A tale of an employee engagement session with hard rules for no work or training
Last month we spent two full days with the staff at James House having fun. Yep, a two-day retreat with a fantastic goal: self-care, team bonding, and fun. It was AWESOME.
The James House is the only accredited nonprofit organization helping people affected by sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking in the Greater Tri-Cities Region. During our kick-off meeting with Executive Director, Chana Ramsey, she told us she wanted absolutely no training. Since The James House has experienced tremendous staff growth in the past year or so they have had little time to build relationships with one another. Chana explained how her staff works really hard doing work that is life or death for their clients and they deserve a break. For an organizational development consultant who is constantly trying to fit 10 goals into every one-day retreat, I was like a kid in a candy store creating the agenda.
Over the two days they painted with Heide Trepanier, made collages, and went on an epic across town scavenger hunt with old-school Polaroids. The staff shared personal details with the group - some deep, some goofy, and some very surprising. They built marshmallow towers and talked about self-care. They acknowledged that despite knowing the importance of self-care, they rarely practice it and worked to identify how co-workers could encourage one another to make time to take care of themselves. There was a lot of laughing.
At the end of the second day we came together and asked everyone to share a reflection about their time together—and we heard about how this was exactly what they needed, how refreshed they felt, and how very grateful everyone was that their leadership gave them the space and time to leave “work” behind for two days and engage deeply with one another. The energy had completely shifted and you could see the stress leaving the staff’s bodies.
We work with people who do important work. Lifesaving work. Life changing work. It’s common to put your head down and immerse yourself in the daily grind. We’re here to use strategy to help you do the work, but we’re also invested in leading you through those deep breath moments where you step back to have fun, be silly, and refresh. We believe this is essential. Contact us if you’d like support in finding the balance.