How to Create Professional Bonds at After-Hour Events
We can all agree that enjoying time spent with coworkers beyond the workplace is integral to team cohesion. Memories created outside of the workplace contribute to strong working relationships, keeping your tight-knit team working flawlessly together. It’s important to encourage out-of-the-office activities, and foster friendly relationships with the people you work most closely with on a day-to-day basis—and it’s equally as important to be mindful of those relationship’s boundaries.
Maintaining sensitivity in the workplace is not a challenge, but does call for extra attention. It’s important to remember the relationships we have with our coworkers are not the same as friendships, and need to be fostered differently. This can be achieved by offering after-hours activities in fun, inclusive environments, and maintaining a high level of professionalism at all times.
Here are a few tried and true ways to ensure your after-hours workplace function is successful.
1. Choose a family-friendly activity. One of the best ways to make sure professional bonds are strengthened on your team is to encourage colleagues to bring their families and loved ones to an event. Pick a location where your coworkers and their families can mingle and learn about one another while bonding over a shared experience. Having an out-of-office gathering at a sports venue (like Yankee Stadium in New York City, or CenturyLink Field in Seattle) invites people of all ages to get in on the fun, and cheer on their favorite sports team.
2. Pick a non-traditional venue or experience. Going somewhere vastly different from your typical office environment will spark excitement amongst coworkers. Try out an evening at a comedy club, theater or concert hall. While there is less time for socializing, there’s a greater chance of creating a bond through an exciting and new shared experience. Many venues may be accommodating enough to provide event spaces where you and your colleagues can share a private showing.
3. Showcase your team pride as representatives. Foster a sense of pride and inclusiveness by establishing a fun way for everyone to show their association with your company. This could be as simple as providing team T-shirts or a lanyard with the company name or logo. If your company is larger, you could encourage healthy competition between teams or departments, challenging coworkers to create the most exuberant "team uniform." Going to after-hours events as representatives of the work you stand for is an excellent way to build cohesion and esteem among the team.
4. Remember to have proper "Happy Hour Etiquette". Enjoying post-work libations is a relaxed and easy way to integrate a team, but it’s important to keep firm boundaries between you and your co-workers when alcohol consumption is involved. As a manager or supervisor, your actions set a standard. You could set an example by drinking non-alcoholic beverages, and ensuring plenty of food is available for those who do. If you do choose to drink, match every alcoholic beverage with a glass or water, or instill a two-drink maximum for the evening.
5. Always instill a sense of professionalism. Think of an after-hours office event as a relaxed business meeting. While you're in the company of your colleagues, remember you are a representative of the business. You can share a glass of wine with your boss, but still engage with them at the same level of respect you give during normal working hours. Hierarchies and boundaries that are standard during working hours should be clearly defined, and it should be communicated that this doesn't change outside of the office. This can be discussed by a manager or supervisor in a quick pep talk before the event, even if it may seem obvious. It’s important to reiterate the purpose of the after-hours event, and that a level of professionalism should be maintained in order to achieve the team's goal.
While preparing for your holiday party or out-of-office activity, remember to think about the best ways to keep professionalism a priority. Communicate effectively, be mindful around alcohol consumption, and choose an event where teams can foster relationships in a relaxed yet safe environment. With these tips in place, having fun off the clock will be a successful bonding experience.
About the Author
Adam Young is the founder and CEO of Event Tickets Center. He enjoys bonding with his team members over the excitement of sporting events.