Summit Team Building

Return to Office Event Ideas: The Power of Gathering

In the first of our two-part series on bringing your team back to the office, Return to Office Mandate. The Mission Ingredient, we highlighted that relationships were the secret to motivating teams to transition back to an in-person work life. In this part we explore the power of gathering and include some return to office event ideas.

Bringing your team back together in the name of connection is key. Still, I’d venture to suggest to you that telling teams to return to their offices “because their work friends are there” may not be enough to incentivize the costly transition. I want to propose to you that there’s a problem that we haven’t paid enough attention to.

We’ve forgotten about the value of gathering, and we’ve forgotten how to do it well.

The Value of Social Gathering

After three years of being told to avoid social gatherings at all costs, it’s not hard to imagine why we have such mixed feelings about it.

On one hand, we so deeply crave it, particularly in our personal lives. Large events have been thriving in the post-pandemic years. Take concert promoter Live Nation, for example, who reported record profits in 2021.

When it comes to the working lives of those of us who have gotten used to working from home, it seems like we’re a little less enthusiastic. Many of us have forgotten about the value we get from being around our colleagues, such as new ideas or inspiration, or being able to ask for advice or help. We’ve forgotten how energized we feel when we’re working with others toward the same goals, and we’ve forgotten how new career growth opportunities often emerge out of spontaneous conversations around the water cooler.

As leaders, we need to remind our teams about the value of connecting and gathering in our working lives.

The Purpose of Gathering

Beyond remembering the importance of gathering, we need to remind ourselves of the purpose of gathering. If we simply brought everyone back to the office just to have them answering emails and remaining in their cubicles all day, I think we can agree that it’d defeat the purpose of bringing everyone back.

Gatherings fulfil our primitive desires to feel like we’re a part of a larger collective. It has a huge positive psychological impact on our well-being and mood. It motivates us and gives us a sense of security. Ultimately, even if we’ve forgotten, being with others is a fundamental human need.

If we forget that gathering is not just a want, but a need, we’ll continue to reinforce disconnection even if we bring everyone back to the office. The question isn’t just where we’re working, but whether we feel like we’re in this thing together – whatever that means in your organization.

Gathering Well

The caveat of gathering we can’t neglect, though, is that – if it’s not facilitated well, it can be a giant waste of time. Think of meetings that accomplish nothing, or folks who spend all of their days at work shooting the breeze. Connection and gatherings are important, but they have to be purposeful.

Gatherings that are helpful to teams need to be intentional, semi-structured, time-bound, engaging and energizing. When you bring your team together in-person, whether that’s for collaboration, consultation, or strategizing, the time you spend together needs to be both enjoyable and productive.

At the end of the day, to motivate our teams to return to the office, we have to remind them of the power of gathering well.


How We Can Help

The truth, though, is that this takes effort, time, and investment. It likely won’t be enough for us to simply send an email to our teams telling them how powerful being together is. They need to experience it for themselves.

If you’re a busy executive or team lead who simply does not have the capacity to find a way to remind your team of the power of gathering and being together, we have an idea for you.

We’ve designed our team building activities to be 1.5 – 2 hour experiences that are structured in a way that intentionally fosters both relational and skill development. Teams come out of these experiences with a better sense of who they’re working with, how they work together, and how enjoyable and energizing it is to be with their team. In our programs, the teams we serve are reminded of the power of gathering well.

Whether you’re looking to jumpstart the new year or build some bridges to eliminate silos within your team, we have a program for you. Contact us today to learn how we can help you motivate your team to return to the office and to be together again.

Lewis Lau

With a BA in Psychology and MA in Applied Health Sciences from Brock University, Lewis has spent the past decade reviewing and conducting original empirical research on leadership and team development. He is especially passionate about drawing applicable and relevant insights from current and credible empirical studies from various disciplines, and believes high-quality, intersectional research should inform best practices.

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