Since the world’s first company picnic, corporate outings have walked a fine line between boosting employee morale and sapping it – between fostering teamwork and inviting conflict.
So as the corporate outing has expanded and evolved over the years, the choices managers face when deciding where to take their employees and what to do with them have become ever more varied and complex.
Many companies have embraced the creativity of team-building, adventure outings popularized in recent decades with such events as scavenger hunts and group sailing trips.
Others, especially since the recession, have gone back to the old-fashioned barbecue and softball game or company “in-ning” where the boss goes out for pizza and invites an ice cream truck.
And among certain startups and technology companies, an informal and competitive culture often blurs the lines between work and play, with most days involving time at the office Ping-Pong table, but few organization-wide, formal events.
Through all the variety, those who cut back during the recession appear to be increasing spending on outings again, but in a more measured and targeted way.
“We’re seeing higher-ups getting together instead of whole companies,” said Jennifer Vinnitti, owner and founder of JLV Consulting in East Providence, which manages corporate events, who added that nonprofits appear to have a greater appetite for team-building events right now than for-profits.
At McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Pawtucket Red Sox President Mike Tamburro said the park has seen growth in corporate-suite sales over last few years. Bookings in the right-field party tents, which host company-wide, in-game barbecues, have been flat, however.
In Cumberland, technical-textile manufacturer Hope Global is combining a range of traditional company-wide events, such as a mid-October barbecue with disc jockey in Smithfield, with a New York City retreat for executives a week earlier.