are any office social events truly inclusive for everyone?

A reader writes:

I understand that teams who connect with each other beyond the basics of their role tend to be higher-performing. And yet, it seems that almost every type of event or activity that provides an opportunity for employees to connect on a more casual basis is fraught with issues. Golfing — gender discriminatory. Meals — problematic for those with eating disorders. Team-building activities — often intrusive, or off-putting to introverts. Etc.

I’d love some suggestions of activities that will be appealing to a wide range of people and also inclusive. I’d love ideas for both things that could be done within work hours, plus things that might occur during the evening or weekend. These would be optional and fully funded by the company. The intention would be to create a casual atmosphere where people can chat with colleagues who they don’t necessarily work with regularly.

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Employee I fired asked me for a reference
  • Employee is panicking while we’re renegotiating a contract
  • Should I hold a candidate’s infographic resume against him?

{ 412 comments… read them below }

  1. Chairman of the Bored*

    A social event that has food and hooch available but is not a specific sit-down *meal* or held at a brewery etc makes it easier for people to socialize and partake of the food and drink as much (or as little) as they want without seeming like the odd person out.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      Unless you’re the kind of person for whom attending something at a brewery would be bad for your recovery. I don’t think it’s ever possible to be truly inclusive with work social events but that doesn’t mean that employers shouldn’t attempt it.

      1. Lydia*

        I don’t know if being inclusive means able to include everyone every time because there is just no way to do that. Planning events that aren’t at breweries or don’t focus on drinking/eating as the main event, don’t rely on everyone being able-bodied, or allow for people to just opt out is the most inclusive you can be, but there is no way to 100% accommodate everyone’s needs or preferences.

          1. Good Luck*

            I agree that variety is the best. A former company I worked at, threw a Summer event. We had meetings during the day and then some social activities during the evenings. All social activities were optional. One was a boat ride on a ship that toured the outskirts of our city. We had lots out of towners in. While their was booze available it certainly wasn’t the focal point, a dinner, game night at a place with games, bowling etc (booze and food) and then a casino night. There was plenty for everyone to do or at least the company really tried its best to be inclusive.

        1. Quill*

          Yep. You gotta rotate them, because of competing access needs. And you also have to make sure that they’re weighted equally – can’t have people getting more face time because they’re up for the four hour hike.

        2. SpaceySteph*

          This, this is the answer. I don’t think there’s a single activity that would make every single possible person happy/comfortable/able to attend. The best bet is to do a variety of activities such that the same person isn’t excluded every time.

        3. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          Yes, a few months ago there was a thread on this site about this very topic. No single activity, even where certain things are optional like the availability of alcohol, can be inclusive of everyone. You need to vary your events so that no single person is excluded 100% of the time. This will mean that the people who are excluded will rotate.

      2. Chairman of the Bored*

        My point was that the event should not be held at a brewery or bar etc, specifically to make it more accommodating to people who might have practical/behavioral/religious objections to that sort of venue.

        1. D*

          Honestly, social events with “hooch” just available are often really tiring for those of us who don’t drink with regards to constantly having to turn it down/being surrounded by people drinking/lack of other drink options/trying to avoid being told it’s not a big deal, just drink, etc.

          1. Ellen*

            wildly enough, as unhealthy as all my past workplaces have been, no one has ever pressured me to drink or smoke anything. they have offered, and I absolutely understand how that can be unhealthy for people, but the responses have been universally ” more for me, then”

            1. Michelle Smith*

              That’s really good. I definitely worked in an industry where there was significant pressure to drink. I never consumed more alcohol than when I worked in law offices.

              A year out and I can’t remember for sure, but I don’t think I’ve had any alcoholic drinks in 2023. I did have a non-alcoholic “beer” a few days ago that hit the spot though.

              More workplaces and people need to move away from pressuring people to drink.

            2. Anne Wentworth*

              Mostly same, I’ve only been pressured to drink once in a social setting actually, but it’s the underlying damage you don’t see that’s the problem. When they offer and I decline, there’s an invisible line drawn between us that works against building workplace relations. Because I don’t drink, when that comes up in work and social events I become the Other to the people who do drink.

        2. Lydia*

          Sorry! I misunderstood, but I agree. Taking it out of the food/bar setting is a good place to start.

      3. Lavender*

        I think Chairman of the Bored was saying that it shouldn’t be held at a brewery or similar: “not a specific sit-down mean or held at a brewery etc.”

        I also read it the way you did at first, though.

      4. L-squared*

        Sure, but there are also then going to be people who will opt not to go unless there is free booze.

        If you are making me act nice with management after hours, you better give me some booze to make it easier.

      5. amoeba*

        I think they specifically meant the event should not be held at a brewery or something similar!

      6. demmzzz*

        Unless you’re in very early recovery, you’re supposed to be able to be around alcohol and not drink. A brewery isn’t much different from a restaurant these days.

    2. Raven Mistress*

      No, holding a social event at a brewery is NOT inclusive! Plenty of people don’t drink for plenty of reasons, only ONE of which is being in recovery. However, given the place that alcohol holds in our culture, anyone who DOESN’T drink at an event like that will be singled out for questions that are none of the questioner’s business or, worse yet, assumed to be abstaining from alcohol for reasons which are actually wildly inaccurate. The most common assumption, of course, is that a nondrinker is in recovery, which is a bit exasperating if you don’t drink because you just don’t like alcohol and have never been drunk in your life!

      There are plenty of places to hold inclusive gatherings. A brewery isn’t one of them!

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        Righto, my point was to *not* have the event at a bar or brewery.

        That is, have alcohol but don’t make the alcohol central to the event.

        1. ThatGirl*

          people are really missing the word “not” there.

          And yes, I agree that a *variety* of events is helpful – physical, not physical, food available, not food-centric, etc.

          1. Willow Pillow*

            I’m missing a couple of commas myself, it’s hard to read as-is.

            A social event that has food and hooch available, but is not a specific sit-down *meal* or held at a brewery etc, makes it easier for people to socialize and partake of the food and drink as much (or as little) as they want without seeming like the odd person out.

          2. Becca*

            I think they’re reading it as the not applying only to the sit down meal portion. I had trouble parsing it at first myself

      2. Anon in Canada*

        A person who doesn’t drink for religious or (non-recovery) medical reasons will likely be asked about it at some point, and will say something like “I don’t drink for religious/medical reasons” – and then if anyone pushes back or keeps nagging the person, that should be handled on its own by HR (“hey, you need to stop bothering him/her about her about not drinking”). This can happen whether an event is held at a brewery or regular restaurant.

        However, someone in recovery could feel compelled to self-select out of a social event at a brewery because they could be tempted to drink – and this is a much stronger reason not to hold such an event at a brewery.

        1. Ontariariario*

          There is a cultural part to this, because I have never asked why someone doesn’t drink, have never heard anyone ask in a social or work social context, and it would be inappropriate for someone to ask. The closest I’ve come is when someone offers their drink tickets to me, I would ask “Are you sure?!” I see on US TV shows that peer pressure around alcohol is a thing, but I’ve never understood it.

          1. Flower*

            I might ask if it was a close friend–like at the stage where you’re so close that you’re ready to share ~details~ about childhood trauma or previous romantic relationships or whatnot.

            but it would only be in a context emphasizing that I’m not judging; I’m just curious because we’re genuinely close and I like to get to know everything about my close friends. probably it would come up in a context where alcohol isn’t even present.

            in other words, it would NOT be asking a coworker or at a work event. Completely inappropriate in that context.

        2. melody*

          …or at a meat-serving restaurant if vegans and vegetarians are in the mix, and so on. To what end?

          Yes, people sometimes will have to say “Nope, can’t this time.” Sometimes we accommodate others; sometimes other accommodate us. That’s life.

          1. amoeba*

            Hm, not sure that’s entirely the same thing. Sure, vegans probably exist that would feel uncomfortable by the mere presence of meat dishes, but all I’ve ever met were perfectly fine as long as there were good options for them (/us, as I’m an on and off vegetarian/flexitarian).
            It’s certainly not the same as recovering alcoholics being uncomfortable in the presence of drinking, or people with bad experiences who don’t want to be around drunk people.

            For people who just don’t like alcohol? Sure, it’s comparable, but these are also probably fine in a bar, as long as there’s options for them (and their coworkers are not being obnoxious!)

        3. Bluebird*

          I disagree honestly. My husband has never drank for medical reasons and I’ve pretty much stopped drinking since we met just naturally, and we literally have never been asked about it or pressured to drink, and are the only people in our social circles who aren’t big drinkers. The only time it ever comes up as a “thing” is that often happy hour is the go-to post work function with coworkers, but he doesn’t have a problem ordering a club soda or a mocktail if they have one. I definitely understand if one is in recovery how being asked if you want a drink or just being in a bar might be a trigger. But otherwise I really can’t help but wonder if this is a situation where people think they’re being thought about by others more than they are.

      3. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I didn’t think of that ( I don’t drink but there’s no reason except I don’t want to be embarrassed in public)

      4. andy*

        I live in a fairly alcoholic culture and literally every single brewery workplace event has like 30% of people who do not drink alcohol at the moment. It is just not true that there would be few unicorns that don’t drink.

      5. Jill Smythe*

        We actually have great breweries in our town that offer more than alcohol to drink and have activities and games. I’ve gone to several events and never felt pressured to have a drink.

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          +1. Most of our local breweries have anywhere from fairly decent to HOLY COW amazing root beer. The best ones have vanilla ice cream to make root beer floats with. :) All of them have at least a few board games, too.

          That being said, if I’m setting something up at a brewery this quarter, I’m setting up three others at non-alcohol places. :)

      6. Raida*

        holy crap, what kind of sh*tty people do you work with?

        We had food and drinks at a bar after work last week, easily a half-dozen people out of 20 weren’t drinking.
        Nobody cared.
        The people not drinking ranged from ‘I drive home’ to ‘I’m allergic’ to ‘I just never drank much’ to ‘I just rarely drink anymore’ to ‘It’s for my health’ and of course ‘I wanted an orange juice’

        nobody assumed that someone not drinking was a secret recovering alcoholic. or assumed their religion, or anything else, or probed them.

        We went for good food and good drinks and close to work. We’ve also previously gone to a Gin Distillery, and the people not drinking were not commented on.

        1. amoeba*

          Yup, especially if people are driving, I’d actually expect (hopefully!) the majority to not drink?

        2. Despachito*

          I was wondering that, too.

          As long as there are other options for non-drinkers, I do not see any problem. And if someone’s coworkers are pestering them for not drinking, the company has a much bigger problem than non-inclusiveness.

          And I think the recovering alcoholics argument is too far-fetched. These people must have their own system to cope with temptation which is almost omnipresent. It is not possible or reasonable to arrange for them to never come into contact with alcohol. Accommodation should be reasonable, not cater for any and every need and problem people might potentially have.

      7. demmzzz*

        In my experience, breweries are barely different from restaurants. In a restaurant some people drink and others don’t, I don’t think it would be much different in a brewery. Not to mention MANY places offer specialty non-alcoholic beers, mocktails, juices, lemonades, etc. The non-drinking market is actually quite large now, and more places are striving to accommodate it. There’s a high end cocktail bar in my neighborhood now and they have like half a dozen mocktail options.

    3. Michelle Smith*

      Any event with alcohol is going to be potentially problematic for alcoholics and others who are struggling with sobriety.

      Any event that doesn’t have people primarily seated and instead expects people to be able to stand, wander, and mingle is not inclusive to me personally. I’m disabled and can only stand for a couple of minutes at a time without starting to experience debilitating pain. So many of these cocktail party type events have ended with me sitting in a corner by the coats alone that I no longer go.

      Alison is right. There is no activity that is going to be universally inclusive.

    4. yala*

      Honestly, that sounds like an activity that’s very likely to be non-inclusive, even if not held at a brewery (I did read that wrong at first too). Like, sure, no one HAS to drink or eat, but it still winds up being uncomfortable

      1. Just happens*

        Yes, the person posted that the inclusive event should not be in a brewery! (It seems like many people reading this post as the opposite of what the person wrote for some reason.)

      2. amoeba*

        In addition to the fact that the point was to *not* go to a brewery, I’ve had (quite strict) Muslim coworkers happily attend brewery visits/events multiple times (yes, they were entirely voluntary). They just enjoyed the tour and stayed with the non-alcoholic options, as did several other people for different reasons.
        I agree that it makes sense to check in first! But it’s not an automatic no.

    5. Punk*

      Because I’ve seen breweries come up as suggestions a lot: many states no longer allow breweries to sell or offer any beverages or food beyond their actual product, and they often won’t let you bring food in either. The tours are now mandatory for guests. The issue is that a manufacturing license is wayyyyy cheaper than a liquor license, and breweries were operating as bars without the proper license; state governments have made it hard for people to hang out there. So the idea that everyone will be able to eat, or that non-drinkers can still sip something, is no longer true, unless you expect non-drinkers to endure a mandatory tour of an beer manufacturing facility and then drink tap water from a pitcher.

      1. Pescadero*

        “many states no longer allow breweries to sell or offer any beverages or food beyond their actual product”

        Two. New Jersey and Maine.

        There are more states that encourage breweries to sell food than don’t allow it.

      2. Flower*

        oh that’s fascinating–that had not been my experience with breweries at all. Mostly in Maryland.

        and it DEFINITELY was not the case when I briefly lived in Germany.

    6. Ann*

      Or maybe just food? You really don’t want to have something with alcohol during work hours.

      1. amoeba*

        If the event is during the day (like lunchtime/early afternoon) and some people will go back to work afterwards, I’d definitely go without any alcohol. If everybody’s going home afterwards, it’s a little different – however, if the majority of people are driving to work, I’d once again go without! You definitely don’t want people driving after a few drinks?

        Good non-alcoholic drinks would be important, though! We never have alcohol at on-site work events, but for the summer barbecue, there was a mocktail stand as well as alcohol-free beer available (and soft drinks and water, of course). But that’s much nicer than having just coke, water, and maybe coffee.

  2. Spice of life*

    I noticed one thing missing in this response to LW1 that you’ve talked about before: variety! If you’re always doing the same activity, you’ll only get people who are capable/interested in that activity. But if you have a variety of different activities at different points through the year, you have a better chance of getting more people interested in at least one of them.

      1. Miette*

        I second the time variety too. As far as you can, it’s always better to schedule things during the work day. Many folks have family responsibilities or long commutes that make after hours things difficult.

      2. SpaceySteph*

        Yes as someone with 3 small kids, after work stuff is very difficult for me to attend (its not even just “oh bring your kids then” because we have dinner/bedtime routines, extracurriculars, etc). A work lunch is much more accessible to me.

        But I also understand people like happy hours (I certainly did before I had a bunch of kids!) so I’m not mad if there’s a happy hour I can’t make, unless *every* event is a happy hour.

    1. Stripes*

      Yeah, variety seems like a really nice solution to this if there’s no single event that fits everyone on your team. Do *all* of the above, not consistently but as one-offs — people who’d enjoy enjoy a beer or a park gathering or an escape room with their coworkers can have them, but opting out of one of those options is just opting out of one event. And meanwhile pay attention to make sure there’s nobody who you’re mismatching too often, and make sure your variety is actually varied — solicit ideas from everyone, as Alison says.

    2. NeedRain47*

      Yes! I was about to say this. It’s okay to have an activity that’s physical as long as you also have ones for people who can’t or don’t prefer that. You can have ones that are based on extreme mingling and ones where people sit quietly and listen to a speaker. Few people will go to all of them but more people will go to some and no one should be able to say there’s nothing for them.

    3. Heather*

      Yes! Variety. I’ll probably skip happy hour and kickball, but I’ll go to the painting event. Just mix it up and you’ll likely find something for everyone, just not everything for everyone.

    4. Happy meal with extra happy*

      Exactly. The bar (bad choice of words? Lol) shouldn’t be whether or not people are able to do the activity, but whether or not they want to, and that’s where variety is important because different activities are going to appeal to different people.

      (It makes me think there’s some type of analogy with clothes – as a fat person, it sucks that my clothing options often come down to “will this physically fit on top of my body” rather than “does it fit well, do I like the style, etc.”)

