Often referred to as three fine days and a thunderstorm, the British summer is a curious thing. Each year, as part of longstanding tradition, the nation rejoices in the few days of sunshine we’re blessed with — only to feel a sense of collective deflation when the clear blue sky turns cloudy. This summer, on the other hand, has been a little different.
With temperatures rarely dipping below 20°, Britain is enjoying prolonged exposure to sunlight; and, according to large swathes of the media and the Met Office, temperatures look set to soar once again.
So what should businesses be doing to take advantage of the fair weather?
When the heat is stifling, people feel the instinctive need to unshackle themselves from their indoor surroundings — whether it’s their office or their home.
Over the next month or so, and for the remainder of the summer, parks across Britain will become a picnicker’s paradise. Friends and families will gather together out of a shared love of sun and sandwiches — but they won’t be the only ones. Organisations, too, will be looking to get a slice of the action.
For the price of food and drink, a picnic can quickly become a priceless investment for any team. From an engagement perspective, they provide managers with a wonderful opportunity to show their employees just how much they mean to them.
One thing that has become evident from our best practice interviews was that, through getting to know their team on a personal level away from the office, managers can really improve their standing among the workforce.
3 Star managers who score highly in the ‘caring’ factor of our MC³ methodology — our measure of managerial engagement — often cited that getting to know their team in an informal environment outside of the office was a key factor in their success.
Putting the improvement of manager-employee relationships aside, however, a summertime get-together could also be just what the doctor ordered. Glued to a computer screen, surrounded by machine gun typists and phones ringing off the hook, employees would likely jump at the chance of leaving the office for an afternoon — especially in these close conditions.
Most important of all, picnics provide colleagues with the chance to bond. From Monday to Friday, people spend more time with their workmates than their friends and family. It’s important for employees to get on with one another. Continuing the office badinage down the local park, with a glass of something in one hand and a vegetable spring roll in the other, can be brilliant for staff morale.
Team-building and creating that sense of family is vital to organisations of all sectors and sizes. That’s why the way people feel about their team features in our methodology and is one of our eight factors of workplace engagement.
It’s much easier to work as part of a team when you’ve laughed alongside and gotten to know the people you’re working with. A friendly atmosphere works wonders for employee commitment and fuels loyalty. In short: it helps teams work better, and stay together, for longer.
Associated with romantic stereotypes of wicker baskets and chequered cloths, picnics are significant within certain European cultures. As the revolution swept through late 18th century France, the gates of the royal parks which had previously been closed to the public were finally opened.
In their new-found freedom, citizens of the republic would regularly take to eating al fresco within their confines.
Still to this day, the picnic is a symbol of enfranchisement for the French. Fast-forward 211 years to the millennium, the largest picnic in recorded history took place in France on Bastille Day.
For the revolutionaries of 1789, venturing to beautiful and unfamiliar surroundings for a picnic was more than just a pastime. It was an expression of what Robespierre called liberté, égalité, fraternité — and what phrase could better summarise the core ingredients of employee engagement?