Whenever I’m asked what I like most about working at Bluetrain, the answer is always pretty simple: my coworkers. It may sound corny, but I really like the people I work with, and it seems that I’m not alone. According to Officevibe, 70% of employees say that having friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy work life.


Bryan, Bluetrain’s owner and President, is a big proponent of positive company culture and likes to joke that he wholly endorses “mandatory team bonding”. And that is what he had in mind when he appointed Jodie and myself to Bluetrain’s Social Committee. Since taking over social commitment duties, we’ve planned over 20 team events and have found that the “mandatory” part has almost ceased to exist. Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way about team participation and fostering friendship at work!

#1: Survey Your People

No matter how seemingly awesome an activity is, if someone really doesn’t want to participate, they probably won’t enjoy feeling required to. And while it’s impossible to please everyone, your best bet to make sure that employees look forward to (most) events which is why we suggest polling your team for ideas on what they want to do.

At Bluetrain, we sent a survey to every employee asking them:

  • What they wanted to get out of a social event (i.e. team bonding, meeting families, learning)
  • What activities interested them (e.g. attending an Edmonton Eskimos game, going on a picnic, curling),
  • What day of the week and times of day worked best for them

#2: Mix It Up

Although a standing happy hour may be convenient to plan, you might consider switching up the events from month to month. For example, in October we had a Halloween potluck in the office, where costumed employees decorated mini pumpkins together.


In November, we played laser tag, and randomly assigned team members teamed up against one another. Such fun!

Another thing to note is that social activities don’t have to be events at all. In our office, we frequently do sports pools (we had a bracket for the FIFA World Cup in 2014, and are doing a fantasy league for the 2015-2016 NHL season), and are currently doing a FitBit challenge in an effort to get active together. The friendly competition is fun and a little trash talkin’ never hurt nobody!

#3: Big Budgets Aren’t Everything

While we’re lucky that our managers see social events as great team building time, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to blow the budget out of the water every month. There are plenty of activities that can be done for little to no expense. Some examples include: potlucks, office Pictionary, board games, and lunchtime movies.

That being said, don’t be afraid to plan and spend more on quality activities every now and then. We always budget a little bit more for the Bluetrain Christmas party every year, as it tends to also serve as a celebration for the great year we’ve had. This year we had fun taking a cooking class at Sunterra market!

#4: Photo Ops Galore!

As a digital marketing agency, we would be remiss if we didn’t note that all of the events and activities we do serve as great fodder for our social media channels and blog posts. Posting event pictures is an easy way to display your company culture which could be a huge draw to a prospective employee.

#5: Tips for Events

Here are a few helpful event planning tips that Jodie and I have learned over the last year of social committee fun:

  • Make your reservations in advance. If your event is at a different venue, make sure you book before you let people know about your activity. There’s no point getting everyone excited about something that may not be logistically possible.
  • Book the event in people’s calendars. That way, no one will (or should) be booking appointments or meetings on top of your allotted time for fun
  • Send reminders. Turns out, people are forgetful. It doesn’t hurt to send a friendly reminder message a few days before your event, especially if they are required to bring anything.
  • Prep for required materials. Make sure you have everything you need prior to your event, whether that’s enough dry erase markers for Pictionary, or food for your event.
  • Always check for dietary restrictions. Social activities are supposed to be fun, not send someone to the hospital. Make sure you ask about allergies and other restrictions, and let everyone else know (especially if it’s a potluck!)

Keeping these things in mind should help ensure your office events are worthwhile for everyone. Happy planning!

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