In Recent Years, the 10-hour-plus day has become the norm for many U.S. workers. And while European workers also put in long hours, there's a big difference in how European companies reward employees for taking all that time away from their families. Enter the U.K. tradition of family fun days — company-sponsored events that bring together the entire family for a day of relaxation, feasting, and fun.
“The reason family fun days are so common in English culture is that most [U.K.-based] companies feel that they take the best part of the employee's life while he or she is working for that company,” says James Coakes, managing director of U.K.-based Progressive Resources Ltd., acompany that focuses on corporate events. “These events let families meet the company and hopefully leave with a good opinion of the organization that demands Mommy's or Daddy's time.”
For companies in the United States that want to put on their own family fun day, Coakes advises keeping the vibe comfortable. “Don't be too focused on making everyone do the same thing,” he cautions. “Just set up various activities and let people come along and enjoy them.”
Following are a few tips for family events this summer:
SAFETY FIRST: Family fun days typically involve a barbecue or other meal where adults may be drinking alcohol. Have a cutoff point where the activities stop and eating/drinking begins so that attendees are not consuming alcohol and participating in activities at the same time.
TRY A THEMED EVENT: Try a Las Vegas theme with mock gambling activities, or a medieval theme with period costumes. “We put on a family fun day for a corporate client that had a circus workshop theme,” says James Feary, new business development director for U.K.-based Main Events, an event-management company specializing in corporate family fun days. “There was a big tent set up, and people could try stilt-walking, juggling, and tightrope walking. We also had an area where people could dress up as clowns and put on a show for the families.”
NO TALKING HEADS: While it may be tempting to have the CEO of the company stand up and give a speech at the event, Coakes says this can take away from the relaxed atmosphere and make the event more about business rather than appreciation.
INVOLVE ALL THE KIDS: Make sure there are plenty of activities geared toward kids of all ages, as well as activities that entire families can participate in.
TRY A THEME PARK: Often companies can negotiate corporate rates to take over a section of a theme park. At the end of the day, families can all gather to have a barbecue in an area specifically set up for the company.
KEEP IT LIGHT: The general rule is to put on an event that is very relaxed, where people can pick and choose what activities they would like to take part in. “It's as much about people having time to relax away from the office as it is about doing the activities together,” says Coakes.
Think people will scoff at the idea of taking time away from the office to relax? Think again. Showing appreciation for both employees and their families can lead to significant staying power among staff, says Main Events' James Feary.
“At the end of the day, people are sticking with a company because of the social aspects of the job as well as the specific work they do. They want to work for a company that looks after its employees as well as the employees' families. This is an inexpensive way to give something back to the staff and earn mutual appreciation.”