A company picnic can improve morale, foster collaboration, and show your appreciation for your team. But these office events also take careful planning and coordination to accomplish these goals. If you’re interested in the team-building benefits but aren’t sure where to start, read on for a complete guide for planning the perfect company picnic.
What is a Company Picnic?
A company picnic is an event where everyone from a workplace gathers to eat food and enjoy fun games and activities. These events are often hosted outdoors during the summer and may include picnic food like sandwiches and hot dogs. Some have themes like beach parties or carnivals. Businesses generally host these to foster a happier, more collaborative team and to show appreciation for their hard work throughout the year.
Why do companies have picnics?
Businesses generally host company picnics for team-building purposes. You might have some people in a large office who have never spent much time together. So having them meet and participate in games and activities may foster more collaboration between departments. It is also seen as a perk by many employees that may make them happier and more productive at work.
14 Things to Consider when Planning a Company Picnic
1. Decide on a Budget
When hosting a picnic, you usually need to pay for a location, food, and activities. The cost goes up based on how many employees attend. So decide how much your business is able to set aside before you start shopping. If you go over budget, it may cut into other important business activities.
For example, a company with a $2,000 budget may book a local park for $200, then spend about $1,500 on a caterer and the final $300 on card tables and outdoor games like horseshoes. A smaller team with a budget of about $500 may simply host a picnic outside their office building to limit the cost and purchase a sandwich platter for food.
2. Pick A Suitable Date
Company picnics are generally hosted outdoors. So consider the weather when choosing a date. You may not be able to predict all outcomes but avoid seasons where it’s cold or constantly rainy. Often, early and late summer or fall is ideal.
Additionally, don’t host company events on major holidays that employees may want to spend with family. For example, if your team gets Memorial Day or Labor Day off, don’t host your picnic on those dates. They’re likely looking forward to a break on those dates.
3. Set the Time of the Picnic
If your guest list consists of just staff members, try to host it during business hours. Taking them away from their family for an extra work event may seem like less of a perk. However, if you’re inviting their spouses and kids, consider a late afternoon start time, like 4 p.m., so those with school and other jobs can still attend. You might also simply talk to your employees to see what time they would prefer.
4. Consider Hiring Event Planners
You can certainly plan a simple picnic on your own. But if you want the event to stand out or you simply don’t have extra time to put everything together, event planners can help. They’ll coordinate with vendors and ensure everything runs smoothly based on your theme, goals, and budget.
If you’re not sure where to start, your local chamber of commerce may have members who plan corporate events. If you already host company banquets or fundraisers, the planners you work with for those events may also help with team picnics.
5. Get the Guestlist Right
Most companies invite all employees to company picnics. But you may also allow them to bring guests like significant others and/or kids. Consider your budget and the space available to see if doubling or tripling the guest list seems feasible. Since you likely won’t have an actual headcount until people RSVP, avoid purchasing last-minute details for the event until you have the main costs like food covered. Additionally, if your business needs to be staffed during your company picnic, consider having multiple events so the staff members working can still enjoy some food and team building.
6. Pick a Theme
A theme may not seem necessary for a company picnic. But it can inform every planning decision you make and help the event seem cohesive. So it’s actually one of the most important decisions you can make early on. A theme can be based on a location, activity, or event. You should also decide whether your event is kid-friendly, as that can inform the theme choice. These are some excellent company picnic ideas to consider.
Company Picnic Ideas
Caribbean: A Caribbean theme for your company picnic may include tropical decor and food from the region. The menu could include shrimp and spiced meats over rice and veggies, with lots of fruit and tropical drinks. This may work for a laid-back workplace and mid-summer picnics.
Oktoberfest: Oktoberfest picnics revolve around beer and German-inspired food. This is probably best for picnics with just your team and their significant others.
Carnival: A carnival theme is perfect for kid-friendly picnics. You can keep the food simple with corndogs and funnel cakes. And instead, invest in fun games and activities like ring toss and making balloon animals.
Mardi Gras: Mardi Gras is a more adult theme for a picnic. Opt for New Orleans-inspired food like jambalaya and beignets. And include beverages and music in your plans.
Beach Party: A beach theme can be either adults-only or kid-friendly. It’s perfect for those who want a laid-back atmosphere. Keep the food simple with hot dogs and hamburgers or sandwiches and play games like beach volleyball.
Casino: Casino night is perfect for an evening event with just your employees and their significant others. Bring in casino games like slots and blackjack along with finger food and drinks.
Luau: Luaus are Hawaiian-themed events perfect for the whole family. Unique dishes like roast pork and pineapple can round out the menu. You might even bring in entertainers like hula dancers to create a memorable event.
