Office parties, team-building events and year-end celebrations are the few occasions where an organisation allows itself to throw off the suits, reflect on collective achievements and have fun with the humans we call colleagues.

image: metro.co.uk

Marketing and events budgets are typically set aside, separate from CSR or Employment Volunteer Programme (EVP) budgets. But is the spend on office parties a better investment in team-building and company culture than an EVP? Can employee volunteerism be a source of, or component of, a celebration? Can resources be saved in the process of doing good and having fun? We think so.


The Case for the Conscious Corporate Event

Internal corporate events are typically associated with revelry. They’re fun, certainly, but often fail to achieve assumed outcomes of team bonding and stronger company culture. In fact, such parties might have an adverse effect on those outcomes. Depending on the social context in which a company operates, expenditure on activities that appeal to a dominant group can have negative effects on an organisation trying to achieve diversity or transformation.

Traditional office parties or team-building events typically exclude those who have family responsibilities or religious/cultural constraints (little kids and alcohol do not usually blend well). This can lead to divisions forming within teams between employees of different religions, cultures or life-stages – not good for any company trying to achieve team cohesion.


Further, in the context of South Africa, with an unemployment rate breaching 30% and intercultural transformation a national imperative, companies and organisations are faced with a unique responsibility to contribute mindfully to these issues.


Without necessarily spending additional resources, it is possible to re-evaluate the way corporate events or parties are separated from corporate volunteering. Why not combine the two for a better outcome overall?

  • Imagine annual Christmas Parties that begins with a volunteer organisation and ends with dinner or games that include the volunteer organisation, employees, and employees’ family members. This allows all employees to be freely involved. It is also likely to inspire a stronger sense of loyalty from employees by involving them in something philanthropic that their families can also participate in.
  • Imagine inspiring your company to run or join a community event around a public holiday  – such as a CV writing workshop at a local college around Worker’s Day (1 May) or a “Take-A-Child-To-Work-Day” around Youth Day (June 16) followed by a group dinner. This would help to add social purpose and relevance to your company’s community development activities. Here is the list of South African public holidays to inspire a company volunteering event that also commemorates the public holiday.
  • Imagine a Team-Building exercise that involves a renovation of a community centre and ends with sports games with community members. The results: a non-corporate project that teaches the skills involved in typical team-building events whilst also benefiting an organisation or community in need.

Building Teams Whilst Building Communities

Team-building and Employee Volunteering/CSR are often both met with reluctance in the workplace: like the chores no one wants to do but must do in order to avoid getting into trouble. By combining the two, the positive effects of volunteerism (a sense of upliftment, purpose, humility and service) mitigate the conflict or lack of enthusiasm that arises at ‘compulsory’ team-building activities.

Studies have shown that employee volunteerism can be a superior form of team-building and skills-development by giving employees a legitimate opportunity to make a positive change in an area outside of their comfort (and income-earning) zones. The pressure of helping a real community on a real project also creates a more authentic indication of an employee’s fit with company vision and values, whereas simulated team-building events often fail by virtue of the fact that they are always simulated.


Less Work, More Good Vibes

Planning a corporate event or celebration with social purpose does not need to involve duplicating work. Using The Social Collective, for instance, it’s half the work. Companies with EVPs or established volunteering relationships with organisations, who use The Social Collective for their EVP management and reporting, can manage and track the performance of their events against pre-defined outcomes that speak to a successful team-building. These events can be organised, managed and reported on as any other volunteering opportunity,  whilst being counted towards community development goals.

In a society with no shortage of jobs to be done, office playtime can – and perhaps should – involve a little sweat too. 


INFOGRAPHIC: The Effect of Employee Volunteering