Making good use of the time you have together

That’s us: totally free of any issues whatsoever

For many, now is the time for the annual departmental away-day(s). There’s no teaching to do done, just a pile of marking, so someone senior feels the best thing would be to get everyone into a room to do something.

I used to consider that it wasn’t an away-day if you could still see your campus from the window, but times/finances have changed.

Last week, I spent two days approximately 20 metres from my departmental building for our away-day, but since a) I’m very rarely on-site and b) I’d never been to this particular building, I didn’t feel aggrieved about it.

Plus if left enough money for the accommodation and for nice lunches.

Perhaps precisely we don’t see much of each other, a good amount of reflection and debate went into making the days worthwhile.

That meant avoiding reporting anything and giving much time to discussion and advancing projects.

Reporting is a killer: lots of description of things that have happened, which if it were important to you then you would know about already. It’s largely a relic of the Good Old Days, when committees where actually the beating heart of academic governance: now it just makes sense to keep such things confined to written notes or access to dashboards.

By contrast, discussion is something that is increasingly rare, especially as remote working destroys the notion of water-cooler moments.

For us, just being able to spend time chatting about anything with a colleague in person is much valued, and if we can tie that towards something specific and valuable then even better.

This year, we tried making the research-focused elements build up to generating more internal collaborations. That meant making space for sharing interests and ideas, and nudging everyone to think about linkages, without imposing anything too heavy.

For teaching, we worked on sharing best practice tips and trouble-shooting, as well as revisiting the long-term planning ideas we created at last year’s event.

Stick in a nice meal at the pub in the middle and it was a recipe for constructive and purposeful community-building, rather than a chore. We didn’t even need to resort to a team-building exercise.

If your away-day isn’t giving you that, then maybe you want to offer organising next year’s event, to everyone’s enjoyment.