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Leaving work behind can pay off

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On third Wednesdays, employees at Advanced Services gather for breakfast and positive reinforcement away from the office.

Advanced Services employees discuss company business during a monthly meeting at Be My Guest in Evans.  JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
Advanced Services employees discuss company business during a monthly meeting at Be My Guest in Evans.

Jeff Annis, the president of the local pest control business, said his company has three branches and he realized that his employees needed to come together.

“The basis of this concept is what I call positive focus and team building,” he said.

While business meetings are common, it is less common to leave the cubicle and board room table behind.

“I think it’s too bad,” Annis said. “I think that it makes sure that everybody feels that they know each other on more levels. It’s not just a job. It’s people that you’ve met with, sat with, eaten with and shared stories with at least a couple of hours a month, even if they’re not from your department or your branch.

‘‘I absolutely think that it’s a great addition to what we do overall as a company to feel more like a family.”

It’s rare for companies to have meetings that involve a big meal away from the office, but it can be beneficial, said Rob Morton, the president of the Society for Human Resource Management’s Georgia State Council.

“I think it’s more casual. It puts people at ease. It gives them an opportunity to have some general conversation and get relaxed before a talk. People are more likely to ask questions and just feel more comfortable,” Morton said.

He said it’s good for companies to meet with employees offsite occasionally, but he doesn’t think it’s necessary all of the time.

In the book Communications Skills Training by Maureen Orey and Jenni Prisk, the authors recommend meeting outdoors or away from the work environment.

Participants feel freer to speak and meeting away from the office prevents interruptions and distractions, the authors contend.

Johnson, Laschober & Asso-ciates, a design company on Broad Street, has quarterly meetings with catered lunches for its 26 employees, said partner Joe Johnson.

“It gives them kind of a sense of the health of the company, more or less to allay their fears as to all of the issues in today’s market,” Johnson said. “We do try to get together to discuss the fact that everybody’s working hard and they’re doing a good job. We try to nurture our employees through these meetings.”

The firm also recognizes employees for their volunteer work in the community, which is encouraged in the company’s philosophy.

Century 21 Larry Miller Realty also has meetings and meals away from the office. Agents gather on the fourth Wednesday of each month at Be My Guest Catering & Events in Evans, said Lindsey Folley, the director of marketing. Breakfast is served at 8:30 a.m., and the meeting starts at 9 a.m.

To add some fun to the meetings, they show agents’ videos about new neighborhoods. Because agents spend much of their time in the field, the meetings allow them to come together to share information about new properties and ask for assistance if they are dealing with buyers with specific requests.

“It’s also good to keep them up-to-date with new information and face-to-face contact,” Folley said.

Century 21 Larry Miller Realty also has networking breakfasts once a month with agents and 70 local businesses that offer home-related services. Each provider gets one minute to explain its services.

“Most people leave with a few leads,” she said.

In order for all 43 Advanced Services employees to attend the breakfast meetings, Annis hires temps to staff his company’s call center. His workers gather at 7 a.m. at Be My Guest.

During the two-hour meeting, awards are issued for employee of the month, company anniversaries, sales, service and the Legendary Award, which is given to an employee for going above and beyond the call of duty.

This month, employees were divided into teams to discuss their strategy for raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s walk.

The winning team gets an extra day of paid vacation.

At the end, employees at each table came up with one positive thing that happened in the last two weeks.

“That way we end with a positive focus,” Annis said. “Our whole world is negative. We do not allow negativity in anything we do. Even in the worst of times, we make them into the best of times.”

MEET AWAY FROM THE OFFICE

Benefits include:

• Employees get to know each other on a deeper level.

• It creates a family atmosphere.

• It makes work not just “a job.”

• Working outside the usual meeting space can change the dynamics of interaction.

• It creates a casual environment that makes employees feel more comfortable.

• Participants feel freer to speak, engage and ask questions.

• Meeting away from the office prevents interruptions and distractions.

Source: Jeff Annis, president of Advanced Services; Rob Morton, president of the Society for Human Resource Management’s Georgia State Council; and Maureen C. Orey and Jenni Prisk, authors of Communications Skills Training


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