Awesome Company Field Trips

Startups know that cupcakes in the break room don't cut it. Here's a look at cool, cutting-edge company outings.
June 20, 2012

It's hard enough to get everything done at your business as it is. So company outings can feel like a distraction or even a time-waster. Besides, who wants to hang out with their coworkers after work?

It turns out that such activities are good for both productivity and morale. A report from RedBalloon/AltusQ found that companies with high employee engagement levels were up to 10 times more likely to see an increase in sales and profit than those with lower engagement. What's more, coaching, buddy programs, company lunches and nights out had the greatest effect on employee engagement levels. In other words, employees want to feel nurtured and belong to a community.

Company culture is important, and brands have found it worth the investment to spend a little money on cultivating a team dynamic. As Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh once said, “If we get the culture right, then great service and building a long-term, enduring brand or business will just be a natural byproduct.”

Mashable spoke with several startups about whether they do company outings and how it contributes to an improved company culture.

Break Out the Karaoke Machine

In a fast-moving, high-pressure tech environment, it's important to take a breakRent the Runway founder Jenn Hyman says that her 70-employee team often gets the best ideas when they're out of the office having fun. The crew goes "off the island" for activities such as this summer's lineup, which includes a pirate-themed boat cruise, a day of beach Olympics and a cookout at their warehouse in New Jersey.

Escaping the city is always relaxing. StumbleUpon teammates recently headed out to Angel Island to soak up the sun and engage in the playful pickup games in the park. Another team took a sweet outing to TCHO, a San Francisco chocolate factory. A StumbleUpon staple is karaoke, and even higher-ups (Marc Leibowitz, VP of business development and marketing, and CFO Mark Bartels) aren't afraid to belt a few jams in front of the entire company.

On a similar note, Foursquare hosts team drinks every month or two so everyone can meet the new employees at the fast-growing company, and the team indulges in local "culture." The NYC group went to the rodeo at Madison Square Garden (and then went out for karaoke), and the San Francisco team went to a monster-truck show.

"It's very important to us that employees continue to socialize and share ideas across teams as we grow," says Susan Loh, head of talent at Foursquare.

Scopely, a mobile company based in Los Angeles, does regular paintball outings, hosts company dinners and has a kickball team. Last year, there was even an all-company trip to Hawaii, which included group surfing lessons. All of this quality time has created a "huge boost" in company morale.

"We often have incredible late-night brainstorming sessions on some of the outings, and it's clear these have led people to become even more passionate about the product," says Sujay Tyle, VP of business development.

The Startup That Plays Together Stays Together

If you're looking for a way to engage your team, think about the business you're in. Being on-brand reinforces the purpose of the company and reinvigorates your employees' passion. Green Mountain Digital, a nature and wildlife app developer, seeks to connect people with the outdoors via technology. So for fun, the team heads to the great outdoors.

"We've done hikes, bird walks and fly-fishing classes with our apps. This summer, we're planning a special event for our interns at Equinox's British School of Falconry," says CEO Brendan Cahill. "When we bring the team into these different environments, it really gives a new perspective to the content we build into our apps, as well as how we work together day-to-day."

Likewise, artists swing by Spotify's offices for intimate concerts (like the one pictured of Dr. Dog), and employees are encouraged to pause their tasks and drop by the session to see artists like Grouplove, Walk the Moon, Civil Twilight, Emeli Sande and the Kooks in the flesh. Another sweet perk that takes the term "outing" to an extreme: All new employees go through orientation in Stockholm, where they learn about the company and hit the town with their Swedish colleagues.

At the end of the day, people want to have fun. The more fun they have, the more they'll look forward to going to work the next day. Startups are leading the charge with fun, bright environments and company cultures that foster collaboration, creativity and, most importantly, productivity. As is evidenced here, company outings are a crucial component of a good culture.

What does your company do to boost morale and foster a team atmosphere?

Photo credit: @CharlieHellman via Instagram