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Going off-site builds chemistry

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A team-building activity at Blue Mountain Ski Area in Palmerton, where the concept includes reliance
on teammates. (Contributed photo)
A team-building activity at Blue Mountain Ski Area in Palmerton, where the concept includes reliance on teammates. (Contributed photo)

Turns out, field trips aren’t just for school kids.

More business owners are choosing to strengthen chemistry at work by taking employees on team-building excursions. The trips use fun, structured exercises that encourage co-workers to join together to achieve their goals without the stress of the office environment.

“Getting people together, taking them out of their element and having them work on a project or activity face to face is more important than ever these days,” said Sybil F. Stershic, president and founder of Quality Service Marketing of Alburtis in Lehigh County.

The exercises “build companionship, camaraderie and send the message of ‘we’re all in this together,’ ” Stershic said.

The trips could be outdoors in nature such as hiking and climbing or indoors such as cooking classes, projects and games. The team-building activities center on the concept of working together to succeed, strengthening key workplace skills under the guise of a fun outing.

“It’s social,” she said, “but it’s got to be more than social. It’s about working together and being together, and how the activity relates back to the company.”

Stershic, who also teaches workshops, said her clients crave face-to-face human interaction.

“What I hear from my work is people saying ‘oh, so now I have a face that goes with a name’ or ‘a face that goes with the voice’,” said Stershic, whose company specializes in strengthening employee and customer relationships. “People are really hungry for that connection. Social media only goes so far. For people to actually see [who] they work with … that adds so much value to the company.”

In the age of technological obsession, human contact often is lost. While instant communication can be more convenient, being able to bring people together to work in person is essential.

Bob Burkholder, president of Burkholder Heating and Air Conditioning in Emmaus, knows the value of nurturing the face-to-face work chemistry.

“They all are on different job sites, so they don’t get to see each other a lot,” Burkholder said of his staff. Burkholder and about 16 co-workers recently participated in a team-building excursion to Lehigh Valley Grand Prix, a go-kart track in Allentown.

“They had some fun, got to race together, and Lehigh Valley Grand Prix did a wonderful job of getting everyone involved,” he said. Burkholder said he loved the camaraderie the activities encouraged.

In the stress of the workplace setting, it can be hard to get to know one another. With the relaxed, but competitive, environment of team-building field trips, co-workers get a chance to open up.

“If you work as a team, you find out things about each other that you might not have known before,” said Tina Buckley, snow sports director at Palmerton’s Blue Mountain Ski Area, a venue that corporations use for team building. “Like, ‘wow, I didn’t know you could jump that high’ or ‘wow, you have some good ideas.’ ”

Buckley, who directs most of the corporate team-building events hosted by the resort, stressed the importance of activities outside the office.

“To really get to know them in a problem-solving situation that isn’t a work environment is important,” she said. “Usually what we experience is that people have a better understanding of each other, and can work better together.”

Blue Mountain features several exercises both physically and mentally stimulating. Like other facilities, Blue Mountain’s activities focus on the concept of relying on the rest of your team.

In one such activity, the outcome of the exercise is to ask for help, something that may not come easy to the most self-dependent co-worker.

“People that think they know everything are the last to ask [for help], but it’s eye opening,” Buckley said. “Sometimes it’s way more effective to ask the right person for help instead of trying on your own forever.”

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