When was the last time your whole team was in one place? In our post-lockdown world, getting everyone together in person isn’t as regular as it used to be.

Now it’s the mark of a special occasion, reserved for events that break the day-to-day routine of the workplace, like company away days. Away day bookings through VenueScanner have risen significantly year on year since pandemic lockdowns started to lift. London venues alone took 30% more bookings in 2023 than in 2022 and we see this as a reflection of the shift towards more flexible and hybrid working. Businesses want to get their teams together for moments of connection, celebration and communication.

We’re also seeing that people prefer venues that offer experiences and activities, because today’s away days need to offer employees more than a change of scenery. The chance to compete in games and sports, learn new skills and showcase some creativity can give your away day a sense of occasion – and have positive effects that last long after the day itself.

We need to be more flexible thanks to flexible working

Employees who worked remotely through the worst of the pandemic are in no hurry to return to the office full time. In the UK, YouGov research from 2021 shows that 57% of employees want to be able to work from home, and 73% want flexible remote working options to remain on the table. At the same time, few employees are keen to work remotely 100% of the time, never seeing their colleagues and leaders in person.

For businesses, achieving the right balance for remote working can be a headache. But what’s clear is that there’s a real need for companies to bring their people together. So it’s not surprising that away days are becoming more popular. In fact, a study by Opinium found 66% of people believe they have an important role to play in maintaining our connection to company culture.

And that’s backed up by the stats we gathered in our Future of Work report: especially that 94% of UK employees said getting together face to face with colleagues was really important to them. In another survey by Opinium, four out of five people – including three quarters of fully remote workers – agreed it was an important part of working culture.

Employees want to build bonds and break away from the everyday

And based on the venues employers are choosing for away days, they’re listening. A hotel is still a classic choice, of course – but at VenueScanner we like to encourage venues and guests alike to think outside the box, so I’ve been delighted to see traditional, one-dimensional spaces giving way to unconventional and reimagined venues.

Many companies are opting for the friendly family feel of a bar or restaurant. Studios, galleries and even warehouses are having a moment too – offering a break, not just from the daily routine of work, but from typical ideas of what a corporate event can look like.

But where we’re really seeing growing demand is in experience-driven venues like Swingers Crazy Golf and Otherworld Virtual Reality. A far cry from the typical hotel conference suite, these are venues that entertain, inspire and surprise – the less conventional, the better.

An experiential away day offers employees more than a simple change of scenery. It’s a chance to work a different set of muscles – either literally, with a sporty activity like trampolining, kayaking or bouldering, or more figuratively with games, quizzes and other mental challenges. Employees can even find themselves transplanted out of the world of work and into the world of entertainment, with experiences based on popular gameshows like The Crystal Maze, Taskmaster and the recently revived Gladiators.

It benefits your team and your leaders

A break from work doesn’t have to mean a break from developing skills. Cooking, cocktail making and painting classes are just some of the away day experiences that offer employees the chance to learn something new – and maybe even discover a new hobby. This can improve wellbeing, mental health and creativity.

You’ll be able to inspire and invigorate your team, helping individuals find new ways of working together. Some people might take the lead in a challenge and discover leadership skills they didn’t know they had.

Away days are also beneficial for leaders and managers: you’ll get to see how your teams adapt to new environments and solve new problems. As well as learning more about them as people, their interests and lives outside work, you’ll also discover better ways to help your employees work together.

Away days – and nights?

The most perceptive leaders recognise the importance of making the company away day a true occasion: not just a meeting, but a necessary reset, a chance to connect and an experience to treasure.

For more and more companies, a singular away day isn’t enough: multi-day extravaganzas with overnight stays are not unusual, and could become the norm if companies find that multiplying the days also multiplies the benefits. Hybrid working is here to stay, so the need for great away days will only grow. And we can help make it happen.

Rebecca Kelly, VenueScanner
Founder and CEO at VenueScanner | + posts

Following a brief stint in asset management post-graduation, where she gained valuable insights into the corporate landscape, Rebecca felt compelled to shift gears and pursue her own entrepreneurial ambitions.

Working for companies such as M&S and Naked Wines, she identified a glaring gap in the events sector and decided to take matters into her own hands. With a vision to empower both event planners and venue hosts, VenueScanner offers a comprehensive solution to the challenges plaguing the sector.