    5. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yup, different activities, different locations, different times of day and days of the week. Nothing you do is going to suit everyone, and that is completely fine so long as everything is optional. And if you do a bigger event like a summer party, make sure there are multiple different activities at that event too.

      1. Quill*

        One that I definitely enjoyed was a summer picnic. Some people brought their own food, some people ate what was catered, some people played volleyball and dunk-tanked the division head, and some people played checkers. And it was during the work day.

        1. Frieda*

          This is how the annual “employee appreciation” event at my workplace tends to go – outdoors, some games, some food. I hate the whole idea for several reasons and have never gone.

          One, it’s held when some staff at our workplace (a small college) have wrapped up their responsibilities for the semester and some have not – students are gone but it’s held on the day grades are due, so faculty are still grading. While there’s no great time to have everyone participate, even delaying by a few hours would be helpful, but nope.

          Two, it’s outdoors in the Midwest and it’s hot and uncomfortable. And I’m outdoorsy! But I don’t want to be appreciated at an event with no a/c in a work setting. It has also sometimes been a potluck and I’m just not going to eat potato salad prepared by God knows who that’s been stored God knows where, again in the heat.

          Three, games are not everyone’s cup of tea. This also tends to be a divide between younger staff and older staff – some of our co-workers are in their 20s and yard games hit differently for them than for folks in their 40s+, IME.

          I’m positive there are faculty who want to rush to get grades in, on an already tight schedule, and faculty and staff who want to sit on the ground and eat popsicles and play corn hole in 90 degree weather, and God bless ’em.

          If it were an afternoon indoor (or indoor opening to outdoor, which we have some spaces for) casual beer/soft drink with simple snacks prepared by professionals (and tables and chairs)? For people to just chat and hang out for an hour or two? Totally fine! But games in the heat, meh. I’m aware I’m not very fun though.

          1. Quill*

            Yeah we were lucky to have decent weather. And there were definitely people who sat and talked and did nothing else. It worked a lot better in our case because of the timing (it was in a week where we did not have any type of semester or quarterly deadlines) but it was at least varied enough to cover multiple bases, if not anything like all.

            1. La Triviata*

              At a previous bad job, there was a company picnic every year. Held in July as a rule, when the heat was all but unbearable. Almost all day event, always on a Saturday. Always held at a site far from town with no public transit or provisions for anyone who didn’t have a car to get there. After a few years, I just refused to go; it didn’t go over that well, but it just wasn’t something I could do.

          2. *kalypso*

            Is there something about a potluck that prevents you bringing your own food that’s suited to how you can store it between leaving and arriving at the event? I’ve never attended a potluck/bring-a-plate event where someone has been treated differently for having a container of food they brought for themselves to eat that they eat themselves, even if they don’t also bring a portion to be shared.

    6. ferrina*

      Yes! Humans are a rich variety who can have a wide array of needs. You may or may not know those needs when planning activities. But when you plan a variety of activities that cater to a lot of different needs, you will find an opportunity to include everyone. Do regular audits to see who is being included in the activities- this may be attendance lists, or this may be a mental audit of “the walkathon wasn’t great for mobility impaired because their option was to stand on the sideline, but the in-house lunch time trivia was great for any level of mobility. Of course, the lunch trivia wasn’t great for people who work the later shift, but the after-hours hors d’oeuvres was better suited for their schedule. Hmm, but what about someone that works the later shift but has eating restrictions? Let’s find something for that!”

    7. Beth*

      Yes, this! If you do exactly one (1) team building activity–whether you do the same activity over and over again, or treat team building as a one-off thing that doesn’t repeat–there are bound to be people it’s a great fit for and people who hate it and people who can’t do it at all. There’s no way to be inclusive in that setup. But if you have a potluck this month, and a mini golf outing next month, and a meditation session a month after that, and then an escape room, and then a brewery tour, etc.–odds are good that each team member will be able to attend most of those if not all, and will genuinely enjoy at least one of them.

    8. HannahS*

      Yes, exactly that. You won’t find one event that will please everyone, but by having a variety, many people can find one thing that they’ll enjoy. All examples below are things my own professional association offered.

      The categories that I think could be satisfied over time:
      standing up/physically active vs. sitting down/more accessible (SUP/kayak vs. museum visit)
      team-based vs. individual (trivia vs. arcade)
      doing a thing (pottery class) vs. taking in a thing (museum)
      food-centered (meal) vs. not food-centered (paint night)

      1. DataSci*

        I have poor balance, so I could definitely do kayaking and not SUP (I’ve tried!) so for some people those two are different as well.

    9. Office Lobster DJ*

      Also regarding variety, if you are in management, it’s a good idea to switch up which activities you yourself take part in to avoid the appearance of, e.g., only the golfers having the boss’s ear.

    10. LlamaDuck*

      I would like to add – if at all possible, if a specific person wants to be included in a specific outing, work with them to make it inclusive, even if that inclusion is not intuitive.

      For example, as a wheelchair user, people have assumed I cannot play mini-golf. But, I can play mini golf when we attend the specific local mini golf course that is wheelchair accessible, and it offers adaptable putters (or, if the company is willing to buy an ADA putter for me).

      Variety is good, but it should be in addition to proactive efforts at inclusion for each event. While some wheelchair users would certainly rather just skip mini-golf and do board game night next month, *assuming* someone is ok with being left out is hurtful.

    11. metadata minion*

      Definitely! There are some events (extreme sports, whisky tastings) that are obviously going to be inaccessible to a significant fraction of people. But for basically any event you can name, there is someone who can’t do it or even just really hates jigsaw puzzles or whatever. So having a variety of reasonably-widely-accessible stuff means employees can be sure there’s going to be something they can go to even if they can’t do this quarter’s fun thing.

    12. L-squared*

      Right. This is the big thing. Have a variety of events. Maybe you do one at a brewery, adn one at another place the following time. That way the non drinkers can skip the brewery, and the people who like drinking can skip the other one if they like

    13. Mim*

      To expand upon this, I am a big fan of *simultaneous* variety. Specifically, work related social events taking place during regular working hours, with several options available for people to choose from wherever you are (on-site or other fully accessible location for a retreat, etc.) And to make sure that leadership, management, etc., are purposefully spreading themselves out. Things I have seen done in situations like this: hikes, nature walks, guided tours (if we were at a location that would warrant something like that), easily portable and set-up sports and lawn games (think badminton, frisbee, croquet, bocce, etc), jigsaw puzzles, so many craft and art possibilities, board games, tastings/samplings. Even better — tell folks ahead of time what will be available, and invite people to give suggestions. Give people who have a cool skill they would enjoy sharing the opportunity to lead a session or teach a group of folks how to do the thing they love doing.

  3. Stuart Foote*

    If meals and team-building events aren’t “inclusive”, then no, you aren’t going to find something that is for everyone no matter what. I think finding something that works for 95% of people is the best you can do. So make sure meals are available for all culinary preferences (vegan, vegetarian, etc), make sure there are non-alcoholic drinks, make sure there are more sedentary options if the activity is more physical (I’ve been to events where half the people bowled or whatever and the other half played board games, which worked well). But there isn’t going to be any activity that is inclusive for all possible contingencies.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      The key is to make sure it’s not the same 5% of people who get left out each time :-) Realistically, a lot of the reasons an activity might not be suitable for some people probably won’t apply to every workplace – if no one is in a wheelchair, then wheelchair accessibility might not be something you have to take into account. If no one has food allergies, that makes picking restaurants easier, etc.

      That said, sometimes there ARE issues that employees haven’t told you about (and aren’t obligated to tell you), so you kind of have to plan under the assumption that someone might be pregnant, someone might be in recovery, etc. if you really do want to be inclusive.

    2. demmzzz*

      I think people confuse “inclusivity” with “accommodation.” If something isn’t accommodating 100% of every single person’s needs, it’s not inclusive, in that book. I think inclusive means there are efforts many to appeal to more than one type of person. The idea that “team-building” events aren’t inclusive because they don’t appeal to introverts is kind of absurd in my view. Everyone needs to be able to work in a team environment at some points throughout their life, and introverts are not allergic to other human beings. The way you make it inclusive is by building in solo activities, down time, different kinds of movement, and the opportunity to play to everyone’s strengths.

  4. WellRed*

    Veronica, we’re not going to lose the contract but keep it up and YOU might lose your job.

    1. Silver Robin*

      that awful anxiety-fuelled self-fulfilling prophecy where anxiety says one must take action to prevent [x] but the actions taken to do so make it [x] that much more likely.

      see also: “are you mad at me?” ad nauseum

    2. IRL Veronica*

      oh gosh, my real name is Veronica, and I hadn’t clicked through to the Inc article yet so I forgot there were other questions besides the inclusive team-building one, so my heart skipped a beat upon reading this!

  5. Unfettered scientist*

    Trivia is pretty inclusive I think. Can optionally also do food at same event.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      Were you thinking an activity during work hours or do you mean trivia at public bar? I do think trivia at bars generally works well as a social activity because people can talk between answering questions.

      I do think it is more inclusive than many activities. But I think variety is the key. Trivia maybe once or twice a year. Other activites during other months (if you’re doing these monthly.)

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Bars can be very triggering places for people with addictions that they may not want to disclose in the workplace.

      2. Miette*

        An in-house trivia event works very well. I worked somewhere where summertime was branded “Summer of Fun” each year. There were many varieties of activities planned, from museum visits to a bakeoff. A guy on my team ran a trivia night at his local bar every week, and he brought those skills in-house for a lunch each year. It was always my favorite event of the summer (apart from summer Fridays, but that’s a different benefit lol).

      3. Goldie*

        Depends on the game-most trivia has a lot of pop culture or sports references in my work place with a variety of ages, immigrants and non native English speakers it would likely be a drag unless the trivia had a more global view.

        1. amoeba*

          Haha, yeah, that can go wrong. I once did really well at an (online) pub quiz thing at my company – because the presenter was German (as myself) and had obviously found his questions on a German site.
          The fun part: I don’t work in Germany or for a German company!

          Everybody still had fun though, although there was a lot of good-natured complaining!

    2. NeedRain47*

      We do trivia at work events/meetings every so often. I’m sure there are some who don’t like it at all, but you get to know who’s competitive. (I like it and have discovered I’m pretty decent at pop music trivia.)

    3. deaf*

      Trivia is only inclusive if the questions asked can be visually represented (in a PowerPoint or similar) for the hearing impaired, and contain no visual rounds for the visually impaired.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Well, yes, that’s the entire concern that there is no singular activity is 100% inclusive to very single person on the planet. But, if there aren’t any visually or hearing impaired people, for whom spoken trivia questions wouldn’t work, in a specific workplace, then trivia could be a more inclusive activities than other ones. If every intended participant can participate (based on ability and enjoyment), then it’s inclusive.

        1. deaf*

          People with hearing impairments may not make their disability known in the workplace though, so how do you know if there aren’t any? Many people can function just fine in a quiet office and “fake it” through meetings but can’t do louder environments.

          Nothing is going to be truly inclusive because you can’t ask everyone to disclose what their abilities may or many not be – you can ask preferences, of course, which is what Alison is recommending, but you can’t make that assumption.

        2. deaf*

          You can’t assume there aren’t people with hearing impairments in the office though. They’re not “deaf” and can get by well enough in an office environment so they choose not to disclose their impairment at work. You can only ask people’s preferences, like Alison suggests. You can’t ask them to disclose and you can’t assume.

      2. I Licked Your Salt Lamp*

        And what about people who are both blind and deaf? There should be an interpreter for those folks as well.

        Trivia is also not inclusive for those without brains.

      3. *kalypso*

        And aren’t timed for those of us with any kind of processing issue, have no maths for anyone with any form of math issue…

        … or you make sure that there are teams which are balanced such that there’s someone who’s likely to be strong at each kind of question.

        /the mute chick who can hear you just not always know they’re words.

      4. amoeba*

        I think all trivia things I’ve ever encountered have either had PowerPoint or a pub quiz-style question sheet. Also, if you form teams and have a varied mix of questions, not every question needs to be solved by the same person, people have different strengths.

        And if you have blind/strongly visually impaired employees, you’re probably aware and can adapt accordingly. I cannot imagine you could have an undisclosed disability that prevents you from reading PowerPoint slides or printed papers in most workplaces…

    4. Cherries Jubilee*

      Yes trivia is great, especially if the person writing the questions knows what makes a satisfying trivia question (it’s more than just “a fact you either know or don’t”.)

      Category variety can provide a chance for everyone (everything from movies to local history to your company, to animals/general knowledge). Have food and drinks available, maybe a couple cute prizes. Keep the rounds speedy.

      If the organizer is good at it this can be great.

      1. Timothy (TRiG)*

        I was at a table quiz once which had very cleverly written questions. They often had two clues to the answer, or, contrarywise, required you to know two facts and connect them. It was very nicely written, and, as a connoisseur of trivia, I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t bought off the shelf: it had been written by someone I slightly know.

        One of the other tables kept complaining that the questions were too hard, so the lady reading the questions turned a lot of them into multiple choice, giving the real answer and two obviously wrong answers. She absolutely ruined an excellent quiz, and I wanted to shout at her.

    5. Khatul Madame*

      Trivia is good because it is low-stakes, is highly portable and can be played virtually or in-person. However, it is not terribly inclusive to people who grew up in a different culture and will not have at least general knowledge of, say, baseball.

      1. not a hippo*

        I’m American and couldn’t tell you the first thing about baseball.

        Point is to make trivia either as broad as possible so different people have the opportunity to answer or if you work in a niche field (like llama grooming) keep the trivia limited to South American camelids

        1. AnonEmu*

          We do morning trivia at work every day over coffee (optional, drop in if you want) and we do the daily quiz from a major national newspaper. It usually has a good mix of local/national/international questions and is pretty broad. It doesn’t always work out perfectly but works pretty well in general.

      2. Unfettered scientist*

        Yeah the key to good trivia is tapping into different types of knowledge. We just had a work trivia event and each question was read aloud and put on a PowerPoint slide. Each one had several ways you could try to figure it out. But of course multiple topics too. Pop culture, movies, science, music, maps, law, history, weird offbeat questions that most people wouldn’t know, and ours also had an option where you could enter a funny response instead of a real answer and if it got laughs when the host read it you’d get the point anyway. Inclusive trivia isn’t about making sure everyone can answer each question, it’s about making sure everyone can work as a team and have fun at the event.

        1. NoTotalRecall*

          I don’t usually comment but I really wanted to say that I love the idea of giving points to funny answers that get laughs! I personally really hate trivia as I don’t have strong pop culture/sports/etc. knowledge and what I do know I find hard to recall quickly in that type of environment. It leaves you feeling like you’re not contributing and has made me feel more excluded at times, so I love this alternative way to participate and I’m going to suggest it be an option whenever trivia is brought up as an activity!

          1. amoeba*

            Now I’m just imagining (a more workplace-appropriate version of) cards against humanity!

      3. Cherries Jubilee*

        If you have a variety of categories, not literally every category needs to be something that everybody will do well in. At a certain point, adults also need to be mature enough to not be shattered by not winning at trivia.

    6. Chris*

      And I’m the outlier that finds trivia games to be excluding because the types of questions that get asked and included in most trivia games are the kinds of things I just don’t care to remember most of the time. They’re often about pop culture type subjects that are of less than no interest to me and/or that I didn’t have the means to be part of growing up. It is actually a sort of fun game *I* get to play horrifying new acquaintences when they start naming actors, bands, movies, etc. and I go “nope” to each one saying I don’t know them, haven’t seen them, or even worse, haven’t ever heard of them.

      The kinds of activities that I find more generally inclusive ARE games, board games and card games, that can be taught and played in a single sitting. You don’t have to come in with pre-existing knowledge. You don’t have to be in any specific physical condition. If the game has elements of random generation with dice, most people will have a fighting chance even if there are strategic elements. If you get enough variety of games, you don’t have to have the same thing even from gathering to gathering. There are PLENTY of cafes and shops (at least in larger cities) that have games available to borrow so you don’t even need to invest in buying a library of games, so the business could see about having a private event renting out the space for a few hours and most of these do offer drinks and food, so as long as the menus are diverse enough you even include folks with dietary issues.

