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Set Up A "Work Date"
Creative, Energizing Places To Work Outside Of The Office

Posted by Charlie Recksieck on 2019-12-19
Almost every business has put some time and action into "team-building". Even though staff cohesion is one of the more intangible metrics to measure, we all know it's valuable. And there are a ton of great and traditional ways to bring employees together; escape rooms, going to a sporting event, a fantasy football league, Friday happy hours, etc. (Here's a great list of ideas from

But those are special occasions. We are a small firm here at Plannedscape, we share some common interests and all of us bond over priorities about quality-of-life. So we've organically tried some things and found some great ways to multi-task by collaborating and working together outside of the office. I wanted to share them with you all to see if some of these appeal to you at your workplace.

The great news for employers about what's below here? Almost all of these costs the business nothing.

Weekly Meetings / Scrums

If you've got a team meeting or project meeting, why not get out of the office and have that meeting at a nearby coffee house.

Tennis, Anyone?

Or what about a more unusual location? From 2012 to 2015 we had a massive ongoing project. Robert and I were both on this project full-time. We held weekly meetings on this project for the two of us. (We did not do a daily stand-up scrum, we found it more efficient to have a weekly version since the code we each were writing separately did not interact too much with the other's code.)

Since we both liked playing tennis, we fell into having our weekly meetings across the net. The only drawback being that as we were shouting details (about RESTful web services or changing field names in a table, etc.) from baseline to baseline, it just gets annoying for the people on the courts next to us.

Walk & Talks

The "walk & talk" is not just the visual trademark from "The West Wing" tv show anymore. Getting the blood flowing & away from your office chair is sometimes just what the doctor ordered. Every company that has thought about it for more than 10 seconds knows the value of having healthy employees. So not only does the walk promote general fitness, but the ideas do flow better on the move.

Not only is the walk a welcome break, but it will make you more energized and produce better results once you're back to your desk.

Charity Begins At Work

This one perhaps does fall more under a traditional "team-building" experience since you're not doing much work during it. And paying for your employees giving back to the community does cost something. But what a psychic, spiritual and emotional benefit it is to know that you're helping people and making an impact - all while having the extra benefit of empowering your employees.

A couple of us once spent the day building a house for Habitat For Humanity and it felt great. H4H is a terrific organization we all know about. And here's a benefit of volunteering that isn't mentioned enough: It's like going to construction and home fix-it school for free!


Now this idea may be a little out of the box for some but hear me out. Brad works for us remotely, 1000 miles away in Oregon. But when we're on a project that is at a critical point or we know in advance that we have a big work push to make, we plan a work retreat. Normally "work retreat" has come to mean getting work people together outside of the office. But in our case, it's been a chance to bring people who don't normally work in the same office & get together for an intense work effort.

The most memorable was on a 3-day cruise. All you need for one of our retreats is a working internet connection and hopefully in a place that doesn't offer many distractions. Neither of us likes shuffleboard so in 3 days we were able to launch a product with no interruptions (except for the buffet).

If any of you bosses, executives or managers are entertaining the idea but worried about the obvious costs, make sure you do all of the math. Whatever we paid to be on that cruise, we got 12 hours of uninterrupted work out of all of us per day, as opposed to a normal 8 hour day with commutes, errands, daily minutiae distracting us. At a certain point, it even makes straight financial sense for total money spent for total work done.


This one really isn't necessarily for team-building but intended for telecommuters.

Why not meet another telecommuting friend for a long coffee or meal at a restaurant with your laptops? It provides a friendly social/peer pressure on you both to be productive. Yet, it feels like a break from the norm.

Often in Portland, Brad and I have done this at an Applebee's or a RAM Brewery. The waitstaff we have encountered on these trips have been universally fantastic and patient. They don't mind keeping the bottomless coffee or soda coming (though you should tip well). As long as you aren't clogging up a table at a busy time, the restaurant loves it.

I can tell you from experience - I am always hyper-productive at these sessions. I love it. I have another friend in San Diego with whom I do these "work dates" (as opposed to "play dates"). Seriously, give it a try!

At A Convention

Just as the cruise idea above puts key employees together for an extended period of time, so does attending a convention together.

Often times, conventions are mainly to schmooze and network in your particular industry. And yes, that's great. But let's face it, a lot of conventions are really underwhelming both in terms of their networking appeal and their educational content.

But you can take advantage of the underwhelming impact of the convention itself. If a convention is boring and really needs about 3-4 hours of events attended, then after 8 hours of sleep a night, that leaves a robust 12 hours in each day for your employees to collaborate in the same room with none of the distractions of home.


This one is pretty similar to convention idea above but a little cheaper since there's no travel expenses. Try it in your own city. Maybe have 2-5 people on a team all stay at a hotel for a night. It could be a fun hotel, which is a perk for all of the employees. I can almost guarantee that you'll get more collaborative work done there than a normal 8-hour office day.

The Takeaway

Yes, these things probably only work if the co-workers are already pretty close or friends. If the folks in your office are basically just acquaintances, even if you all are professional and cordial with each other then going on a full weekend camping trip is a bit of a reach.

That said, we encourage you to try some of these out (or come up with your own) and see the results. We'd love to hear about your experience.