flights we battled to get there. But it would all be for nothing if we didn’t put everything we’ve agreed into action. So the vital next step is to put into practice all of our new ideas and plans – from client acquisition and retention to campaign planning and reporting, we plan to make massive improvements across the board. Watch this space, because in this case, what happens in Belfast is most definitely not staying in Belfast.