      1. Blink*

        I mean, if we’re playing ‘not everyone can eat sandwiches’, which we seem to be, board games can be tough for: neurodiverse people who may onboard new information (like rules) in a way that is not compatible with learning new boardgames quickly; people who don’t want to disclose hearing or vision impairments and would struggle to read the dice or cards/hear what their teammates are saying; people who have been ‘masking’ their deeply competitive nature and don’t want to lose face against their more chilled out colleagues; people who were traumatised by childhood games of monopoly; people for who a game of chance is too close to gambling to be comfortable being in the room.

      2. Blink*

        – ADHD/information processing disorders that make it hard to synthesize new information (like game rules) as quickly as other people
        – anger management issues exacerbated by competitive play
        – visual/auditory processing issues making it hard to follow the dice/cards
        – childhood trauma from monopoly
        – might involve counting; someone’s already said upthread that maths isn’t included
        – oh it’s at an external venue? how are people getting there and back? Are you laying on transport? Some people aren’t comfortable with ubers, or sharing a car with a coworker, or public transport, or minivans

        There’s literally no activity that can’t be “well actually-d” away. You think board games are inclusive because you like them. You find trivia to be “excluding” because you it doesn’t reference your interests – there are many, many people who would find an evening of boardgames equally tedious.

    7. Manders*

      I work in research and an activity that I used to participate in through a particular center on campus was a lunchtime trivia game, about once per month. It was so much fun! The lunch was catered with lots of vegetarian options (and you could email them beforehand if you needed any other accommodations), and it was very light-hearted and enjoyable. The prizes were, like, a candle or a mug, something like that, so nobody felt like they were losing out on too much. Man, the pandemic came along and they have never re-started those trivia lunches and I miss them so much.

    8. Jolly holly*

      I worked a team where more the half were not raised or have lived in my country for long. So pop culture or history were hard on those not familiar. Pretty much nothing will be 100% inclusive

  6. AccountingIsFun*

    I might suggest a book club would be a good activity. Yup, you might read and discuss a book that is not your preference, but it is really inclusive for those with mobility issues, food issues, and busy home lives. Obviously, it’s not a one size fits all, but I just accepted a position at a company that does this as their team-building activities, and it sounds wonderful to me.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      I love to read and run a book club. I think a book club as a work team building is terrible activity. A book club is BIG ask because people need to read the book which presumably outside of business hours. If you could read the book at your desk in the month leading up to the meeting maybe it’s less of a consumption of personal time.

      It just excludes people who don’t like to read books or are very read slowing. I read pretty quickly and lots of books and I’d still opt out of business type/self improvement books so I could focus on the ones I like for my book club.

      1. Heather*

        Yes a book club is a terrible idea! (I mean, no offense, it was a valid suggestion, but from my perspective it’s a No.) I do enjoy reading. But I read what I like to read, not what has been assigned to me. Also, I’ve Noped out of so many book clubs, because they almost always involve almost no actual book discussion (it ends up just being a social club, which is fine but not what I want). There are also many people who just don’t like to read. And lastly, your honor, I do not want to be on a deadline for finishing a book.

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Yeah, I didn’t want to come down too hard on this suggestion because, as Alison pointed out, you can always find someone who will hate literally any suggestion and that kind of sucks when you’re just putting ideas out there, but the time commitment here is a big one even if you *do* love to read.

        Team building activities should definitely have defined start/end times, and they should require minimum prep for participating. Letting me show up, do the thing, and then leave goes a long way towards making participation a whole lot easier.

        1. amoeba*

          I mean, I think a work book club could absolutely work in a larger company if it’s entirely voluntary. Just wouldn’t expect more than, like, a few percent of people to join – so wouldn’t expect it to be a “team building activity” like a lunch or whatever!

          But if there’s people who’d be interested, why not? Just like a running group or lunchtime yoga or whatever. Just don’t expect the majority of people to join, don’t do anything offensive, and you should be fine!

      3. Former Young Lady*

        +1 to this. Unpaid reading homework would be unpopular, and your colleagues with ADHD and/or dyslexia could certainly feel alienated.

        1. Loreasaurus*

          Have ADHD, definitely would not feel alienated about a book club. What’s more alienating is their apparently refusal to read fantasy/sci-fi books and focusing on non-fiction and memoirs, haha. At least at my work’s book club.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Same here… but your summary of the conflict gave me a gleeful idea of sf writer biographies.

          2. amoeba*

            A lot of people with ADHD still love to read! (Although I agree that it’s not a great suggestion for team building.)

          3. anon for work identifying info*

            We had a small book club at my office (4-8 people) that met every 2 weeks and we rotated choosing material – my pics were pretty much always SF/F :)
            We also included short stories and articles, so over the year or two that it ran, we did maybe 4 or 5 full length books, which were over 4ish sessions per book so the per session reading load wasn’t more than 100ish pages, and the rest were 2 to 5 short pieces a session, to keep to an overall manageable length.
            I mostly enjoyed it. We talked about the books, it could be done virtually, and it was one of a number of options for workplace bonding activities you could join in that were set up to keep people interacting w/each other during peak pandemic times.
            I wouldn’t recommend it as an activity that is pushed towards getting the whole office or even a majority to participate in, but if you wanted to have a bunch of small group things, like having a book club, and a cooking club where people share favorite recipes, and a craft club, and a whiskey club, and a coffee club, etc., it can be nice, especially since you get to see a different side of your coworkers sometimes.
            My workplace has an official club set up where if a certain amount of people are interested, there are funds to support your club as well.

        2. Also-ADHD*

          I would think the reading should be paid, but I have ADHD and actually am in a work book club (optional) and love it! Having ADHD doesn’t mean you dislike reading. That’s a stereotype that always bothers me.

          1. Festively Dressed Earl*

            Same. The assumption that ADD/ADHD people don’t like reading was a big part of why I went undiagnosed for so long.

            1. I Have RBF*

              Yeah, most ADD folks I’ve known are bookish as hell, but only with fiction. Getting into a book (focus) shuts up the chatter in your head, IME.

        3. Too Many Tabs Open*

          What does ADHD have to do with it? I have ADHD and read a couple books a week; I used to read 6-7 books a week before I had family responsibilities. Sure, some folks with ADHD have a hard time focusing on reading because books don’t engage their brains, but that’s true of plenty of non-ADHD folks too.

        4. Raida*

          ADHD lady over here, it’s the “H” that makes reading so. damn. good!

          If it’s a boring book, no.
          But an interesting or captivating or funning or fast paced one…? Sign me up, let’s pick some fun series with small books and be set for novels for the next three years mate!

          I could annihilate three novels or comics a week (and not do any cleaning or prep any food) happily, so I limit my reading, lol

        5. DataSci*

          My kid has ADHD and dyslexia and loves books as much as I do – he just prefers audiobooks (and graphic novels, which are unlikely to be chosen for a work book club).

      4. sb51*

        A work book club on a work related book that you’re paid for and is on a topic you should be learning anyway, however, can be a great way to build team-building into a work activity—do the book club over a few months instead of having your team do a week-long mind-numbing zoom training, they’ll learn more and build relationships.

        It’s not a substitute for social/reward type activities and would be way too big a commitment if it didn’t double as needed training, but it really worked to help people keep in touch during the more lockdown-y parts of the last few years and we’ve kept doing it even now that we are in-person again.

        1. amoeba*

          Oh, yeah, as an actual work activity, with relevant literature that’s actually useful, I can see that working! Obviously depends on the team, though, but if you know your employees and they seem happy with the idea…

      5. Punk*

        Lol I run a book club in my free time. It’s deliberately goofy (we read BSC, goosebumps, and other nostalgic book fair series). I’ve invited people from work to come just for dinner if they want but most have said no. Even with an easy book and the option to not read it, lots of people just aren’t into book clubs.

    2. FrivYeti*

      Reading speeds in the general population can be anywhere from 150 to 500 words per minute, which means that finishing a book could take anywhere from two to fifteen hours depending on length. If you have a busy home life, you may not have the desire or ability to commit fifteen hours a month of free time to read a book, especially one that you’re not already excited by. I’m a fast reader; I can get through most books in two or three hours. I still only usually read about one book a month because there are so many other commitments on my time.

    3. ThatGirl*

      People are so quick to dismiss ideas — the whole point is there is no ONE THING that works for everyone. I think a book club is a great idea for people who are interested in book clubs!

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I don’t think people are being dismissive, but just trying to drive home the point that Alison is correct that no one activity is going to be inclusive and accessible to everyone. Pointing out potential gaps in people’s perspectives on “inclusive” activities is useful in that regard.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yes very much this. On a post about inclusion if you say “this activity feels safe” – yes! You’re going to get the reasons it’s not 100% inclusive pointed out. That’s important. It’s how we hone our thinking on these issues.

          Have a book club, trivia, brewery nights, knitting circles – have all those things, and you’ll probably get a decent amount of people engaging in something. But you’re probably not going to find one thing that all those people would be able to do and enjoy.

          1. Lydia*

            It can be a little disheartening to see, right after someone suggests an idea to consider, all the reasons why it won’t work.

            1. nnn*

              Except that’s the whole point of this post, that nothing is 100% inclusive across the board and you need to be aware of that and figure out how you’ll navigate it. So when someone presents something as “oh but THIS is a good idea” it’s valuable to explain what they might not be accounting for.

              1. lucanus cervus*

                Yes – the point is that there is. no. activity. that will please everyone, so we all have to stop trying to come up with the one unicorn of an activity that everyone will love. If you want activities, you need to have a wide variety, make them truly optional and expect that a significant chunk of your workforce will not want to attend any given event. (And don’t try too hard to predict who that’ll be – I love to read, but I hate book clubs for reasons I can’t even really articulate, I just do!)

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think it’s more that a book club is a totally different category of things. Lots of companies do have ongoing “club” type things–I know at my office I have seen flyers for a toastmasters club and a weight-watchers group. But that’s an ongoing commitment, which is different than a one-time outing which I think is more what this question was aimed at.

    4. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      It doesn’t even have to be a book club. We used to have a monthly get-together at lunch where we would discuss what we were reading/listening/ watching. So it would be stuff from booksto podcasts to documentaries and movies. It was really fun. You didnt have to share, you could just enjoy listening and talking with others.

      1. Quill*

        I was once in a book club that was more of a book recommendations club – we gathered once a month to talk about what we’d read and if we liked it, and either swap books or line up at the library counter to check out the ones that had just been turned back in. It could work if everybody’s committed to not being judgy – for example, not mocking the person who mostly reads romance novels, or reads the middle grade books they buy for their kids, etc.

        1. Random Academic Cog*

          That’s an interesting approach I hadn’t heard before. I like the other idea of talking about what you’ve read or watched or done recently (if you choose to share) better because it sounds like it would cover whatever variation on leisure time activities someone chooses to do. I read constantly, but wouldn’t want to admit to just finishing up the Anita Blake series (through Rafael – the most recent available in paperback) in a work context. IYKYK And my brother doesn’t voluntarily read anything ever. Not even text messages half the time.

          1. Quill*

            Yeah, I think it works best socially just because in a work setting there’s going to be some awkwardness if someone judges your genre (or just the fact that you know why Anita Blake might raise more eyebrows than a “standard” urban fantasy romance.)

            1. I Have RBF*

              LOL. Yeah, I burned out on those when they got formulaic and over the top.

              But leisure reading is a very personal thing.

      2. Willow Pillow*

        I don’t find that inclusive either… listening to people go on about sports or violent shows, while I wonder whether watching RuPaul’s Drag Race will make me a target, isn’t fun.

        The issue underlying a lot of this stuff is that it’s often easier (or even safer) to not say anything about events or practices that exclude us. I’ve had pushback on basic things like “please don’t use flashing GIFs in Slack” during lockdown – I love GIFs but I’m photosensitive. The answer was “here’s how to turn off all GIFs”. I know that, but it got to the point where it was easier for me to just suck it up instead of fighting the pushback against a minimal accommodation.

        1. Raida*

          wow, your workplace sounds like it sucks
          or the people there do
          or both?

          We had lunch yesterday and chatted about TV shows (incl. RuPaul’s Drag Race), thriller novels, cooking, remedial therapies, and if anyone wasn’t interested it was fine. If anyone didn’t like the thing discussed also fine. Table was… two women, seven men, ages 22-62

          1. Willow Pillow*

            This wasn’t all from a single workplace! The GIF place did, indeed, suck – and this was a disability organization, to make it even worse. My current workplace is good, but working in IT is always likely to come with more of the sports and video games crowd! Worrying about homophobia/transphobia is a much wider issue at this point, uncortunately.

    5. RussianInTexas*

      I read a lot, and I would bulk at the book club. I am never interested in any books that are “book club” type, nor in business books.
      I don’t want a homework of reading a book I don’t want to read to participate in a work team building activity. I would cheat and read cliff notes, if it’s mandatory.
      But I am totally for a happy hour at a brewery. But not any physical activity.
      Which is just shows that there is not a single activity that will be liked by everyone.

    6. Retired Accountant*

      I thought the suggestions that were offered when someone asked about books for a book club were really interesting and wished I were in a work book club. It is not a terrible suggestion!

    7. Jessica*

      You know, I was with you as far as a book club being one type of activity that might work for some offices, until you claimed it was really inclusive for people with “busy home lives.”

      For most people with busy lives, something that requires multiple hours per week of commitment *outside work* is the opposite of inclusive.

      1. Raida*

        My mate’s office has a ‘commuter club’ where they read/watch/listen during their commutes and catch up once a fortnight to discuss/have a coffee.
        He said it was really good at framing how big the time could be for any suggestions – they did the maths on the shortest to longest commutes (public transport mostly, nobody’s sposed to watch videos while driving but they can do the listening ones!) and limited suggestions to 10x the shortest commute.

    8. Pescadero*

      I love books… but most Americans don’t read. At All. Like 33% haven’t read a single book since highschool.

  7. Iridescent Periwinkle*

    Last week, my office just had our Annual Golf Outing. Five people were happy golfing, the other 15 were bored and it was obvious. Plant manager was hoping for more of a festive mood and I think he was disappointed but the lack of enthusiasm.

    I think will virtually all team building activities, a quarter of the group will be very happy with the activity, and the other three quarters of the group will be unimpressed or not interested. Just my take with my coworkers.

    1. Don'tbeadork*

      OMG I’d be so bored! And a bit resentful, if I HAD to be there even though I don’t golf.

    2. Richard*

      Team-building activities can be great in small doses with lots of food and unstructured time filling in the gaps. Golf is rough because it necessarily happens outside in a big space over a long time that’s hard to escape from. Something on the (physical and commitment) scale of mini-golf is much better.

  8. Amber Rose*

    Since we do quarterly events, we’ve broken it out into: one in-office event, one family event, one more physically active event. And then fourth is always the holiday party. So between all those things, almost everyone can do something if they want to. And if they don’t, they don’t.

    It seems to be working pretty well.

  9. Kyle S.*

    Golf does not have to be gender discriminatory. Especially if you go somewhere more fun-oriented like TopGolf, which is more like a bar with a driving range. Golf has gotten super popular with younger folks of any gender thanks to the pandemic.

    Yeah, plenty of golfers are crappy men who “joke” about how happy they are to be away from the women in their lives. Those guys are just as miserable and misogynistic when they’re anywhere else.

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      Yeah, my mom went to a work Top Golf event once, and she had a great time even though she’s not very fit or athletic.

      1. Lydia*

        This is true. I wouldn’t choose to go to TopGolf on my own, but I did go for a team building thing for work and generally everyone had fun and nobody was pressured into golfing if they didn’t want to. Our team building events tended to vary, so this wasn’t the norm, but everyone seemed to have good things to say about it afterwards.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, ours at a similar situation worked well. Nobody needed to golf if they didn’t want to, nobody was stuck on the course waiting for other people, and we had food and drinks.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      Golf … as in a round of golf … has the issue of being a sport that you need some experience in to enjoy at all, can be physically strenuous for some people, takes FOREVER to complete a 18 round game. Also you spend time with your foursome and not many others so players aren’t meeting a lot of peopl. It has a history of being a man’s activity and thus discriminatory, but at this point I think it has other issues that make it a poor choice for team building.

