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A company wants to organize a team building event for a team (optional to attend, but an organizer is verbally pressuring). They proposed several dates but all of them are on a weekend. I'm just thinking how ethical it is to use a weekend for that, when:

  1. it is something for work
  2. it is not paid
  3. it occupies employees free time

Isn't it more logical to use a working day instead?

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    Is the event optional or mandatory? Also, I sense your post somewhat lacks a goal we can help you with (it's asking is this logical? it this ethical?). Please edit your post to include a goal we can help you with. Perhaps on the lines on how to try to change this to a work day or how to phrase such request, etc. – DarkCygnus Aug 29 at 21:58
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    Boy, people need to stop misusing the word "ethical". It does not mean what you think it means. – joeqwerty Aug 29 at 22:04
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    @joeqwerty reworded the misuse of 'ethical' – DarkCygnus Aug 29 at 22:06
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    Thank you for your feedback, guys. Added that it is optional to attend. It's a little hard for me to come up with an explicit goal. I'm rather trying to understand, do I see the whole picture or not. – user108388 Aug 29 at 22:08
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    @DarkCygnus "mandatory" and "optional" aren't binary states. One can feel pressured to attend, even if it's nominally optional. A big factor is whether it's something that a person would reasonably want to do for their own sake, rather than because they feel obligated. E.g. sending the team to a sport event, versus sitting in a conference room for a seminar. – Acccumulation Aug 29 at 22:09
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Isn't it more logical to use a working day instead?

Certainly it makes more sense to do this during the work week, if you actually want people to attend.

A company that isn't willing to have an event on company time sends a clear signal that this event isn't important.

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    Agreed. It's also terrible for morale to pressure employees into giving up their free time for an extracurricular work activity. – AffableAmbler Aug 30 at 0:51
  • Generally agree, but usually "team building events on the weekend" have issues with "culture" when they aren't actually work-related. At a previous job the men ... who were the majority of the employees ... tended to want to do things that were far more stereotypically male. So ... yeah. Rather just not do them. – Julie in Austin Aug 30 at 22:52
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    @AffableAmbler On the other hand it speaks of a great morale when you want to spend time with your colleagues outside of working hours. In my typical surroundings the philosophy is that team events are options for the team to have fun instead of working and get to know each other - so a spare time activity, but the company foots the bill. That also means they are always optional. If something is on company time, that means I'm paid to be there, not out of my own interest or because I'm enjoying it. That degrades the event in my view and lowers morale because "you have to be there". – Frank Hopkins Sep 18 at 10:56
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    I'd contest the conclusion that the event can't be important if it is on the weekend. One can argue that if it is not on company time (and the weekend could be on company time) then it is not so important to the company, but it still could be important to the company leadership: If they join the event, they too invest their spare time, same as everyone else. To me it rather signals that the company separates actually paid work from spare time fun encouraged by the company. I personally prefer the latter for (optional) team events, excursions and the like. – Frank Hopkins Sep 18 at 11:04
  • Over here a hybrid option is common:half the event counts as working hours and the other half as free time. So for example a two-day event would be friday-saturday with the friday counting as a "normal" workday. Those who can't or don't want to join have a nomal weekday, everyone else is doing fun teambuilding things. – Borgh Sep 18 at 11:41
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Isn't it more logical to use a working day instead?

Yes, perhaps it would be more logical to use a working day instead... if it were mandatory.

You state that this event is optional, most likely due to the fact that it's on a weekend and people could already have plans or other things to do. That way, the people that want and can attend are welcome and those who are not able it's ok.

If you are new to this job, or if team building events are rare on your company (or if you sense there is pressure in attending), I suggest you make some time and attend.

  • Why do you recommend to attend if there is a pressure? – user108388 Aug 29 at 22:18
  • Because, if there is pressure it may be that what will be done there is important for the culture of your company. Chances are that your company is also spending some money on this and would not like it to end up as an event without people... not going could give the impression that "you don't want to improve your relationship with the team", something that could raise some red flags, be taken as you not being a good "team player" etc. I suggest you don't attend only if you have a really good reason to skip this event – DarkCygnus Aug 29 at 22:23
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I'm in a similar boat. Only a few months in the company and the 'summer party' is on a Sunday, when I have a prior engagement which I REALLY can't miss. The event is optional, naturally, but eyebrows have already been raised by my not attending. The company is going through a bit of a rough patch and I think they want to use the party as a reset. So despite having a really good reason for not going, I'm left feeling stressed about the whole thing.

It's not really fair on employees because firstly, no one wants to look like they're not motivated to join in and secondly, as far as I'm concerned, ALL work events should be held during work hours. You know when all employees are available? Monday through Friday during office hours. Thirdly, holding these things at the weekend makes it difficult for people with kids or other responsibilities to get involved. And finally, if you're trying to thank your employees, I think you should do it at a time when everyone can be there.

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Framing question: If you already accept that it is not paid, what makes the weekend less "ethical" compared to off-time during the week? It maybe more practical for you to join during the week, but perhaps it's more practical for your colleagues at the weekend.

Answer: This really depends on the type of team event. A bowling evening can perfectly be done during the week. A two-day rafting excursion not so much. Even if the company would be willing to use working days for it, once an overnight-stay is involved it is typically easier for employees to manage attendance on the weekend (e.g. no need to drive kids to school).

The trade off in most companies I've worked in for team events is that it's paid by the company but done off the clock. There is the rare exception where it's partly or fully company time, but not necessarily during normal working days but rather on a weekend.

There are benefits doing an event during the week and doing it on the weekend. During the week, small events after work are typically attracting more people, as it's easy to just go there after work. For late night events, company parties or multi-day events, the weekend is typically more practical (if announced well enough in advance) - especially if it is not work time, but also otherwise (depending on location and work force perhaps).

You didn't tell us how the event is organized. In many companies team events are managed individually by the teams and thus it is often formed some team consensus when to do it, often organised by the team manager or even a regular team member. At other companies - or generally for company wide events, there is more central planning which is less flexible.

So what you describe can be completely normal. Depending on the type of event, it can also be a bit unusual to do it on the weekend. If it is organised on a team level, maybe find out who is organising it and provide feedback that you would be more available during the week. You might learn why it's scheduled on the weekend (perhaps all others in the team prefer it that way?) and you might open up a discussion to change the date. If it's centrally organised for the whole company, you can still provide feedback, but obviously this is less likely to change anything, as this is more likely a general company policy.

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This was certainly the norm in the 1980s and 1990s in my experience. Is the person setting up these outings old enough so that's what his initial career was like in the 1980s?

In the 1990s (this employer was in the automotive industry) we would go to golf outings sometimes on the weekend, or sometimes it would start on a weekday but at 4pm. We were all salary and were required to attend unless we were stick or had other important plans. We also had tickets for 2 free beers, delivered to us on the golf course.

But with my current job, which I started in 2001, all company picnics or dinners are during company time during the day. I am hourly now as are many other people at this company, and we all get paid for this dinner, but we also sign into a different code just for a dinner, so accounting must do something different with it, like it doesn't count towards overtime.

Any other workers from other shifts were welcome to come to the dinner when it was held, or could get leftovers during their shift, which were in several refrigerators all over the building.

I think they should hold it during business hours so more people actually go to the event. One of the events we would hold at our picnics is a dunk tank with all the executives in it (one at a time), even the owner. So we all got a shot at them. The dunk tank cost money, which would be donated to charity. The execs at my current company are a good sport though, and have a good sense of humor.

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