Office icon: the away day

Nothing can be guaranteed to inspire less excitement in the average office worker than the prospect of a “team-building” away day.

You’d think that the opportunity to spend a WHOLE day out of the office, unchained from your desk, possibly frolicking in the great outdoors, would elicit at least a small degree of pleasure, but, frankly, no. Well at least not in anyone who’s actually been on one of these godforsaken misguided exercises.

To start with, the premise is just all wrong. You can’t force people to start liking each other, to start “communicating” effectively with each other, just because they’re sat on a sweaty coach on the way to “Go Ape” and have absolutely no means of escape other than feigning a heart attack. And the experience of dangling between trees 50m above the ground strapped to nothing but a single wire with a series of buckles trussed up around your thighs and buttocks like a nappy certainly doesn’t endear you to your line manager at 9.30am on a rainy Monday morning with barely even a custard cream to sugar the pill.

There are, of course, less active varieties of the away day, where employees are simply gathered into a soulless conference room in nowheresville and told to “brainstorm” over a whiteboard or, deep breath, talk about their feelings.

My crowning moment in this respect began with sitting in a circle of colleagues who were one by one being forced to describe themselves and how they’d got to this particular point in their lives (the horror), when I decided a quick trip to the loo would give me a brief respite from this painful process.

Having dressed in a hurry that morning, I had managed to put on a pair of tights that had an enormous hole where the bottom should be, but decided it was too late to change and no one would know anyway. Having been sat on a sticky plastic-seated chair for rather too long on a summer’s morning, as I stood up I failed to realise that my dress (which was far too short for the occasion anyway) had ridden up and stuck to my back, exposing my bare bottom to the world.

I innocently attempted to sneak out of the room unnoticed, blissfully unaware that my bottom was on view to at least 50 percent of my workmates as I walked away. Now if that doesn’t elicit some hearty “team bonding”, I don’t know what can.

Published in Onoffice magazine, June 2010, p33.