      TopGolf sounds like a great alternative. Mini-golf is more inclusive, doesn’t really require skills, is faster so it’s another golf ajacent possibility.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Mini golf is the only kind I would consider. And it can be played at night. Most mini golf places I’ve been to also have indoor activities, too.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, mini golf is fun, and pretty inclusive. I’ve seen people in wheelchairs play it, our nearest mini golf place is wheelchair accessible. Last time we went, one of my coworkers who has issues with her balance and who uses a cane was able to borrow a folding chair to sit on so she wouldn’t fall over when she played.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      I love TopGolf! I get pretty consistent at making the close-range holes after playing for an hour. I just aim to improve while I’m there and don’t compete against anyone.

    4. Eukomos*

      My office did a Top Golf day, it was great. Non-golfers could still hit the balls, people who didn’t even want to hit the balls could hang back and chat without looking odd, there were drinks and snacks available but people who don’t like eating in public didn’t look like they were skipping a meal or not having a drink at a happy hour that’s all about drinking. It worked really well!

    5. I'm A Little Teapot*

      My office went to top golf. One of the groups did the kid one and based on the amount of laughter, that group had the most fun. It worked out really well overall, and the food/drinks options had enough variety that I think everyone was pretty happy.

      1. Kyle S.*

        That gets back to the LW’s original point: you can come up with a way that any possible event is “discriminatory.”

        1. Lydia*

          It would be great if, on a post about how to be as inclusive as possible, where the answer is to vary the activities, and where commentors are offering up things that could be considered as part of that variety of activities, if people didn’t immediately come in to say why it’s not inclusive. Yes, we know. Because nothing 100% inclusive exists. Hence why Alison and many other people suggested a variety of activities to cover the broadest possible spectrum of interests and abilities. That is the entire point.

          1. Random Academic Cog*

            Judging by the number of people chiming in that this or that is a perfectly inclusive activity, I think the exchanges pointing out why they might not be are important. Yes, vary it, but also don’t decide based on your own limited life experiences that something else is going to meet the needs of everyone because you can’t think of any reasons why it wouldn’t.

    6. A person*

      I’m a woman and I love golfing. I do agree that golfing can be exclusionary for people with other physical limitations though.

      If you do choose a golf event, I agree that top golf is a better option. Or possibly mini golf. If you do real golf with a mixed group (not just male/female, but different skill levels too) then you’ve gotta do scramble. It’s the most inclusive way that I’ve ever seen to make sure everyone gets to play with minimal stress. In my old workplace we did this all the time and people loved it (even non-golfers and women). Usually the teams wanted at least one woman for the tee box advantage. Haha. Some of those guys can’t even drive as far as the women’s tee… haha.

      I honestly like the board/card game ideas, but at the same time in my family that’s not an inclusive activity because my dads wife hates them with a firey passion (and usually can’t keep up even on simple games), so I suppose you do your best and mix it up frequently.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        The problem with golf isn’t that women can’t or universally don’t play, it’s that women, people of color, and poor people have disproportionately been prevented or discouraged from learning at all. Because of this rich white men have intentionally used the sport to make people feel like the only employee who didn’t grow up in a country club often enough that the whole thing’s become Symbolic if you don’t handle it very, very carefully.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, it’s certainly more the history.

          Here, golf really isn’t a very big thing at all (although the ones who do play definitely tend to be on the rich, white, male side), so if we had golf as a company outing, it would very probably mean we’d all be complete beginners trying it out, with at most one or two people who’ve golfed before. Which could be a lot of fun, I imagine, so I’d be up for it! Probably most boring to the few with experience…

          But if half the group basically grew up in the golf club and the rest is reduced to standing on the sidelines, that’s a different story, of course.

        2. Sarah*

          THIS. As a queer Jewish woman, anything that involves golfing is going to read as “we are centering rich, WASPY men first and foremost” to many, many people.

    7. Jessica*

      I don’t think you can handwave away golf’s history of white supremacy and misogyny and the discomfort and exclusion many people by saying “but my local TopGolf is nice!” People’s desire to not be involved with Golf, The Institution is legit, and frankly, given how terrible golf courses are for the environment and how terrible most golf culture still is, I’m not sure that attempting to lessen people’s aversion to it is actually ethical.

      1. Ccbac*

        thank you for this comment! asking people to ignore golf’s history because “actually woman can golf too these days” is a bit odd. and top golf is closer to mini golf or bowling and not usually what people mean by saying a round of golf.

        1. Kyle S.*

          Nobody’s asking anyone to ignore anything. You have invented a strawman. I am saying that golfers is rapidly getting more inclusive than the stereotype.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Top Golf is putt-putt. It isn’t even on a golf course. It certainly has no relationship to “golf culture.” It has minigolf on astroturf, an arcade and a bar.

        It bears about as much resemblance to “traditional” golf as Chuck E Cheese does to Italy. In that, if you hold your head sideways and squint, you could say they both have pizza.

        This is taking the idea of guilt-by-association to a ludicrous extreme.

      3. L-squared*

        I mean, this is a bit much. I’m black myself. I have no problem with golf. I didn’t grow up on a golf course, but I’ve started playing as an adult, and its fine. If YOU would like to have nothing to do with the idea of golf, by all means, opt out. But that doesn’t mean you need to push your views on others.

    8. Sarah*

      There are good reasons why golf isn’t the right activity for team events, but it being only for dudes shouldn’t be one of them.

  10. Essess*

    If Veronica is reading emails over shoulders and attempting to crash meetings, this is a serious case of not understanding confidentiality and this is a performance issue unrelated to contract negotiations. She needs to be told that she is not to continue trying to intercept confidential information and that if it continues her job will be in jeopardy regardless of the negotiation outcomes.

    1. Meep*

      I have an inkling what company this is because they have built up an entire vendor network and we are also going through negotiations as vendors/contractors. To be fair to Veronica, it is a sh*tshow on their side with everyone over there on edge and worried about their own jobs with another round of layoffs as a possibility. Our contact was demanding a free license and using the contract negotiations as leverage, for example. (Though to be completely honest, the robot of a CEO is not on steady footing as he once was with other companies catching up.)

      I could see the panic vibe coming from LW’s company not helping. Veronica definitely needs to chill if she wants a job. But if it is the company I think it is, it is C-Suite’s fault.

  11. Sharon*

    How about volunteering? We have packed food, sorted donations and stocked shelves at a thrift store (fun!), built homes with Habitat for Humanity, cleaned up a youth camp, passed out water at a triathlon, etc. I think the key to any team building event is to make it easy to participate but optional for those who aren’t interested. And obviously don’t pick a controversial organization.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      One of my previous offices did a meal assembly line for a local free kitchen. We paid for the supplies and the kitchen sent volunteers to get us set up to assemble the boxed lunches and they got to share info about their organization.

    2. SnowyRose*

      We do something similar each year around the end of year holidays as part of our holiday party. In addition to cube decorating and cookie contests, bingo, and a few other games, we also put together bags for one of the local DV shelters. We check with them each year what they need, and we usually end up putting together a couple hundred bags for them. It’s not required (other activities are going on), but most of our folks participate and have a good time.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        We did care kit building for a local homeless shelter. The company we work with just needed our budget, and the number of people we had (so they weren’t trying to have 5 people build 500 kits) and sent us the supplies. We packed the kits, and the shelter came to pick them up. Work provided food during the event, but nobody had to eat, drink, or participate. That’s fairly close to being as inclusive as you can ever be, I think!

    3. High Score!*

      Our company does a variety of fund raisers and these are popular events. Sometimes its a non perishable food collection and we see how many boxes we can collectively donate. Other times, the company does a match on backpack donations for local school kids and we get together and fill them with supplies for the kids. The more fit people do habitat for humanity.
      We do other things too, but the charity events get the largest engagement.

    4. Alice*

      I work in two departments.
      Dept 1 did community service as team building very well: optional, during work hours, with lots of activities at different sites including outdoors
      Dept 2, well, they did it on the weekend, only one site with one activity. At least it was optional.

    5. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      I don’t know about that. I don’t want my employer to tell me what volunteering to do. I would find it an overstep. I find it hard to explain why I baulk at the idea. Maybe because it seems like we are being told to connect and team build but then we are being asked to spend it doing work (albeit not for our employer)? Shouldn’t it be motivating and vaguely fun? If I want to volunteer I’ll decide that for myself. Also I worry that it would make people feel really bad for opting out unless they had a “good reason.”

      1. Raida*

        We had one where we had a regular quarterly Section lunch, and instead of going to a restaurant we did potluck, and everyone used the money they *would* have spent on buying a restaurant meal to buy donations. So, like, $15-$30 nobody is checking your invoice or calculating you would have had a drink at lunch so you should buy another toothbrush.

        We split into groups – one that was people going to a chemist, one that was going to a supermarket, one that was going to clothes and one doing toys. You just went in the group you wanted.
        Walked from the office, bought our stuff, walked back, put the stuff in donation boxes and enjoyed lunch.

        That was fun, educational (framing how little could be bought with what felt like a decent donation dollar value), easy, quick, low effort, and we enjoyed lunch afterwards. The donations were across three local charities with good reputations, two of which have no religious history.

        One person opted-out, but because they didn’t have the time rather than not want to, and they gave $20 to a teammate to buy some tinned beans.

    6. mondaysamiright*

      Our organization offers 2 days of paid volunteer leave for all employees (we’re a state government agency, so I assume this benefit was provided because it looks good for government employees to give back to the community). You can take your paid leave for your own, independent volunteer activities, but our org also organizes a few group events so coworkers can volunteer together at a pre-organized thing. We try to hit a variety of locations, days, times, nonprofits we work with, activities being performed, etc. It’s pretty well received overall.

      1. Anon22*

        Nice benefit. Are there any restrictions on the organizations you can volunteer for? Catch me organizing a volunteer event hosting my child’s Scout pack next time they have a “teacher planning day” off school!

    7. Sad Desk Salad*

      I’m on board with this. I think most volunteer activities can be made to accommodate disabilities, although you should make it optional as some volunteer efforts could be triggering to people who may have been affected by the situation you’re trying to help (DV, homelessness, diseases, etc.) and you may not realize it.

      1. VolunteeringWithDisability*

        Interesting comment as I’ve rarely met a group volunteer opportunity able (willing?) to accommodate many physical disabilities in staff/volunteer spaces or processes. Reasons have ranged from lack of space, lack of funds, having people trained to expect a certain way of doing things, etc.

    8. RT*

      I was coming here to suggest this. My office did a morning of making sack lunches for a homeless outreach organization. I think people had fun and it was fairly inclusive. You should be able to find a variety of one-off volunteer activities for groups by googling or just looking at the websites for larger nonprofits in your area. Many large nonprofits have programs for just this type if volunteer activity.

    9. NoUniversalAnswers*

      There are no universally acceptable picks. I used to have to regularly explain to a couple of employers why I wasn’t going to donate to the Red Cross and, worse, why I had a problem with them making donations in my name. I promised my grandfather I’d never donate to them because of practices he witnessed as a medic in WWII (that I am confident haven’t happened in decades). I have offered/asked to substitute the Salvation Army but it’s been a real source of friction.

  12. Vermont Green*

    My daughter’s smallish office has done a corn maze, mini-golf, and apple-picking, all on company time, and paid for by the company. The apple-picking allows pickers to pick half for the food shelf and half for themselves, at a reduced rate.

      1. Miette*

        “paid for by the company”

        I think they mean the cost to the company is reduced since half of the apples will go to a food pantry.

  13. Alex*

    My department recently did an escape room as a team building activity.

    I can’t think of too many ways that excludes people, except those who…just don’t like escape rooms. And well, you can’t please everyone. There are some people who just don’t like team building activities! (Which includes myself!) There’s no magical team building activity for them.

    It was wheelchair accessible and required no physical stamina. No food involved. People had different strengths regarding solving the puzzles, but it didn’t matter since everyone was working together.

    1. FrivYeti*

      I actually know a number of people who find escape rooms intensely stressful due to having anxiety issues; the combination of a time pressure, the social pressure of a lot of people trying to solve problems at odds with each other, and the potential of being seen as foolish for failing to solve problems contributes to ratchet their anxiety into the stratosphere.

      Which just loops back around to – there’s no magical solution, and variety is the spice of life!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yup, I will not do an escape room due to intense claustrophobia. But that doesn’t mean no one else can! I’ll just meet you all afterwards, and hopefully next time you’ll do something I can participate in, like Paint & Sip or trivia or a cooking class.

        1. amoeba*

          I think that’s generally also a good idea for a lot of activities – combine them! So, have something physically active followed by a barbecue, an escape room followed by a bar, or even two choices (escape room/museum visit) followed by a catered lunch and/or drinks…

          And then make it clear that it’s completely OK to only join for the parts you’d enjoy. Sure, there might always be people who like none of the options, but it will be much fewer than if it’s only one thing.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I don’t know if it helps to know that in most escape rooms you are not actually locked in. Not that you need to do one, but I just wanted to put that out there in case you would otherwise be interested. I think I have done at least one a long time ago where they genuinely locked the door, but I just did one a couple weeks ago and they were very clear that the door wasn’t actually going to be locked and you could leave to like use the bathroom or get some air or whatever at any time if you wanted to.

      2. Just here for the scripts*

        Totally me—and doing it with my superiors (and colleagues who just feel superior) would send me down a panic rabbit hole. Also, the older I get the more claustrophobic I am—locked in with a group from work (or family)? Sorry—too busy getting into a fetal position and deep breathing to hear you!

      3. House On The Rock*

        I refused to do an escape room with close friends with whom I play other challenging, intricate games. No way in hell would I do it with work people.

    2. Essess*

      I really stress out over team competition events. Too much antagonism and blame if you aren’t as good as others on the team or if your team loses. Completely not fun for me at all.

      1. Eukomos*

        Escape rooms are great because they aren’t competitive, the group does the puzzle together. It’s more like sitting down and doing a jigsaw puzzle together, in that some people may be better at it but the goal is achieved as a group.

        1. Ccbac*

          I’ve been to events (yes multiple! though only one was work related) where we were divided into different groups who each completed the escape room separately (most escape rooms do have caps on the number of people) and it was a competition based on finish time.

        2. RussianInTexas*

          As a person who hates puzzles, group puzzle activity always makes me feel stupid. Thanks, but no thanks.

        3. Happy meal with extra happy*

          I love escape rooms, and I had a great escape room experience the one time I did it as a work event. However, they can be highly stressful physical activities that I can see going very poorly depending on the participants. High potential for lots of yelling, arguing.

    3. Southern Girl*

      Even thinking about an escape room scares me! People (rarely) get trapped and die!

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        There’s definitely a psychological component that I can see people (understandably) stressing about, but many escape rooms I’ve done, the door isn’t actually locked.

        1. UKDancer*

          I don’t think I’ve ever done one where they actually locked the door. Usually when you arrive they show you how to open it or where the exit is. The last one had a large and ostentatious door we had to find the key for and a smaller one marked “exit” which we could use if we wanted to go to the loo or take a break. We were told if the fire alarm went to leave by the small exit door.

          I think locking the door would be a fire risk.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Every “escape” room I’ve been to had an unlocked exit door. It’d be a fire hazard otherwise. You can go to the bathroom and come back, they just won’t stop the clock for you. And for the most part, the story behind the puzzles isn’t even usually looking for an “escape,” but rather to find a magical amulet or the mad scientist’s secret project or etc. They really should be called puzzle rooms, not escape rooms.

        Anyway! Variety is key, because plenty of people don’t like escape rooms, but it’s far more accessible than a lot of other options.

      3. Bk*

        Only in the sense that in an emergency situation, literally any building can be a trap.

        Escape room doors aren’t like…actually really locked. It’s pretend. If nothing else, they don’t want you peeing in the corner of the room because you can’t get out to use the toilet.

