As we roll toward brighter days, it’s time to start thinking about ways to celebrate your employees by giving them some moments in the sunshine. Company picnics are a great way to show your employees your appreciation, and as a leader, you can make smart choices about your picnic to ensure everyone has fun. Ready for some excellent bonding time with games, music, and barbecue? Look no further than this list — I’ve rounded up some critical do’s and don’t’s along with over 20 ideas for employee picnic activities.
In this article:
- Dos and Don’ts of Company Picnics
- 20+ Company Picnic Ideas for Any Time of the Year
4 Dos and Don’ts of Company Picnics
DO hold your picnic on company time — or pay your employees weekend time to be there.
This might be confusing — a picnic is fun, right? Yes and no. With careful planning, a company picnic should be a bonding experience for the team and an opportunity for relaxation, but remember: They’re still at work. They’re with their boss, their peers, and their reports, so they aren’t unwinding in the same way they would with friends. If the picnic doesn’t happen during working hours (we like the idea of an early release on Friday and a company picnic at a nearby park), give employees hourly compensation or offer them a plus-one with drinks and food included. If this isn’t in the budget, make the picnic optional. As fun as a picnic is, if it’s cutting into employees’ time off and time with their families, they should have incentives to attend.
DON’T pit leadership against employees.
It’s tempting to have a big, company-wide kickball game with two teams: management and employees. But this is an absolute recipe for disaster — any resentments employees have with leadership are sure to come out on the field and might even get exaggerated in the more casual environment. When picking teams, don’t separate people by level; simply mix it up.
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DO provide ample food and hydration.
When it comes to a day in the sun, snacks and cold beverages are key. Keep water bottles on ice and consider electrolyte beverages, too. Encourage employees to bring Tupperware to take home leftovers if you’re worried about food waste. Another sustainable idea: Gift the team customized reusable water bottles that they can use at the company picnic and around the office for the rest of the year.
DON’T make games so competitive that people argue, and never put money or benefits on the line.
The last thing you want at your employee picnic is for attendees to become overly competitive, and you can ensure that doesn’t happen by keeping the stakes low. A $10 coffee gift card is a much better prize than an extra vacation day — a picnic is not the time to enhance your company benefits for a select few who happen to win the trivia contest. (And, if you’re willing to hand out an extra vacation day, why not give it to the whole team?)
20+ Company Picnic Ideas for Every Kind of Budget
Now, let’s get into the actual picnic. When planning a company picnic or outdoor day, it can help to have some activities in mind — but nothing too rigid or structured! The key is to help break the ice without making the whole day feel forced or excessively corporate-y. Here are some of our favorite company picnic ideas and themes — and many cost $0.
- Decorate picture frames with craft supplies like pom poms, macaroni, googly eyes, and sequins. Encourage people to bring them into the office to add a touch of whimsy to the space.
- Bring in an art teacher to lead a sip and paint, where employees will nurse a restrained amount of alcohol and find some stress relief in watercolors.
- Set up card tables for Go Fish! and regular decks.
- Host a tea party with mismatched, thrift store mugs (thoroughly washed, of course!) and little sandwiches.
- Set up a photo booth — all you need is a backdrop you can buy at a craft store and an iPad set up on a tripod.
- Provide company-branded frisbees and let your team make use of the open space.
- Set up a canvas covered with water balloons full of paint and hand over the darts. You’ll end up with a unique, drip-painted art piece to hang in the office. Besides, everyone deserves their Princess Diaries moment.
- Set up a photo scavenger hunt and race to the finish.
- Decorate insulated drink cozies with bubble fabric paint.
- Host a tie-dyeing tutorial and provide white beach towels for dyeing.
- Bring in a local florist to lead a flower-arranging demonstration with inexpensive blooms from the grocery store. Bonus: decorate old mason jars with decoupage to make custom vases.
- Let your employees be kids again by setting up all the games they played when they were young: Connect Four, Chutes & Ladders, Tic-Tac-Toe, Jenga, and more.
- Get out your biggest speakers and lead a rousing game of “Name That Tune.”
- Set up lawn games like badminton, croquet, or bocce.
- Stay hydrated with a lemonade bar: Set out a series of frozen fruits and berries that employees can muddle into their drink.
- One word: BINGO.
- Offer a make-your-own-sandwich station, which accommodates tons of dietary restrictions — just make sure to keep the ingredients from touching.
- Do a blind tasting of Coke versus Pepsi and Sprite versus 7 Up. Can your employees tell the difference?
- When in doubt, hire caterers to throw a barbecue.
- Try a trivia game based on pop culture through the decades.
- Lay out company t-shirts in a wide range of sizes and let your team personalize them with fabric pens and paint.
- Take the decorating spirit one step further with a cookie or cupcake decorating activity. Don’t forget the rainbow sprinkles.