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How to organise a work day out that doesn’t induce groans among staff

Choice of event, how it is run and how ‘corporate’ it feels all feed into the mix for team-building events

There’s nothing like a good day out to improve morale and raise the collective spirit. At least that’s the theory. But ask employees how they really feel about events designed to make them feel “happy clappy” about their company or colleagues and you’re likely to be met with raised eyebrows and silent groans.

This lack of enthusiasm is often down to the choice of event, how it’s run and how corporate it feels. If it’s just another way to drill employees in company policy and objectives, it will probably fall flat. Also guaranteed to dampen employee enthusiasm is a badly planned event where people end up standing soaked in a field because no one thought to buy ponchos to distribute if it rained while they were building Jenga towers with hay bales.

If, on the other hand, the event is well organised and presented with a bit of pizzazz, it’s far more likely to be a hit.

Getting it right matters because most events have an underlying purpose, which is to build trust and cement relationships between colleagues. This in turn can help mitigate conflict now and in the future, and can improve communication and collaboration within the team or between teams. When combined, these elements go a long way towards fostering better employee engagement with knock-on benefits for performance.


A quick search of what’s on offer to tempt employees out of the office throws up a slew of ideas – from disco bingo and kart racing to making an ad, duck herding and lapping Mondello in a Ferrari.

Novelty is the big seller with corporates. They like the tried-and-tested activities but are always on the lookout for something new to pique people’s interest.

When John Ennis of Lucky Tortoise restaurant started offering dumpling-making classes, he didn’t expect to be inundated with demand. He’s now running four or more corporate classes a week at his premises in Temple Bar and he will also run classes in-house. His biggest group to date was 150 people all making the dumplings together overseen by Ennis and a team of 20 helpers.

“It’s very sociable and people really enjoy the making and the eating and trying each other’s efforts,” he says. “We do the class part first followed by a meal and drinks. We price it per head depending on the company’s requirements.”

Ennis lived for a time in Asia and is passionate about Korean and Japanese food. Later this year he will start running classes teaching people how to make the Japanese savoury pancakes, okonomiyaki.

Sarah McGree is the founder of the Wild Grazer, which teaches people how to turn food into edible art. The basics for the “painting” are fruits, cheeses, nuts and charcuterie and during the workshops (which are priced per head) McGree shows participants how to create and style the perfect looking food platter for entertaining.

Everyone gets a set of ingredients to work with and McGree teaches them how to make decorative flourishes such as charcuterie roses and how to combine ingredients for maximum impact. At the end of the workshop there’s a photo booth available where participants can snap their creations for their social media posts.

Before she set up her Kilkenny-based company in 2020, McGree, who has a master’s degree in management and marketing, worked in corporate events and executive catering in North America where she honed her skills as a food stylist. In addition to running the workshops, McGree supplies corporate catering and her latest creation is a cheese wall that can hold 30-90 individual serving portions for people to graze on with drinks at summer picnics/events.

Finding interesting venues for events is always a challenge. Brendan Sexton, recently appointed business manager at the Airfield Estate in Dundrum, is hoping the estate’s ability to offer companies a “farm to fork” experience for outings such as summer BBQs will appeal to those looking to fulfil their commitment to sustainability. The estate comprises a working farm, gardens, the old house and a modern restaurant and Sexton says there is ample room to host corporate team-building events from lawn games to cooking classes using ingredients straight from the farm.

Days out can be a nice break for those who only have to rock up and enjoy them, but it’s a different story if you’re the organiser. Getting all the ducks in a row can be a tedious process and having been there more than once, Donnchadh Healy decided that a one-stop shop where companies could browse a broad mix of potential venues and suppliers for corporate events would really help.

This led him to set up Booka, a corporate events platform that aims to connect companies quickly and efficiently with venues, caterers and entertainers, as well as those providing fun activities, team-building and wellness events.

“Up front, we’re aiming to provide inspiration so companies can find new ideas but behind the scenes we are offering a lot more including transparent pricing and secure payments via Stripe so there is no need to set up multiple purchase orders or vendor approvals,” says Healy.

“By incorporating AI into our platform, we can assist in automating as many elements of event planning and execution as possible and our search and filter functionality, live availability and booking, pricing tool and mobile app are all unique to our platform as is our ability to gather actionable metrics and data around every event.”