    4. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      Noooo not escape rooms! I mean, lots of people like them, so as long as it’s optional obviously not saying no one should do them, no one likes everything. But I truly can’t do most puzzles. My brain doesn’t work that way. I hate, hate, hate the idea of being with my colleagues trying to solve puzzles to a time. And honestly, not even trying, because usually I just… can’t. You might as well ask me to fly or turn invisible. And people say no no don’t worry they’re easy, which is *so obviously* going to make it worse! Yeah, j know it should be easy, but it isn’t for me, so thanks. It will never be fun for me because I basically can’t join in.

      For some people, there are mental tasks which feel as impossible to take part in as certain physical tasks feel for people who have a physical disability.

      (But again, not saying people shouldn’t do them. Just highlighting that nope they’re not inclusive just because the they’re not physical.)

      1. Raida*

        We’ve got a great escape room place near home that has stats for each room/experience.
        It’s so good to say “Well we’ve got Mitch and Chris coming, we won’t do a maths-heavy one” or “Oh Pearl and Rakkitha are coming, we’ll do the riddle-focussed one”

        We did one with no words or numbers, all colours and shapes and rhythm – was really nice to not be looking for number codes for padlocks and doing maths and counting letters.

        Still puzzles and wouldn’t work for yourself I’d guess, but just wanted to say I appreciate their attention to the variety of strengths in possible players and having it clearly laid out to make hte choice

    5. Alex*

      I think it is funny so many people commented that it would stress them out, because I was totally stressed out about it! So much dread! The thought of being trapped in a room having to solve a puzzle to get out was like my version of hell.

      But I actually ended up having fun. You aren’t actually trapped, and you know whether or not you solve the puzzle the whole thing will be over in an hour–you either all win or all lose.

      Anyway, I completely understand why plenty of people wouldn’t *enjoy* this but there’s not a lot of accessibility reasons that would preclude from people who wanted to participate in something from being able to.

      1. FrivYeti*

        Both claustrophobia and anxiety conditions are, in fact, accessibility issues that should be taken into account, not just “I’m not having fun” moments that can be laughed off.

        1. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

          Yep, as someone who had a panic attack in an escape room, it’s definitely an issue. I couldn’t remember how to get out, and nobody helped me. We don’t want to get into “not everyone can eat sandwiches” territory, and if it was one option out of several it would be fine, but it’s no more accessible than, say, volleyball or dinner.

    6. Hrodvitnir*

      Haha, so this entire comment section is suggestions + people knocking them, but I guess I’ll contribute.

      I find it astounding people view escape rooms as a chill/fun activity! I don’t care that you’re not literally locked in, the very concept is a (literal) trigger for me, and I don’t want to tell anyone that. If I can opt out, then cool, go for it.

      1. amoeba*

        I mean, you could have one that’s not escape-themed at all, that might work for more people? So like mentioned above, more of a general quest/adventure type one (solve the crime, find the amulet, whatever). No personal experience, but that could probably remove at least a large part of the claustrophobia triggers?

    7. DataSci*

      Claustrophobia and a history of abuse are a couple obvious reasons why people wouldn’t find escape rooms enjoyable. Which is not to say they can’t be a good option – just that, like all activities, they aren’t for everyone, and can’t be the only activity ever offered.

  14. Former Retail Lifer*

    The best activity we did was go to a place that was a combination bowling/pinball arcade. Appetizers, a few game play tickets, and two drink tickets were included, and the drink options included both alcohol and non-alcoholic. Lots of people played games, but a lot of us just hung out and chatted, and some people got a little drunk. We work until 6PM, but we were allowed to leave early (around 4:30) because the event started at 5. It went until 8. The timeframe was nice because if you had other obligations after work, you could still stop by during work hours. If you wanted to hang later, that was also an option.

    1. Miette*

      I’m a great fan of these kinds of events. Dave & Buster’s does a great job of offering event packages at different price points. I arranged one once with a trivia game as part of the package and it was lots of fun. If you’ve got a Lucky Strike near you, they do the same.

  15. greenfordanger*

    My employer organized a trip to a glass blowing facility. I was a little skeptical about how much fun it would be but everyone enjoyed it and everyone got to offer suggestions on everyone else’s colour schemes for their glass object ( bowl, paper weight, ornament) and take pride in their own attempt. Those that chose could have a meal in an adjoining restaurant. Only the youngest and oldest ( me) stayed on as we didn’t have family responsibilities but everyone said afterwards that it was a really fun event. And I learnt who was colour blind when they asked me for advice. The only fly in the ointment was that we have an office of “professionals” and support staff. Apparently the support staff chose to go to the glass blowing facility on their own the previous week and so the “professionals” went amongst themselves the next week. I don’t like that type of division no matter who is responsible for it and I think eventually it does undermine a work place. I- who have no role in management; came out of retirement to carry out a particular job- did talk to the support staff and was told, “It’s more fun when it’s just us.” I think the professionals have to reflect upon why that would be the conclusion but my stint here will probably be up here before that happens.

    1. Light Dancer*

      The support staff may well have felt that they couldn’t just relax and have fun while their supervisors were there as well. Even if it was not a work-focused meeting, those professionals have the power to advance or end the support staff member’s jobs. Mingling with them would have been about as enjoyable and relaxing as attending Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral! The support staff would have felt compelled to be on their very best, most proper behavior, which does not make for a day of fun.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Yeah. I don’t want to have a fun activity with the owners of the company and the high management present.
        It’s either work with them present, or it’s fun.

    2. Sharks are Cool*

      In my experience “professionals” are rarely aware of their societal privilege when interacting with support staff paid who are paid significantly less than they are. I have very kind and considerate professional coworkers who include support staff in everything—hanging out with them is still exhausting!

      1. greenfordanger*

        You are spot on and that’s what the professionals should be reflecting upon. Right now I’m working in an office with a strong social justice mandate but it is far more status oriented than the government offices I worked in for thirty plus years. I put some of that down to the lack of a union and some of it down to a feeling of, “We’re not like government, we’re like the private sector.” Yes, with all the phony credentialism that comes with the private sector.

    3. L-squared*

      I mean, they work together, so it makes sense.

      I’m in the central office for a bigger company. We have many different teams there (even if its just a couple on each team). I’ll be honest, I’m more than happy to not have to hang with the accountants and do something with just the customer facing team, because we work together and get along as is.

    4. allathian*

      It’s more fun when it’s just us is totally normal. It’s similar to how managers shouldn’t invite themselves to lunch with their reports, and shouldn’t invite their reports unless it’s a working lunch on the company’s dime, or the reports invite the manager without any prompting (which has happened at my organization).

  16. Luanne Platter*

    I’m not sure that golf is gender-discriminatory. It may not be enjoyable for everyone, but it’s not gender-specific.

    1. Heather*

      I agree that “discriminatory” is the wrong word, since many women do play golf, and everyone is invited. However, I still think it may not be a great choice, because it is pretty gendered in general. It would be like having a knitting club. Yes, many men knit, and more should probably learn, but basically it would end up being almost all women who sign up.

      1. Nesprin*

        * It would be like a knitting club where the CEOs of F500 all knit and where men have been excluded for 200 years.

    2. Tinkerbell*

      It’s not gender-specific NOW, but it’s a sport where prior experience greatly affects how well you play and a certain class of people are still much more likely to have that experience than others.

      1. Blue Eagle*

        I’m a woman who golfs. When I was in my company’s golf outing, it was a scramble – – – which means that all 4 people hit from the same place, then you choose the best ball and all 4 hit their next shot from there.
        In this type of outing, the men wanted me on their team because women are generally allowed to hit from the forward-most tees and our drives will go farther than the men’s who hit from tees further back. So they will use our drive.
        Also, in most company outings I’ve been a part of, people are asked to provide their handicap and the teams are made up of an A player, a B player, a C player and a D player so that the teams are even. And in those cases the more skilled players will cheer on the lesser skilled players on their team to help make putts, etc.
        The above was true, even when I was a beginning golfer. So don’t generalize and automatically assume that women don’t want to play golf or do sports because believe me, the last thing I would want to participate in is some kind of artistic or crafter activity.
        I agree with everyone who supports offering different activities and not making them mandatory.

    3. Former Young Lady*

      I think OP was referring to the long history of golf outings where only the “old boys’ club” was invited in the first place — or when golf is chosen because predominantly-male leadership enjoys it, without regard to what the (more gender-balanced) rank-and-file would enjoy.

    4. CommanderBanana*

      Private golf clubs/country clubs with golf courses have a long history of not admitting women, minorities, or Jewish people. There’s a golf club literally up the road from my house that does not admit women, as in, women are literally forbidden from entering the club at all.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Golf courses are also environmental disasters, which bothers me, too. (The history of discrimination, including ongoing discrimination, bothers me more.)

    5. I should really pick a name*

      A lot of golf courses are setup with different tee-off locations for men and women.
      Yes, you can ignore it, but it’s kind of in your face.

    6. Nesprin*

      There is a looooong history of golf being gender discriminatory (not to mention racist) and a similar history of golf being a way that the good old boy’s network perpetuates itself.

      Things like dress codes still target some folk differently than others, and the majority of people who take the time to get good at golf still tend to be of a single culture and a single gender presentation.

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      Any theories on why most people who play are well-off white men and the presence of anyone who’s not of that persuasion on the professional circuit is noteworthy, then?

      It’s more inclusive than it used to be, but that’s really not saying much.

  17. Employee At A Small Company*

    My company does a good job of this. About 6-8 times a year there’s some type of activity planned. One time it was a VERY FANCY dinner at the nicest place in town with only a +1 invite. Sometimes it’s meeting at the local food truck cooperative with the everyone’s family invited. One time we all met at the local driving range and it was employees only. Over the course of a year there will likely be at least one thing that someone can participate it. There’s never pressure to join in, and there are introverts that go to nothing. I think the key is just to plan lots of different things and let people participate in what they want to. I get annoyed at the sports related ones, not because I can’t participate, but because I don’t want to distract my time from my particular sport. If I have a nice day outside of work, I’m going to choose going for a mountain bike ride, not play golf with my coworkers. But it’s easy, I just don’t go to those ones and pick and choose what I want to go to.

    1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      This is the answer. Lots of different things, different times, and everything optional. No one activity is going to work for everyone, but a bunch of different options will end up with something for everyone *who wants to participate*.

  18. Baron*

    #2: The idea of references speaking to your work in detail is often a class thing—I’m a white-collar type who has a lot of trouble with references (I held some freakishly senior positions when I was 22 and then acted like a 22-year-old at them) and my blue-collar friends and family are mystified whenever I lose out on a job because of references, because they think of “references” exclusively as “basic employment confirmation”.

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      yup I bet that’s what the student thinks. This person was my boss so they can confirm I worked here. They should talk to the student using Alison’s script.

      1. Baron*

        If I were them, I would probably also spell out what a reference is as opposed to employment confirmation.

        1. MC*

          References for a lot of jobs simply are just “employment confirmation” (if they’re ever checked at all in the first place), so that perception is fair.

          1. June*

            Yeah. My experience with references comes from jobs where the turnover rate was so high, you’d have to go four levels up from me before finding someone who I’m sure is still employed there. We met maybe twice, and one of those was filling out an incident report about something my first-level boss messed up. All I would expect from the company at that point, and all I believe they usually do, is “yes, this person worked here from [date] to [date]; yes, they are eligible for rehire”.

            1. Johanna Cabal*

              Funny reference story. I briefly worked as a production temp for a community newspaper. It was six weeks covering for someone out on parental leave. It required the ubiquitous three references which I the HR manager requested on my first day. One of the references was from my most recent internship supervisor.

              Internship supervisor was traveling during that period. HR manager finally got a hold of him the last week of my assignment there. This always perplexed me; by that point I could’ve done all sorts of shenanigans if I were of that mindset (not that I am lol). Felt more like a paper checking exercise to me.

  19. Turtleyawesome*

    We do a game night every other week and an occasional craft night. With game night, we make sure that anyone knows they can come just to hang out with us and chat.

    1. lcsa99*

      This is what I was going to suggest. One department at my husband’s office does board games and I thought that was a great idea. You don’t even have to make a “night” of it. Have a few people bring their favorite game, and you can easily play in a conference room as one big group or several smaller ones.

    2. Ann*

      Oh, that reminds me! Would be cool if my office brought back our craft night! We had it years and years ago, and it kind of fizzled, but maybe there is some interest again… In fact there may be more interest, because so many of us aren’t in the office daily, and we have much less opportunity to just meet up and chat than we did back then.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      We had a game luncheon as a staff appreciation event one year, and it was one of the most popular things ever. There were active games, board games, and party games (like charades and win-lose-or-draw) and plenty of seating to sit and chat. Plus food, lots of food.

  20. KeinName*

    Someone above emphasised variety. In my experience, consistency in the variety works. We have a social lunch every end of semester; we have an evening pizza in a bar every start of semester; a retreat (optional to bring companion or child, if companion cares for child) every autumn. People might plan for a year to get childcare so they can be on the retreat. Has happenend to us. Listen to suggestions (in my case: don’t just offer socialising at night) and implement them, then repeat them in a rhythm.

  21. JP*

    So, you have a great candidate for a hard to hire for position, and you don’t want to consider them because you don’t like their resume format? Really?

    1. Boolie*

      The time difference makes me laugh. Head, five whole minutes! Sure I get that’s more than one minute, but really? I’m of the camp that resumes shouldn’t be skimmed anyway.

        1. Baron*

          As Alison acknowledges in her answer, I think the calculation changes if you’ve got a thousand applications and the marginal value between #1 and #2 is negligible. But asking someone to invest five minutes in reading the best resume they get for a hard-to-fill position is really not that much.

          1. Boolie*

            That’s what I’m saying, it’s kind of crazy that the best resume in a whole stack taking a whole five minutes to read can demote someone from a yes to a maybe. Besides, if you found a resume to be good by skimming, wouldn’t you stop and take more time to read it anyway?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It depends on whether you need to get through three of them or three hundred.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      In all seriousness, this is why people are advised not to use gimmicks for their resumes. Because if there are plenty of qualified candidates, the ones who irritated you right off can easily go in the “no” pile. The only reason the gimmick might not hurt him is that a) the position is hard to hire for and there are few qualified applicants; b) presenting information clearly isn’t one of the hiring criteria. (I agree with Alison that if presenting information in an easy to grasp way is a core responsibility, then this resume should rule him right out.)

      1. chewingle*

        Not everyone is advised against this. I recall being told in college to do this very thing so my resume would stand out amongst all the boring text-only ones.

        Obviously it didn’t work out, but it took a while to realize I had been given (a lot) of bad advice.

    3. Felicia*

      This one enraged me. Other people may like graphic resumes, so now not only are we expected to tailor resumes individually to each job, but we must also be psychic and guess the style preferences of the stranger on the receiving end.
      Early in my career, I met with someone for job seeking advice, and she critiqued my resume. Not the substance of it, but that I used a serif font and had my name at the centre of the top instead of the left. She felt these preferences were gospel, not personal opinion.
      If someone thinks that their personal preferences like that are more important (and universal) than the substance, it is definitely a red flag for someone who should NOT be a hiring manager.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I’d be curious for a poll of hiring managers and how many of them liked infographic resumes.

        The objection to them being that they are hard to understand. (For example, someone speaks French exactly twice as well as they speak Italian, as indicated by the size of the bars in this graph.)

        Also the graphics take up real estate, so you’d associate it with someone who couldn’t otherwise fill up a whole page–it’s a flashier version of bumping up the font size and margins.

        (For the example from the person reviewing your resume, I think serifs and left vs center are weird things for anyone to focus on. Though if a candidate had broken the mold by putting their name at the bottom, I’d advise them to put it up where readers would expect to find it. The line between “this is actually a norm, whether logical or not” and “this is my own weird little thing” can be hard to catch.)

      2. Michelle Smith*

        I think the difference between your experience and the LW’s situation is that the substance of your resume was equally easy to scan and understand regardless of whether you used serif or sans serif. Whereas the graphic resume made it harder to find the substance.

      3. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        But it isn’t an impossible thing to gauge. I can’t imagine many people reject a resume for *not* being an info graphic. I can imagine that quite a few would reject one for being an infographic.

