Earlier this week, many of my colleagues traded laptops for hammers, headsets for hard hats, and spent the day volunteering at Habitat for Humanity in Phoenix during a company-wide meeting.
Office-blanched skin soon reddened under the glare of the Arizona sun as construction experts guided our mainly unskilled group through the rudimentary rites of framing one house and hammering plywood around two others. Before our eyes and under our keyboard-softened hands, these soon-to-be homes gradually took shape, our capabilities improved, and the camaraderie among people who were once strangers deepened.
Instead of playing trust games or swapping introductions around an air-conditioned conference room, the company opted to give employees the opportunity to volunteer for a worthy cause and get to know each other in a non-office environment. This meeting included people from throughout the United States, as well as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Many of us work remotely from home offices, and there are few occasions where we meet our peers, managers, and colleagues from different departments.
In this we are far from unusual. Many companies today have dispersed employees who work from home or branch offices, sometimes never meeting their managers until months after their hiring dates. In an effort to provide around-the-clock support and service, organizations may offer split shifts or hire teams of workers throughout a geography, with each group feeling isolated from the unit as a whole.
Rather than force-feed team-building initiatives, which often feel fake and can backfire, partnering with a volunteer organization -- especially one that can provide your company with a physically challenging or stimulating situation -- is a smart alternative. Speaking as a participating employee, it felt good to give back. It was great to collaborate with my peers, reconnect with old friends, and meet new ones in a way I'd never imagined working with my colleagues.
Volunteering, both to give back and to instill team rapport, doesn't require an expensive out-of-state trip, of course. From coat, shoe, or food drives to adopting a nearby school, animal shelter, or nursing home, supporting a not-for-profit can be an ongoing team-building exercise that goes far beyond any corporate cheerleading session.
It's Hammer Time
Internet Evolution's Alison Diana won't be changing careers any time soon.
Through at least one day of giving or one ongoing program, management and the corporation demonstrate their character as citizens of the Earth. As a participant in this week's Habitat initiative, it was a great feeling.
The pen might be mightier than the sword, but a hammer feels pretty damn powerful sometimes, too.
— Alison Diana , ThinkerNet Editor, Internet Evolution