Encouraging employee engagement isn’t a picnic – but it can involve one
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 20Â°, Britain is, for the first time in ages, 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 being doing to take advantage of the fair weather?
A picnicker’s paradise
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. Companies, too, will be looking to get a slice of the action.
A level playing field
John F. Kennedy once said: “The time to repair a roof is when the sun is shining.” This goes double when it comes to employee engagement. The opportunity to bring employees together rarely comes around in the modern world – so, for the price of food and drink, a picnic can quickly become a priceless investment.
For larger companies, as well as allowing employees from different teams to communicate with one another, a picnic can also bring together staff of varying seniority. At events like this, interns rub shoulders with managers and managers talk shop with directors – which is great for transparency and accountability.
Picnics are also a wonderful chance for employers to show their employees just how much they mean to them. By mingling with staff – asking how they are on a personal level, away from the office – company managers can really improve their standing among the workforce.
(I Can’t Get No) Summertime Satisfaction
Putting the employers, managers and directors to one side, 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 company colleagues with the chance to bond. From Monday to Friday, people spend more time with their workmates than their friends and family. It’s therefore 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, is brilliant for staff morale.
Team-building, creating that sense of family, is vital to companies of all sectors and sizes. For employees, 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.
While the weather is fine, companies up and down the country should, at least once, allow their employees the freedom to enjoy their time in the sun.
Liberty, equality, fraternity
Associated with romantic stereotypes of wicker baskets and chequered cloths, picnics are greatly significant with 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 libertĂ©, Ă©galitĂ©, fraternitĂ© – and what phrase could better summarise the core ingredients of employee engagement?