        Also a general infographic rule is don’t use them unless the information can’t be presented in a simpler way. Resumes aren’t clearer with an infographic, they’re not necessary. So using one on a resume does give a bit of an impression about a person’s judgement. (In my field, that kind of thing would be fairly important so it would be likely to count against them.)

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      Seriously. I hire for several hard-to-find positions, and, while I hate infographic resumes (I’m not in a graphics/PR field), it’s certainly not disqualifying.

      I would probably ask some additional questions about presentation of information and make sure, if hired, they knew that we’re substance-over-form people here, but I just cannot image rejecting or even maybe-ing a candidate who meets the qualifications AND you have good network feedback for!

  22. Dedicated1776*

    One of my favorite team activities in my whole career was an afternoon at a park. Food and drinks were provided but in such a casual atmosphere no one was paying attention to who ate what and someone could have brought their own if they preferred. We had games (croquet, corn hole, ladders) but nothing was organized like “you must play” or “you must be on this team.” Some people didn’t play anything! As long as the park is accessible if you have coworkers with mobility challenges, this should work, as long as you pick a time of year with good weather. Some people struggle with extreme temperatures.

    1. Elle*

      That is exactly what we do. Lots of shade, places to sit, several food trucks that seem to meet everyone’s diet, optional games, raffles. It’s mandatory and during work hours. People seem to enjoy it.

  23. friendly neighborhood misanthrope*

    Unpopular opinion: keep work events at work during work hours.

    That way no one has to worry about travel or child care or having to spend time with work people and not getting paid for it.

    1. Rachel*

      Unpopular opinion: industries that expect off-hours social/teambuilding events exist. And when you are picking a career, you are absolutely allowed to have this as a dealbreaker. Pick a career (there are MANY) where this is not an expectation.

      I do not think it’s right to know this is industry standard, select the field, then complain

      1. friendly neighborhood misanthrope*

        Nah. Unless your job requires you to schmooze & kiss ass (sales??), socializing outside of work hours should not be a requirement, either stated or implied.

        But I’m not going to convince you to see it my way and you’re not going to convince me to see it your way so let’s leave it at that.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          But what about optional? I’ve worked at multiple companies where events outside of work hours were legitimately 100% optional. (And there were numerous events during work hours as well.) I like these events, and so do many of my coworkers.

          1. friendly neighborhood misanthrope*

            They’re never truly optional. If you never to an event, you lose out on potential chatting with the higher ups or making connections that you wouldn’t normally make.

            Which I understand is why such things exist but frankly, I spend 8+ hours at work. I’m not sacrificing what little personal time I have to bowl gutter balls or make a food I can’t actually eat (or take home to someone who can) or go deaf trying to hear people over a noisy bar or watch my boss’s drunk boyfriend pick a fight with an inanimate object in an escape room. I

            (All things that have happened. I gained nothing but a migraine and a sore wrist.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Back when I worked at places that did this sort of thing, my rule of thumb was to show up, chit chat for a few minutes with my boss, then do the same with my boss’s boss, then quietly leave as soon as possible, in the meantime hanging out with my immediate coworkers rather than trying to make awkward small talk with Bob in Accounting or Dolores in HR or whoever I happened to find myself next to.

              1. Michelle Smith*

                That’s completely reasonable to do when the event is free. At one of the offices I worked, I had to pay $80 for admission to the Christmas party where I would be ostracized the entire time (couldn’t stand and mingle with folks and no one else used the seating for anything other than holding coats) and I hated the food (only veg option was a very greasy and unsavory penne dish). I went to the party my first two years there, but the last two I refused to let them bully me into it. I’m not paying exorbitant admission fees for an event I hate regardless of whether I can sneak out early without it being noticed.

    2. not a hippo*

      My job has a large park within walking distance (like across the road) so every year they’d hold a picnic in the summer during the last half of the day. Everyone could walk over whenever they were done working and got paid for their time whether they were working or throwing a frisbee around.

      This year they changed it to a day when half the staff was off and most of the remaining staff left by noon. Surprise surprise, attendance dropped significantly.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      How is that unpopular?
      I’m pretty sure Alison regularly recommends it.

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      This opinion is popular with me.

      My company has exactly two off-hours official events a year (a summer picnic and a holiday party) and attendance is always significantly less than 100% because of all the reasons you point out.

    5. HR Friend*

      The unpopular opinion would be to have social events in the evenings or on weekends.

      I personally don’t mind evening events – I’m salaried & paid well enough to “work” off hours, and I enjoy spending time with my coworkers. But yours is the majority opinion.

      1. friendly neighborhood misanthrope*

        If it really was so popular, I wouldn’t have to deal with work events. The commenters here (& possibly the internet at large?) skew to not very social in terms of work events.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          Common does not equal popular.

          Employers often schedule social events after hours because it means they don’t need to pay you for them, not because it’s popular.

    6. Raida*

      Alternative Opinion: Just ask staff what works for them and what doesn’t work for them.

      Just like with foods, drinks, physical events – ask and plan accordingly.

      You know what we, as public servants, can’t do on the clock? Drink alcohol. So we’d never be able to go to the pub for an hour as a simple catch up after work because it would be during work hours if you restricted it to your preference.
      However! What we can do is have drinks start a little earlier in the day than [standard] finish time, everyone’s responsible for doing their hours by the week so figure it out, and anyone that needs to leave at or by 5pm can attend (not drink alcohol if they want, there’s plenty in my section that don’t drink), eat some finger food have one drink and leave after a half hour.

  24. Rachel*

    I think the best way around this is to have variety to the extent possible.

    If you have, for example, a Christmas holiday party with dinner and drinks, the next event could be trivia, and the following one a wine tasting.

    I think everybody understands it’s impossible to be 100% inclusive 100% of the time. But if you make an effort to be sure the same people are not consistently excluded, it goes a long way.

    1. Raida*

      and if the same people aren’t attending as a pattern – have a quick sit down with them, find out if it’s just a case of “it’s not mandatory, I’m not going” or if it’s at a time that’s inconvenient or events that aren’t of interest, or are unsuitable for some reason.

      We had one Admin pulling her hair out trying to get Steve to attend stuff – Steve had to go home straight after work to give his dog medicine, he was *never* going to stick around! But she didn’t ask she just worried she was excluding him!

  25. ThatGirl*

    Things I’ve seen done at my company in the past two years:

    – virtual cookie decorating (everyone got sent a box of cookies, icing, sprinkles, etc)
    – virtual trivia
    – virtual escape room
    – virtual Two Truths and a Lie
    – virtual book club
    – volunteer activities (incl. river clean up, helping at a food pantry, etc)
    – mini golf
    – bowling
    – holiday party
    – food days
    – ice cream truck
    – paletas

    you will never find one thing that makes everyone happy. but I feel like there’s been a decent variety, and they’re all truly optional.

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      I will add that if you do a volunteer activity please do not do something like a food bank food handout unless you know 100% that none of your employees are using the food bank. At a place I worked they often volunteered to hand out food for the monthly food distribution. At the time I was the only one working in my family and we relied on the food pantry. I’m not shameful at all but it was really awkward to see some of the leadership at my company hand me food. Because of the dynamics it felt like I was begging. I just grabbed my stuff and went.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Literally did a food bank event today and we were stocking shelves and sorting things, not handing out food.

  26. RandomNameAllocated*

    I’m in teapot production and once a month (or so, when we’re all in), we break from work for 40-60 mins, stay in the department but gather round, get a cup of tea or coffee, one of the line managers buys cake, and we do a show and tell for what we’ve been working on, problems that we’re having, things we’re pleased with, and that’s been very helpful both in terms of bonding and also learning! But I realise it might not work if your work is perhaps less actual physical object based.

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      These kinds of things really work for me, personally, and I tried initiating them in my current team but never got traction. (Traction meaning buy-in to even get started, everyone said they liked the idea but we couldn’t get things scheduled / attended which is its own problem.)

      Variations on the show-and-tell I had in mind: current work shares (we did a little bit of that), a favorite project from your past, a 10 minute TED talk on your special interest, pecha kucha, how I ended up here in my career, etc. All voluntary. We’re all remote and don’t have any real idea who anyone is or what they can do other than this little sliver we see.

      1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        These things all sounds so good.

        Some team building events go way overboard. I don’t need it to be like an actual “fun” activity. The purpose is to connect with coworkers in a new way. This allows greater intimacy and openness without forcing anything.

  27. lilsheba*

    Well one thing that I haven’t seen mentioned at all is gathering at a coffee place. And if possible one that is accessible to everyone with mobility aids. It doesn’t involve alcohol, you can drink other things besides coffee, there are usually snacks available but it’s not mandatory, and it’s a much quieter atmosphere for the sensory issue and introverted folks.

    Beyond that yeah a variety is good. Just don’t make everything physically challenging all the time and don’t pester people who don’t want to or can’t do the physical things.

    1. not a hippo*

      I love this idea. I hope where you are is better than where I live. All the coffee shops around me are teeny tiny or the space is arranged so you can’t have tables pushed together without being in the waty, so unless you’re renting out the space or are only expecting like 4 people, that wouldn’t really work.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      We have occasional coffee mornings at our work. We have free tea and coffee in our kitchen. You can also bring your own tea or coffee (or other non-alcholic drink) – we also have free snacks are provided or you can bring your own. It’s basically just a very low-key opportunity to sit around our kitchen area for half an hour or so chatting.

      Sometimes nobody attends and the snacks are left out for everyone to eat. Sometimes 5 or 15 people attend. It’s so low-stakes, informal and easy to arrange that it really doesn’t matter if anyone shows up!

    3. amoeba*

      You can also do a coffee at work! Quite common here in Germany/Switzerland as afternoon coffee, normally with cake (either brought by somebody, e.g. for birthdays, or provided). Not as in “there’s cake, go grab a piece” but as actually sitting together in the break room for half an hour or so. (If you don’t eat cake, you can obviously still participate! Although most allergies and requirements tend to be taken care of in smallish teams – e.g., bring a gluten free option from the store for those who need it.)

      We also do a department breakfast once a month – just a half hour in the morning with some simple food stuff on the table, everybody’s free to come by, grab a seat, eat/drink something and chat for half an hour. Almost everybody normally does.

  28. Flax Spinner*

    To make an office event truly inclusive, do NOT hold one that requires employees to buy clothing, sports equipment or anything else! I’ve lost count of the number of letters complaining about “fundatory” outings that left employees seething with resentment because they simply couldn’t afford to buy items that they didn’t want in the first place and would never use again but HAD to have in order to participate in the “bonding activity.” Needless to say, this did not make them feel any closer to the company that so thoughtlessly demanded that they purchase what they could not afford.

    1. Raida*

      We’ve had a few events, like scavenger hunts, where we were split into coloured teams.
      Everyone in the team was told to wear their colour *if* they had something, avoid the other (bright) colours.
      The team leads were all given a small budget to purchase several of whatever coloured item they felt like so that no matter what effort attendees put in, they’d be colour-coded.

      Purple had bandanas (which they were not required to wear on their heads)
      Yellow had strips of yellow material they tied to their belts, arms, ankles, whatever (their team lead just went and bought two metres of fabric)
      Green had ballcaps
      Blue had bibs like for sport (the colour of the netball team they coached)
      Red had aprons

      Such a relief to see the organisers understand that if people are enthused it is really fun to go out and plan an outfit and buy stuff but not everyone will feel that way *and it’s okay*.

  29. fueled by coffee*


    I can completely understand how a student worker might read this situation as “I have a job, I’m being told the job won’t be renewed — maybe because I wasn’t the best at it, okay, fine — so now I’m going to have to find a new job next term. I should ask my manager to be a reference for me,” and not fully understand that they are being let go “for cause,” not just because the position isn’t being renewed (along with not fully understanding the point of references).

    When you have very little work experience, it can be really hard to find people to serve as references, and failing to procure a reference from one of your few positions can also seem like a red flag to future employers. None of this is the manager’s problem to solve, and I think Alison’s advice here is good, (and obviously the student should have done a better job), but I do understand where the student is coming from here.

  30. Good Luck*

    The biggest issue is that with large companies you will have people of differing abilities, personalities, religious backgrounds, medical (addicition issues), etc etc. I can’t list them all. Companies can try and someone will complain. Variety (As mentioned above) seems to have worked best for what I have seen.
    A former company I worked at, threw a Summer event. We had meetings during the day and then some social activities during the evenings. All social activities were optional. One was a boat ride on a ship that toured the outskirts of our city. We had lots out of towners in, so it was great to show them the city. While their was booze available it certainly wasn’t the focal point, a dinner, game night at a place with, bowling and pin ball etc (booze and food) and then a casino night. There was plenty for everyone to do or at least the company really tried its best to be inclusive. And honestly people did not care if you skipped out. I left one event pretty early bc I have small kids and no one batted an eye.

    We also were able to have 2 team outings a year. Our teams were small and we discussed and voted on where to go. I can’t speak to every team, but our team seemed to really enjoy our activity. Dinner, bowling and drinks. No one had objections to the drinking and mobility issues weren’t a factor.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Someone complaining isn’t the end of the world.

      It can be useful feedback to consider in the future.
      Also, if a reasonable amount of thought was put into the activity, it should be possible to respond well to the complaint (part of the response could be describing future planned activities where the complaint won’t apply).

  31. Cherries Jubilee*

    There’s a place my former office went to for social events that had a good variety within it- bowling lanes, pool tables, food and drinks, possibly ski ball. Adults only with a chiller vibe than like a dave and busters. That way everyone’s home base is the same few booths/tables, so there’s a socialization hub, but also it’s not weird if people don’t want to play a game or don’t drink, eat or don’t, etc. A variety of options within the same event let’s people choose their own vibe.

  32. Rocky*

    it sounds like the infographic resume worked. you normally spend 60 seconds on a resume. but in this case, you actually had to spend time loong over the candidate.

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      Except that in a lot of cases, if a hiring manager needs to spend longer than average on your resume, they’re just going to put it aside and move on to one of the other 100+ that’s easier to skim. It worked in this case because OP has a difficult position to fill (and so, fewer resumes to check) but it wouldn’t work in a majority of roles.

    2. Critical Thinking Needed*

      Spending a long time trying to decode a resume and getting irritated at the person who wrote it is not indicative of success, and the fact you think it is suggests you have not done much hiring. As you can tell from the letter, this resume has moved a good candidate from a definite possibility to someone who the OP is considering downgrading to the maybe pile. That is not a sign of a good resume. If the OP continues with this candidate it will be in spite of this resume not because of it.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        But OP’s question was about the wisdom of moving this candidate ahead or not. Given OP’s difficulty finding candidates, I think it’s pointless to eliminate a candidate AFTER you’ve already read the resume and know they’re qualified.

        1. SofiaDeo*

          People can look good on paper, but if they are doing irritating things like this resume format, it’s possible the candidate will be a waste of time interviewing. I used to find that candidates who tried to “stand out” using things like this were more fluff than stuff. Mt first instinct would be to put them on the side, too.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I was in an airport that had replaced the big “Departures” board with something the same size, at ground level, that was an interactive touch screen.

      Old method: Look up at board, find “Charlotte” and then your flight, check departure time and gate.

      New method: Hit departures, hit C, page through until you get to Ch cities, find Charlotte and press that, find your flight and press that, check departure time and gate. Don’t forget them, because if you turn around thinking “Wait, was that A16 or A19?” one of the people who was waiting in line behind you is now slowly punching their way through the menu.

      It increased engagement. Everyone who needed this information spent waaaay more time interacting with the new format. Yet I remember it with burning hostility.

      1. nightengale*

        Touch screens are also an accessibility issue for some people (including me.)

        As it is, I now have to convince airport personnel to check me in . They keep directing me towards the self-serve touch screen kiosks thinking that the problem is that I don’t know how to use the kiosk and all they have to do is talk me through it.

        I can just imagine how it would go over if I also had to explain to the staff that they have to tell me about the gate/departure time because I can’t use the interactive board.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      See also website design, and the idea that they would increase engagement by making people explore the website if they wanted to learn things like “Where are you located?” and “What are your hours?” What happens instead is that people give up after a few seconds, hit “back,” and go to the next result.

