Are corporate sleepovers the new way for staff to bond?

May 2, 2014


By Lyndsey Hall

Employee retention is a bit of a buzz word at the moment; every business is desperately trying to hold onto the staff members that they currently have, whilst attracting new, highly-qualified jobseekers to join their team. We all know we’re happier in work when we get on well with our colleagues and are able to enjoy their company, especially as we are now spending more time with our workmates than our own families. But how do you encourage bonding amongst employees?

At Knowles Warwick we have individual team outings, such as bowling or Go Ape, and we try to get everyone in the office involved in regular events like charity coffee mornings, and sweepstakes such as the Grand National and the World Cup. But, one big business has adopted a rather unusual method of building rapport amongst the ranks.

Whole Foods Market chief executive and founder, John Mackey, has revealed that they frequently spend nights away together, sleeping in the same house and making dinner and breakfast together, like a family. According to Mackey, this prevents staff from compartmentalising their lives, and forces them to relate to each other on a deeper level.

A recent study of employee engagement in the US found that 70% of those surveyed either hated their jobs or were completely disengaged.


“If you want to create a good culture and a good company then people have got to have that sense that their work matters and that they matter,” says Mackey.


At Whole Foods, there is an emphasis on “caring leadership”; the company values are enforced from the top down: they even make a conscious effort not to promote “the jerks”! In store, employees are divided into 8 teams, and when a new staff member joins they are assigned to a team for their 2 months probationary period; after which they must be approved by at least two thirds of their team members in an anonymous ballot before they become a permanent employee.

This kind of group influence goes a long way to making employees feel valued and heard in the workplace.

Company retreats have long been a popular team-building tactic in the US, but could overnight trips with your colleagues become the norm in the UK?

What do you think of Whole Foods’ method of staff bonding? Have you ever taken your employees away for a night to team-build? Let us know how you encourage your staff to get to know each other, or if you have ever worked somewhere with an interesting team-building technique, in the Comments.


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