I have learnt a new word. A noun. Offsite. As in, hey everybody, good news! next week we’ll be holding an offsite.
If you work for a company that likes to think in units of ‘team’, the chances are you will have experienced, or been grimly threatened with, an offsite. If you were lucky, it was a bit of go-karting or paintballing, the chance to let off some steam and settle some scores in a neutral environment. If you were unlucky, your manager will have taken time and trouble to think about how best to optimise the take-homes, and come up with some group puzzle-solving, with perhaps a trust fall and a round of Kumbaya.
Trust fall is also new to me. Someone I know – actually, the person who taught me the term offsite – told me that on one occasion she was expected, in concert with her team, to catch one of their team mates from a height of a couple of metres. This is the trust fall. She said that it was problematic. They caught him all right, just a bit of a splatter of limbs, a few bruises; but it might have been better, she argued, to have a female member doing the falling and more male members doing the catching. They suffered no permanent damage, but the team suffered a mild degree of team trauma (team trauma is a term of my own).
The problem is that team spirit, in the words of Steve Archibald (of Spurs and Barcelona), is something only glimpsed in the aftermath of victory. Things usually get done just fine, even if nobody likes anybody else. And, conversely, white-water rafting will be more fun – and more team will seem to be built – with people you already like.
But what do I know? My only ever offsite was a jolly to Thorpe Park theme park. We had strawberries and champagne, and then made ourselves sick on the rides. It didn’t beat any team-working ethics into us (I can barely remember who I went with), but it was OK. We were, after all, off site.