      1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        This sounds like a weird thing to prioritise. For most websites, you want a smooth, positive user experience. You don’t want to make it difficult for them so they spend longer clicking about on your website. Unless they have no choice (like the airport example above) then they might just give up and go elsewhere.

        That’s the dynamic with a would be employer. You don’t want them to spend as long as possible looking at your resume, you want them to feel positively towards you after reading it.

  33. cloudy*

    My favorite we’ve done was a day of service for all staff in my department. There were 4-5 local agencies that we worked with, and individuals signed up for which task we wanted to do and split into groups. (Options were things like blanket tying at children’s hospital, running an ice cream social at the homeless shelter, park clean-up, sorting donations, etc.) They were different enough to have something for most people and we got to learn about some of the local agencies our work affects.

    1. Raida*

      Not to sound like an absolute and total selfish prick, but I would hate that.

      “Hey everyone! You’re not going to do your normal job today, oh no today you’re going to be doing another job like sorting dirty clothes and picking up trash! We are volunteering *you*, you are not volunteering yourself! This is wonderful as our business is able to offer staff to charities which makes us, the business, look good! Yay for the business and the charities! Only the ones on this list though, if you already support a charity that doesn’t count.”

      I would just ask if I could donate a hundred bucks to a charity and opt-out, and then probably find out the business *requires all staff* so they keep their end of the bargain with the charities and pick the least-crap task to volunteer for…

      1. *kalypso*

        It is highly specific but I would love a chance to volunteer without having to take a day off work or deal with a minimum commitment. In this case they already had relationships with the agencies, therefore all the checks and paperwork in place, and it served a function beyond ‘social event’ in that it showed the employees about an aspect of their work that they wouldn’t necessarily get to experience from their regular position, like visiting marketing when they’re rolling out a campaign for the new Llama Teapots might help the teapot designers see how their designs are being photographed and portrayed and dressed, which might inform design choices later on and inform future campaigns because of more knowledge about why and how the designs function or how they came to be. It’s not random in this case so it works, especially if the org already self-selects for people who want to help and would enjoy helping in one of the ways offered. In an org where that element doesn’t exist or CSR happens in another way, it’s more likely not to.

  34. Love to WFH*

    I think the best events are done during the workday. Expecting people to spend their leisure time at a work event is questionable, and a real burden for people with kids. If your office is in a place where people take mass transit, there are often express buses at rush hour, and then very slow ones later, so that makes after work events tough.

    I knew one office that had a casual holiday party for families, including kids, in the office in the afternoon. Somebody dressed up as Santa, and it was fun. (And if some people without kids just snuck out early, no one kept track).

    I was on a team that did potlucks several times a year. We had fun, and we accommodated dietary needs. The best was when a person who made a cake for dessert brought a container of frosting for the person who avoided gluten — she was delighted, and ate it with a spoon.

  35. Former Young Lady*

    One thing to consider: even your employees who are very athletic are going to have different preferences.

    Bowling and golf have pretty specific class associations, and a lot of people will be unfamiliar with either or both. And your employee who works out every day by, say, running or lifting weights might lack the hand-eye coordination or depth perception to hit a softball, spike a volleyball, or make a basket. (Ask me how I know!)

    I’m a big fan of recreation, but I’m never going to “bond” with people who are laughing at me for having the spatial relations of a one-eyed cat!

  36. DJ*

    Team Building we’ve done (11-13 in department): trivia, escape room, olive oil tasting, train ride from local railway museum, Top Golf, pottery painting. There is usually a menu that is provided ahead of time if food will be available. Non-alcoholic drinks are provided. Alcoholic drinks, if available, have to be purchased individually. Overall, we have pretty good engagement and haven’t run into anything someone has been unable or unwilling to do. I think you do have to find what works for your specific team. Suggestions we haven’t done either due to cost, convenience, etc.: axe throwing, bowling, pickleball, murder mystery, poker, board games. Find what works for you!

  37. AnonInRecovery*

    Re: LW1, I’m in recovery from an eating disorder, and while I appreciate you thinking of people like me (and maybe others will have a different take… this is just my perspective), I wouldn’t rule out food-based activities just because of people with eating disorders. I would make sure (as someone else here pointed out) that if you are doing a meal-based activity, there’s a wide variety of food that accommodates different possible dietary restrictions and that you’re not always doing the same meal-based activity (do different cuisines, types of meals, whatever). What I would absolutely 1000% avoid is ‘bonding wellness contests’ like a Biggest Loser-style competition or a steps competition because those are 100x more triggering for someone like me.

    1. AnonInRecovery*

      I’d also add that if you are doing a restaurant or more structured type meal, providing the menu ahead of time can be really helpful for those of us in recovery because it lets us strategize a bit more and feel less overwhelmed.

      1. pally*

        Yes-knowing what foods & drinks will be served is sooo very helpful! For me, it takes away a lot of the unknown as to whether I need to bring something or be fine with what’s served.

        Nothing worse than having to explain **repeatedly** to the well-meaning urging to “Eat something! Why aren’t you eating something??” when there’s nothing I can consume without consequence.

        (stupid gluten!)

        1. Raida*

          Man, I’m so sorry for you!
          We just have the list of people invited to any event tell the organiser of any requirements, and that person’s responsibility is to locate an appropriate venue. Could be allergies, no meat, no animal products, no red meat, lo carb, small meal size, no fried, wheelchair accessible, stairs are fine but only a couple, shaded area…
          If it’s not easy to find, they are expected to contact the restaurant and clarify that the dietary requirements can and will be met, should we pre-order those meals, etc.
          The only time we’d have people pre-checking menus is if we’re saying “Give me suggestions on where to eat” – which is great for people with food requirements – or just people interested in what’s on offer/wanting to order quickly.

          The only person that I’ve seen truly have an issue was when the lady in one team I was in was vegan (also two vegetarians, another vegan for ease of managing allergies in the team, one no-duck and one no-pork), and breastfeeding… and her baby boy was allergic to soy. The allergens of which were passing to him via her breast milk.

          You ever tried to find a vegan meal with no soy? We went to a Japanese place we’d been several times and she ate… one bowl of plain white rice! We shouted her a fancy salad on the way back to the office because it was *so* hard to find anything else safe to eat.

    2. Don'tbeadork*

      Oh, jeez, I hate those biggest loser competitions. We have them every year at my school, right before spring break. There’s just so much wrong going on there — including announcing the winner over the intercom during announcements.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I consider them seriously dangerous, especially if everybody is encouraged to participate, including those at or below their ideal weight. My friend’s school did one and she didn’t seem to mind, but was like “I have to participate because they want everybody involved and now I have to lose weight because I don’t want to let my team down.” I don’t think she either wanted or needed to lose weight but just wanted to be part of the activity.

        Even the steps thing can be problematic. Our school did that and the main problem I saw was how obsessed people got with it, like some people could talk about nothing else. Everyday, it was “how many steps did you do yesterday? Did you hear x did 30,000? She’s great, isn’t she? I’m going to have to start going out for a walk every evening. I only did 7,000 steps yesterday. Do you think that’s very bad? I hope I’m not going to be the lowest”. Most concerningly, a colleague was feeling guilty that she hadn’t done any steps over a weekend when she’d been sick in bed.

        But the biggest loser one bothers me more because it works on the premise that the thinner the better and encouraging people who are at a healthy weight to lose weight and possibly get to a point where they are no longer at a healthy weight strikes me as really dangerous. And in the workplace, most people aren’t qualified to say whether or not somebody is OK to lose weight or whether doing so would put them in an unhealthy category.

        I went along with the steps challenge though it irritated me. No way would I be participating in a biggest loser challenge.

  38. Dust Bunny*

    Our staff get-togethers are rare and informal. They’re over lunch so it’s understood that not everyone will be there the whole time because we’re still open, so if somebody opted out nobody would think anything of it. They give you a choice of boxed meals with a pretty decent variety of hearty to light. There are some low-stakes games (bingo, that kind of thing. Nothing athletic). They don’t serve alcohol.

    1. New Senior Mgr*

      I haven’t played Bingo in decades. I wonder if it’s still the same or new rules.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Ours is the same as bingo has always been: Free space in the middle and then you have to get the rest in a row across, up and down, or diagonally.

        My coworkers are so nice that if somebody has to go back to work, someone else usually plays their bingo card for them.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I think letting people opt out without it being too obvious or to take part in part of it without taking part in all is pretty crucial to making a thing feel relaxed and enjoyable rather than an “obligation.”

  39. Kindred Spirit*

    The team building events I had the most fun at were the ones that were easy-going, no pressure. Bowling, mini golf, arcade games, a beach event, a group trip to baseball game on a weekday afternoon – that sort of thing. As far as physical activities go, bowling and mini golf were accessible activities, and no one got too competitive about their score or winning.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Bowling can also be adaptive for people in wheelchairs. I’m not so sure about arm crutches.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I’m disabled and use a cane. I can’t lift a bowling ball without hurting my back and I use my cane to walk with my dominant hand. So I can’t bowl. But I can and have gone to the bowling alley and socialized with other people while they bowl since there is always seating right next to the lanes. So accessibility also has degrees I suppose?

  40. Hiring Mgr*

    Passing on the candidate with the infographic resume would be counterproductive given the fact that you’re having a hard time filling the role. It would be an incredibly bad reason to reject someone. Please think twice about what’s really important in your candidates

    1. Heidi*

      I also think that it would be okay to ask the candidate for a non-infographic version of their resume if it’s going to be seen by a lot of interviewers.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        And seriously, this is the most common sense route to go. (I hadn’t even considered it, but this would put the candidate on an even playing field.)

  41. New Senior Mgr*

    In thinking a place where a team can have a variety of appetizers and drinks plus a round of a games plus couches and chairs for informal talks and gatherings. Our group went to Top Golf in Chicago (I think that’s the name) and it offered a variety.

    1. deaf*

      Yes, I think this is always a good compromise – a place that offers physical activities/games, but there’s no pressure to participate, and there’s still areas for non-participants to gather and enjoy the space. I’m not physically disabled, but I don’t like bowling or golf and still am able to enjoy myself with others who decide to not participate. But being “forced” to be on a team is not cool.

  42. Bookworm*

    I think a variety of outings where people could drop in and out (meaning, they don’t always involve food, alcohol, are held at different times, aren’t required, etc.) would be the most “inclusive” option. This takes work as there is no one venue, event-type, time, etc. that would be inclusive of everyone and having a variety and often enough (so people could choose to go to everyone or only a select few, etc.) might work.

    I hated the idea (I don’t drink, I don’t like being out too late, I don’t really want to interact with my co-workers outside of work) but always like simple things like a coffee hour at work or at a nearby coffee shop (which was not for everyone, obviously!).

    Also not holding non-attendance against them is a form of inclusiveness, too. I have had this openly held against me (as in, leadership brought this up for more than one supervisor to tell me) and it only made me not want to go more. Just a thought.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      not holding non-attendance against them is a form of inclusiveness

      I wish Alison would pin this comment at the top because this is an excellent point.

      For a lot of reasons, some people just won’t want to participate or just can’t. And that shouldn’t be held against them in any way.

  43. OhNoYouDidn't*

    Interesting that the OP thinks of golf as gendered. I know plenty of women who play golf.

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      As has been noted by several commenters, golf may not be inherently gendered, but historically and culturally it has been. It’s a sport with a long history of gender, race, and class associations.

  44. You Can't Pronounce It*

    My company does an annual family outing to a professional baseball game, the zoo, or most recently a local park/outdoor facility that has put-put, ball diamonds, paddle boats, etc. and brought in food trucks, face painting, ect. activities. These tend to be a good hit for us.

    We also do a monthly birthday/work anniversary celebration with different treats provided once a month. Cheese/veggie tray with cakes or an ice cream truck, etc.

  45. Richard Hershberger*

    “I understand that teams who connect with one another beyond the basics of their role tend to be higher-performing.”

    I question the premise. Not that there is a correlation here, but the direction of causality. High performing teams tend to enjoy one another’s company enough to socialize outside of work. It does not follow that inducing them to faux-socialize will result in higher performance.

    Similarly with LW4: “However, his resume was an infographic resume, which I hate.”

    This again confuses the direction things move in. The purpose of a resume is to bring the candidate’s qualifications to the notice of the hiring manager. No sensible person would hire an unqualified candidate simply because they have a really well formatted resume. Similarly, no sensible person would refuse to hire a qualified candidate simply because they have a poorly formatted resume. In both cases this fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of a resume and confuses it with the purpose of hiring for this role.

    1. Angstrom*

      Good point.

      “I understand that teams who connect with one another beyond the basics of their role tend to be higher-performing.”

      If true, I suspect it is due to deeper connections in a work context, not a social one. Colleagues who understand each other’s motives, strengths, and weaknesses, and are comfortable using that knowledge in a positive way toward a shared goal, make a high-performing team.
      You get that by working together under good management. You don’t get that by socializing. I don’t have to *like* a colleague to appreciate what they can bring to solving a problem.

      1. Allonge*

        On the other hand, socializing can help build those bonds. This very much depends on the size of the organization, but if I have a company-approved reason to have a drink / chat / silly disco dance with someone, that helps build a different relationship than if we only meet at the monthly teapot accounting audits.

        Obviously there is no guarantee, nor will it balance out major work conflicts! But a higher performing team is both about work and about the people outside of work.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this is true. But it doesn’t have to be a specific event. The best socializing I’ve had at work happens naturally during our coffee breaks at the office, and our virtual coffee breaks on Teams are almost as valuable. At the office, though, I tend to socialize with people I don’t collaborate with very often if at all, and they’re a great way to both get to know people in a casual way and to hear about what’s happening in other departments.

          I’m not particularly interested in socializing with my coworkers after work, although I might go to an event sometimes, maybe once or twice a year at most. But I’d never sacrifice my weekends for socializing with my coworkers, and I’m thankful that I work in a field where this is neither required nor expected.

          My organization’s big on psychological safety, but I’m glad that management understands that people may be willing to show their vulnerabilities when they feel psychologically safe, but that you can’t create psychological safety by forcing people to share their traumas or whatever. Psychological safety just means that people are more willing to show their ignorance and ask for help when they need it, which makes for a more effective team that doesn’t waste time on unnecessarily attempting to hide any problems.

  46. Olive*

    Inclusivity and preferences have overlap, but aren’t synonymous.

    Work events should be inclusive and that inclusivity should be based around the actual employees’ needs and wants, not only an impersonalized checklist.

    But work events won’t always meet everyone’s individual preferences or talents. There’s probably no event that everyone is going to love. As many others have said, mixing up the types of events and having the alternatives be tolerable is the way to compensate.

  47. Zephy*

    Op1: +1 to ask your team what kinds of activities they would want to do. Keep track of what kinds of activities have been done in the past, or plan the next X activities in advance, to make it clear that we’re not going to pick rock-climbing every time because the boss’s bestie Jane loves rock-climbing and is the loudest about it – we may go rock-climbing one month, but another time we’re going to check out the exhibit at the science museum and families are welcome, and another time we’re going to see a movie at the fancy theater with the recliners and the good snacks, and the next time we’re going to help a community organization with a service project.

  48. Irish Teacher*

    I don’t think there is any such thing as an activity everybody will enjoy. I think the best you can do is to both have a variety of activities and also ensure an atmosphere of low pressure and informality. Most people are more likely to enjoy activities if they can do them on their own terms, take part in some or all of an activity, opt out of things they don’t like, etc.

    I’d generally tend to involve things like team building activities, as they often require people to commit to being there and can involve competition or be pressurised. Something like a board game afternoon, with various board games set up and a table of nibbles at the side, where people can wander around, play a game if they want or just stand and chat or have something to eat and if it’s in the workplace, people can wander in and out as they wish, strikes me as a better idea.

    Often, if you don’t put any pressure on people to participate, they are more comfortable doing so.

