The Importance of Post-COVID Team Building

October 5, 2021

John MacMullen

John MacMullen is the Regional Director of Sales & Marketing for Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys. The iconic 60-acre property offers 20,000 square feet of waterfront meeting space with two ballrooms and opportunities for outdoor events and team-building activities, receptions and pool parties.

With many teams having been remote for much of the past two years, the morale of working from home has easily created a disconnect between colleagues and managers, on and off the screen. As we roll back into more in-person meetings, workshops and conferences, event planners are having to strategically plan while keeping safety in mind.  

While safety is always a priority, so is the need to build relationships within their organizations. Team-building exercises are the foundation of a healthy workforce and have been proven effective in boosting the bottom line. When colleagues get to know one another and trust one another, lasting bonds are created.   

Executives understand, now more than ever, the importance of face-to-face interactions among their team members. As companies slowly transition from two years in a virtual, yet somewhat isolated environment, it will be critically important to create a new social culture with their organizations. This will include opportunities for employees to come together during company events. Here are three tips for creating safe team-building experiences that are impactful: 

1.     Utilize the outdoors to your advantage

It’s rather humorous to tell planners to take their team building outdoors these days. Sure, we understand the safety reasons. However, effective team building originated in the great outdoors.  Never underestimate the power of aesthetics. You may climb a mountain to get to the top, but it’s that view at the top which is forever burned into your memory. The outdoors sets the backdrop, the mood, the tone and the energy behind every good team-building event. Just check the background of the last group selfie you took of that last epic team builder.

Seek hotels and resorts with expansive outdoor venues and experiential programming that incorporates nature. Fresh air does wonders for recharging and resetting people. When attendees are in the correct mindset at the beginning of a team-building exercise, they are much more likely to collaborate with their teammates.   

2.     Quality, not quantity  

Meeting sizes may be smaller for safety reasons, but they shouldn’t lack the investment in content. Start thinking about general sessions that kick off a conference with a comfortable tone. The attendees in the audience have been through a lot in the last 18 months. The first two hours of their experience should inspire them and drive their engagement through the next few days of meetings. 

When it comes to planning breakout sessions, consider a theme for each room with décor and F&B selections. A little whimsy and humor will foster an environment for comradery, which is a must for team building. Regardless of the debates surrounding safety in large crowds, it really should be about the comfort level of your audience. In the current pandemic environment, anyone walking into a large ballroom general session may feel uncomfortable versus walking into a smaller venue.

Reducing group size also creates an intimate vibe that encourages attendee participation. “Intimate” doesn’t have to mean small. The effect of intimacy can be created simply with a video image of an ocean vista on the big screen, adding some palm trees on the stage and switching out the conference seats with beach chairs. Sprinkle in some straw hats, splash everything in yellow lighting and insert your favorite “summer jam” music here. Now you have an intimate beach setting that would put anyone at ease.  

3.     Create memories through visceral experiences  

Good old-fashioned team-building competitions are back and will continue to grow well into 2022. Active team-building experiences, like boat building, regattas and fishing tournaments are in full force. Attendees are craving hands-on programming with the wind and salt spray in their faces—anything to rinse away the residual effects of months of binge-watching T.V.  Getting down and dirty, problem solving, overcoming difficult challenges and winning competitions are all positive experiences. The subsequent memories that are created together among your attendees will last forever.   

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Caesars Entertainment strode into 2022 with its sights set on making the year one of innovation and renovation for the Empire as the company announced a $400 million, Las Vegas-style makeover for its Atlantic City properties. The master plan for the company’s three East Coast properties -- Caesars, Harrah’s, and Tropicana -- involves interior renovations, new celebrity dining concepts, and more to create the ultimate seaside conference destination.