Western: A western theme may mimic a hoedown or old west saloon. Play up the cowboy elements if kids are attending. Activities like line dancing may be perfect for this style.
7. Choose the Perfect Venue
The venue is one of the most important elements of any company picnic. Choose a location that’s easy to get to and able to accommodate all your guests. Your choice may also vary based on the theme. For example, a kid-friendly party should be at a safe and accessible location like a park with swings and a playscape.
- Community Center
- Sports fields
- Outdoor banquet center
- Office parking lot
- Restaurant patio
- High rise rooftop
8. Craft the Menu for Your Office Picnic
Your menu may also depend on your theme and budget. For example, a carnival-themed event may include cotton candy and corndogs, while a Caribbean-themed party may focus more on shrimp and seafood. Regardless of the theme, make sure the menu items fit within your budget and are easy to transport and serve at scale.
While every event is different, there are a few popular picnic foods that can work at nearly every party. For example, hot dogs and potato salad tend to be easy to transport and even cook on site.
9. Choose Activities and Games
Activities provide some structure for a company picnic and get everyone to interact with one another. The specific games or challenges you choose depend on your goals and who is attending. For example, if your goal is to foster more collaboration, team-building exercises may be ideal. But if you just want to provide a fun time for employees and their families, simple outdoor games may suffice.
- Team building
- Sack race
- Slip n slide
- Tug of war
- Toss golf challenge
- Scavenger hunt
- Egg on a spoon race
- Art contest
- Mad libs
10. Choose Entertainment
Entertainment may also give your picnic some structure and add a bit of fun. Consider your theme and the type of atmosphere you want to provide. These are different than activities because people may not participate in them in an organized way.
For example, if you’re planning a western-themed event, rodeo entertainment may be ideal. But if you want the focus to be on team-building exercises, keep it simple with music so everyone can mingle after the activities are complete.
- Live band
- Balloon animals
- Caricature artist
- Line dancing instruction
- Hula dancers
- Pony rides
- Petting zoo
- Ice sculpting
- Outdoor movie theater
11. Set Some Ground Rules
Letting your employees know what to expect before the event can help everything run smoothly. It can also help you adhere to local ordinances and rules at the venue. Here are some things to consider when setting ground rules.
- Who is invited? (kids, spouses, pets, etc.)
- Will the picnic have alcohol?
- Should attendees bring anything?
- Are people required to participate in activities?
- What time should they arrive and leave by?
- Does the venue have any rules that need to be communicated? (noise rules, etc.)
12. Send Out Invitations
Once you know the details like the date and location, send out invitations to everyone on your guest list. Specify who is invited and what is expected of each guest. Then ask for RSVPs so you can plan your food and activities.
It’s traditional to send paper invitations. But this may vary based on how you communicate with your team. For example, you may send a digital invitation via email or even create a Facebook event if you have an active community of your team members on the site. Just make sure everyone on your team has access to the platform you choose.
13. Decide on the Seating Arrangements
Some picnics just leave tables open so everyone can choose where to sit. However, making prior seating arrangements can help you meet your goals. For example, if you want more people from different departments to meet, put people from different parts of the office at the same table. However, if you want to foster closer collaboration within departments, consider seating based on each person’s job title.
Then at your event, clearly mark where everyone is supposed to sit. Either use a seating chart or provide small tokens or prizes with each person’s name and a table number.
14. Enjoy the Perfect Business Picnic!
Once you’ve handled the tasks above, you should be well on your way to a successful company picnic. While attending, don’t forget to enjoy yourself and mingle with all your employees and meet their families.
What should I bring to a company picnic?
The exact items to bring to a company picnic may vary depending on the theme and location. For example, a picnic at a beach may require a towel or beach chair, while a picnic with kids may benefit from some extra snacks just in case. Here are some popular items you might bring with you.
- Bug spray
- Comfortable clothing and shoes
- Extra water
- A dish to share
Are company picnics important?
Company picnics or other team outing ideas are important to any business that wants to improve morale and foster collaboration. Picnics provide a low-key atmosphere for everyone to get together and socialize outside the office. You can also plan games and activities that foster team building and help you meet your company’s goals.
What can I do instead of a company picnic?
If you’re not interested in planning an actual company picnic, there are other events that can accomplish similar goals. These may be ideal for small teams, those in unpredictable climates, or teams that simply don’t want to plan an event from scratch. For example:
- Perform team-building activities at your office during work hours
- Host a pizza party during lunch
- Attend a sporting event together
- Rent a bowling alley for the evening
- Host a fancy indoor banquet