    I’d also be wary of equating corrolation with causation. I’m not objecting to having some fun with your colleagues; I quite enjoy doing so. I just think there are other variables, such as functional, non-toxic teams are both more likely to be high performing and more likely to want to socialise with one another. Also, a supportive workplace where people are well-paid, have decent benefits, reasonable working hours, etc is both more likely to lead to high performances and…well, less likely to have people so burnt out that they want nothing to do with the workplace beyond what they have to do. I’m not saying there are no benefits to good relationships in the workplace, just that there are factors that lead to good relationships and to high preformances rather than it necessarily being one creating the other and also that good relationships can lead to group events rather than group events leading to good relationships.

    So I would say if you want your team to get on well together and be high producers, you have to consider not just “what activities should we all do together?” but firstly, stuff like are there toxic members on the team who are both interfering with production and making any group events an ordeal, are people overworked or working such long hours that they are burnt out and exhausted and socialising is just another effort? Is your company a good one to work for? Are there things that set colleagues against each other, like unfair promoting practices? If the boss’s protegy gets promoted despite being pretty useless and the person who doesn’t have the same interests as the boss is never going to be promoted despite being the highest performer in the company, that’s going to hinder good relationships no matter how many activities people take part in.

    If you can answer all those questions with good answers: there are few or no toxic people in our company, promotions, raises, etc are on merit and everybody is clear about what earns them, we pay fairly, have reasonable time off, are well-staffed, people don’t work more than reasonable hours, etc, then I think there’s a good chance of building good relationships and having high performances regardless of whether or not you have group activities.

  49. MediumEd*

    I just organized a small, low stakes event for my department to help relieve burnout that has been hitting higher education for a while now. We are taking a trip to a local art museum (free) that is accessible by public transit for those who want to drive, at a point in the year that fits the ebb and flow of our work. For those who cannot attend because they are working remotely (or do not want to attend), they have a Wednesday afternoon off to do whatever they want. The point is not that we all go to the museum together, but that we have a mid-week break and are off the clock at the same time. We are an artsy crowd, so an art museum would appeal to most, but there are options for others if they do not want to join.

    1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      If you want people to attend, giving a free afternoon to people who don’t attend feels like it could really disincentivise attendance! It seems almost unfair on those who do attend!

      1. PlantProf*

        Free admission to the museum and a chance to socialize with my coworkers, which I enjoy, sounds like a treat to me! Definitely will vary.

  50. matt r*

    i’m a recovering alcoholic, comfortable enough in my sobriety that being in a bar or being around people drinking doesn’t “bother” me per se. i’m fine with it.

    that said – because people know i don’t drink, i don’t get invited to those ad hoc “let’s go get dinner and talk it over” meetings, even though they know i’m fine with it.

    i know it doesn’t answer the question, but there’s absolutely no doubt that i’ve missed out on opportunities because of my sobriety. and that really, really sucks.

  51. Fez Knots*

    In my last remote role, long time employees constantly bemoaned how much they missed in office interaction. When the company rented a temporary office space and set up very low-key “events” for people in HQ’s city to attend, NO ONE and I mean not a single person, including those who had spent months complaining about how much they missed everyone, showed up. Ultimately the company didn’t renew the shared workspace contract.

    None of the local folks who claimed to miss everybody wanted to make the ten or twenty minute drive and sit at a desk with their coworkers, or attend a potluck when push came to shove.

    Each Monday, our teams met online to discuss the previous week’s assignments and touch base on what was upcoming and that was great. It was good to start the week on the same page, it brought some uniformity to Monday mornings, and there was a little bit of time to chat. That felt like the perfect amount of social and “team building” necessary, and I was grateful to be fully remote and not have to suffer through company wide events that I’d experienced in roles previously (the three-legged race at a company picnic comes to mind…)

  52. Punk*

    The problem is that friendships will form on their own during the regular workday, while exclusionary bonding events can damage attempts at camaraderie. I’ll use myself as an example (why not): due to a career change, I’m 10 to nearly 20 years older than most of the other members on my team. It’s totally fine most of the time! We get along just fine and are perfectly friendly. However, my closer office friends are in other departments. Issues arise when management forces team-based bonding on us when the lines of friendship have already formed, and without awareness of certain realities. I’m just not interested in being forced to develop a closer relationship with people in their early 20s. If a friendship naturally develops, fine. But it’s just uncomfortable to have that forced on me, especially when I have other age-appropriate relationships the next cubicle bank over.

    So yeah, I’m opting out of team bonding with no hurt feelings when possible. Sure, I’m an outlier, but that means that this stuff isn’t being planned for my benefit. I’m at a different point in my career and life, and my 20-something coworkers don’t need to be forced into social conversation with a 40-year-old. It just draws attention to the weird stuff in ways that workday task conversations don’t.

    I also think that, say, sales teams and client-facing roles might need morale boosting more than other departments do. Like I don’t think the accountants need the same things from work culture as client marketing does.

    1. amoeba*

      I find that a quite… unusual perspective – have literally never experienced a 10-15 (or even much larger!) age gap to be any kind of a factor in workplace relations! I’m in my 30s and have worked and attended team events and happy hours sometimes met socially outside of work both with people in their early 20s and people over 50 and it was always fine and age was never a topic at all…

      1. metadata minion*

        Same here — intergenerational friendships are awesome! And while it can be hard to maintain deep friendships with someone who’s just at a very different stage of life, I’m baffled at the idea that a 20-year-old and a 40-year-old wouldn’t have anything to casually chat about.

      2. Monkey Princess*

        At my last job, I was on a team of 4. I’m 43 and my coworkers were 22-24. My children are closer in age to them than I am. We all taught the same grade, so we all did the same job. We all worked well together, got along well, planned things together, made great small talk. I’d say we had a really good relationship. But… they were just at a different stage of life. Our relationships were different (I’ve been married 20 years), our vacations were different (I have not been on a “spring break” kind of thing in a LONG time), our evenings and weekends were different.

        It made me feel old to hang out with them. It made me feel old when they would very politely try include my experiences in their conversation. And it made me feel even older when they’d come to me for advice about their career and relationship and parents. I don’t really go to social events to feel like everyone else’s mother.

        I enjoyed working with them, and I really liked them as people. But social events were awkward, and I usually hung out with people who were more in the life-place that I am.

  53. Daisy-dog*

    I’m an introvert and I love certain team-building activities. I prefer ones that are structured with not too much mingling. I don’t love where the facilitator says, “Okay, talk to your neighbors now.” I prefer being placed into groups, not picking my own.

  54. Safely Retired*

    “They will all remain employed while the contract terms are negotiated, so there is no risk of job loss.”
    No risk? Really? No chance of a stalemate? Of negotiations falling through? Even when “both my company and theirs are playing hardball”?

    1. managersalwaysworksagainstyou*

      Should be “ there is no risk of MY job loss”. All underlings are disposable anyway.

  55. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    We did a themed bingo session once, which was brilliant. Structured but not difficult or overly competitive. The theme brought up talking points without being tedious. There was alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks available but no pressure to drink (I didn’t fancy drinking and one person encouraged me to have a cocktail but otherwise it was fine).

  56. New Jack Karyn*

    LW2 (student employee): Yes, he’s probably clueless, being a college student. But–if he’s applying for jobs, they’re going to ask for a reference. They’re likely to ask for contact info of his manager at a previous job. He’s been told that it’s proper to ask permission before using someone as a reference. None of this is really out of line.

    Is there anything positive about him as a worker? Maybe he’s a good dude but it just wasn’t the right fit, like asking someone with dyscalculia to do data entry of numbers. Did he have a good attitude, always on time and responsible when he had to call out? Did he make an effort to correct his mistakes?

    It’s okay to say, “There were parts of this job that he wasn’t cut out for, but he has a strong work ethic and could excel in a different environment.”

    1. Landslide*

      Yes, I agree with this. A big part of working is learning and figuring out how to negotiate all of these ins and outs of 1) doing a good job, 2) pleasing your boss and 3) getting along with others. These don’t always line up and some people learn that #2 is waaay more important than either #1 or #3.

      As a former college instructor, I would want to encourage the student and help them to learn and be able to provide some kind of supportive reference since that is what the world of work that we have created, calls for. Especially being new to the work environment, we are all learning and growing and something as important as a reference – that we need to get another job – should be handled carefully.

  57. Just*

    LW #1: if you want me to spend X hours at a team building event, are you willing for X hours of my work not to be done? Or do I have to stay late and off the clock to get all my work done?

  58. Lily*

    The last letter concerned me a little. “ The candidate has all the right skills, good manager experience, and works at a company that I have connections at so I’ve already heard good things about the candidate.”

    Is OP talking to people they know at the applicants company, even though the applicant may be trying to be discreet? I’m job searching right now and this is my biggest fear that it’ll get back to my manager and I’ll be fired.

  59. Raida*

    Here’s the thing: You cannot plan an event that’s good for every *possible* person.

    But you can survey your actual staff for things they like and dislike, any concerns, any health and safety issues, and *negative* experiences and *positive* experiences at previous events.

    I do not need to avoid planning lunches in case someone has an undisclosed eating disorder form a decade ago – because my team is nine people and that’s not the case. Vegetarian option absolutely, however. We’re not going to a Korean BBQ where the air is filled with animal-fat smoke, hah.
    Also I don’t need to look for physically accessible locations. But if I were planning something for the floor I would, because there’s a couple of people with mobility requirements – two canes, one pregnancy, one wheelchair at this moment.

    You could invite me to golf and I’d come, but I’d be hitting the ball a couple of times and saying “oh well just put a ten in for me on this hole” and enjoying the carts, food and drinks and social aspect – I’m not gonna play a sport I suck at, lol.

    I’ve played pool, darts, lawn bowls, boules, ten pin bowling, laser tag, jenga, shuttleboard, badminton, giant tennis, ping pong, fooseball… I’m not good at any of them (well I’m alright at badminton) but as long as it’s not a *requirement* that everyone has to play every round and in the case of stuff like golf finish the course it’s fine.

    If you try to find something that’s not-bad for everyone, you’re (from my experience) going to end up with boring and repetitive events. Instead survey the actual people who’d be involved, be open to a variety of events that staff can opt-in and opt-out of and make sure there’s some stuff that’s very simple and relaxed like a picnic potluck during lunch hours for getting the full group together.
    examples I’ve seen at my work: laser tag, paintball, go karts, guitar hero, racing radio controlled cars, ropes course, minigolf, virtual gin cocktail making class, board games, mario kart, in office mini golf, D&D, lawn bowls, wine tasting… nobody did *ever* event, but everyone who did ay event liked it

    1. Raida*

      oh, and several years ago the Admin for Finance wanted events that ‘everyone can do’ and the result was every single time we went to lawn bowls.
      Two different places, both good food, both lovely locations, both good with allergies and accessibility!

      But she started resenting that people weren’t interested in actually playing lawn bowls and would demand people get up after eating lunch and play instead of hanging out by the water and drinking beers, eating oysters and chips…

      I got out of that one time by saying “Well I can’t leave Juliana here alone to eat her lunch which came out after everyone else’s was eaten to suit her allergy!” but yeah.

      Don’t resent attendees not being involved unless it’s a low amount of time at the overall event – assign a different person/people each time to herd staff to get them started on time and other than that let it go.

      (FYI lawn bowls isn’t suitable for the dude in the wheelchair and the accessible entrance at one place was an additional 15 minutes to walk around the building, away from it, loop back up a smooth path so even this wasn’t a magic bullet because who with a cane wants to walk *much further* in the sun…)

  60. Coverage Associate*

    One aspect of variety I haven’t seen mentioned is day of the week, especially if you must have after hours events. I have standing appointments Monday and Friday evenings but can make mid week dinners.

  61. Rebekah*

    One of the most inclusive activities I know is the game Apples to Apples. It’s a “card based” game (not traditional playing cards). It can be taught in about 30 seconds and can be played by anyone. I think I’ve played it with literal toddlers. But it also can be incredibly sophisticated and/or hilarious. You can play with a massive range of ability and it is equally fun. You can talk, or not. You don’t need to hear, and frankly you don’t even need to read, as long as you don’t have more than one non-reader per game. It’s also just a really good time.

  62. RedinSC*

    I took my team to a “paint night” activity. I paid for the activity and we decided to make it a pot luck (the team voted on that, I didn’t propose it) and we didn’t have drinks. The pictures we painted stayed in our office for a few years as people moved on. It seemed to be very fun, and really, no talent necessary (I have 0 painting ability) but it was just a fun activity.

  63. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    I just want to put in a word that adding more things to an activity does not always increase accessibility.

    I have an airborne food allergy. Making sure that there’s a meal available that I can eat does not solve the problem of the person next me eating my delicious, delicious allergen and then it’s “why did Hobbits suddenly get up and leave? Let’s go fuss at her and discuss her medical problems!”

    What I want is for at least one team building event a year to just …not have food? At all? Not every single time, because I get that social eating is fun for many not-me people, but sometimes? But even when I take initiative to plan an entire damn event that is not at a meal time and does not logically include food, SOMEONE (and not always the same someone!) will always decide that everything is better with snacks, and next thing you know it’s a potluck plus (whatever activity I planned), even if (whatever) doesn’t even make sense to do while eating.

    1. CompetingNeeds*

      There may be competing medical requirements here.

      I apologize for my ignorance, especially as someone with non-food airborne allergies, but I’ve never heard of airborne food allergies and would not have known to take them into account. At the same time, I have medical reasons that make it important to eat regularly and as soon as possible anytime I feel hungry. Not serving food at something right after work (for example) would be very problematic for me (doing it at other times would still be a problrm) and I likely would resentfully bring my own food with no idea it could cause problems for someone else. But I couldn’t attend without doing that.

      When working in an office I also eat at my desk multiple times per day. I’ve never had any problems with others complaining but if they did I’d have to go the medical need route. It sounds like our being in the same office might be problematic for both.

  64. Goldie*

    Personally I don’t want to drink with my co-workers or have them drinking around me. Just not interested in getting that relaxed with them. I’m tight with my co-workers too, but I like to keep some boundaries in place.

  65. Aphrodite*

    I’m very late but I think it might be fun (and inclusive) to ask people to share their favorite office supply item like a certain kind of pen, colored paper or binder clips, their ruler for getting things that have fallen under the desk out again, and so on.

  66. Oska*

    My company is, I think, pretty good at arranging these things, but we still only get at most 50 of 70+ employees. And I think a lot of people just want to hang out with their own friends/family in their spare time, not their colleagues.

    Some activities with success rates off the top of my head:

    – Dinner followed by live music and a party for those who wanted to stay after dinner: Highest participation rate.

    – Two-nights partially paid-for trip to a ski resort (this may sound fancier than it is; this is a skiing country and there are plenty of budget-friendly options). This involved putting three people in each room. Frowned upon in the AAM community, I know, but clearly not something people in my company mind that much. Participation rate: about 50 % of employees.

    – Movie night where we rented a movie theatre hall for whatever was the most popular mainstream movie that season (James Bond, superhero flicks etc.). 20-30 people, usually; more if we did a kid-friendly movie and said people could bring their families. This isn’t the most social option, obviously, but it’s nice. We do quizzes for the kids. :)

    – Sauna with ice bathing. Seven people. Maybe don’t do that one unless you’re in Finland? (We’re not in Finland.)

  67. SpaceySteph*

    Regarding the office events, whatever you do, please please please use an inclusive calendar when you plan them and steer clear of minority religious and cultural holidays. If I had a dollar for every thing I had to miss because it was scheduled on Yom Kippur…

  68. Everything Bagel*

    Quite timely, tomorrow my department of 10 people are getting together for lunch and then the planned activity afterward is axe throwing. I am middle-aged and have various forms of arthritis, and I will not be participating out of sheer fear that I will accidentally hurt myself either with the ax blade or just hurting my arm trying to throw it correctly, which could take months to heal. My plan is it is to cheer others on, but I’ll be curious to see tomorrow who all is actually participating in the event versus being cheerleaders. I don’t think this is a very good team building event, but none of us could think of anything else to do!

  69. Semi-retired admin*

    We found that activities with multiple levels of participation were popular. Fun, low stakes competitions that included voting. For instance, a cookie exchange where even if you didn’t want to participate, you could sample and vote for your favorite for prettiest and tastiest, so even those who can’t eat them had something to contribute.

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