This week, we honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy. His impact can be felt in the pews of his famous pulpit, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and beyond. Julia Levy, a Communications Officer based in the Atlanta office, describes the team's visit to this historic landmark as just one example of the power of an office field trip. Whether it's a service project, a team building exercise or a local tour, field trips offer opportunities for professional growth and development and more. Julia shares her top five reasons why we should write ourselves permission slips for these experiences.
On a rainy weekday afternoon, I sat on a worn, wooden bench in downtown Atlanta. This was not a typical day in the office. Instead of looking at my computer, I observed beautiful stained glass windows in a historic room while listening to an equally historic speech on auto play.
I tried to imagine what it might have been like to be in this seat on a vibrant Sunday morning in 1962. From the front of the room, the pulpit indicated where the iconic man behind the voice that was emanating from the speakers — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — would preach in this preserved house of worship, the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church.
As I listened, I not only felt the presence of this place, but the powerful realization of who I shared this moment with — my colleagues. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to step away from my desk for what I fondly refer to as an “office field trip.” Named because this activity reminded me of the wonder of being a kid exploring places with my classmates. I forgot how much I missed field trips until I went on this modern-day version.
Now, with the perspective of an adult, I am even more appreciative of opportunities like these where colleagues can visit a historical site or volunteer together. Here are the top five reasons why I believe that grown-ups should go on office field trips:
1. Less Screen Time: In this era when communication is constant and messages are exchanged immediately, field trips take you away from your desktop and ideally your phone. With this free time, you can think and interact without distractions. Deadlines are temporarily on hold because the person who would respond to your email request is likely standing next to you at the same meaningful activity. It’s a healthy hiatus from a culture of email overload.
2. Lifelong Learning: Of course, formal courses, conferences and webinars have their merits to impart knowledge and share best practices. But, there’s something special about learning from experiences — to see, touch, feel, hear and even taste what anthropologists, historians and other explorers have discovered. As we grow professionally, experiences like these merit an investment of time throughout our careers.
3. Conversation Sparking: With these shared experiences, now we can discuss several deep topics with our colleagues. It provides a common foundation for dialogue in real time about what we just learned. It’s so much more than typical lunchtime banter. Ideally, these moments continue when we’re back in the office.
4. Idea Generating: Stepping outside our typical zones provides inspiration. We learn from the guides, guest speakers and even our bus driver who takes us from place to place. With this exposure to ideas, it prompts us to look at projects with a fresh perspective or dream up a new idea to explore when we’re back at our desks.
5. Bonding Activity: At its core, these trips enable us to get to know our colleagues outside of the friendly exchanges by the coffee maker. When you sit next to someone on a “school” bus or explore a historical site or service project together, you immediately share additional connections that you might not have had before.
With these five motivators, my next steps are clear. In this era of perpetual busy statuses, I’m standing up, out of my desk chair, and taking a strong stance for field trips. This investment of a half-day of time amplifies into weeks worth of inspiration.
I hope that you too will propose, plan and participate in a field trip at your office! Whether it’s an activity or service project, go ahead, write yourself and your place of work a permission slip to go out into your local community — its landmarks, hot spots and museums — in the company of your colleagues.
The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.