Evolved Search, an SEO and content marketing agency with 31 members of staff, replaced the traditional office party with an adventure in Amsterdam for the 2018 festive celebration.
The idea originally came about as a way to please everyone, taking into account that some of Evolved’s employees are teetotal, some are vegan, and others would rather not eat a large, unhealthy Christmas meal.
Instead, in December 2018, the vast majority of employees, barring one or two that were unable to attend, enjoyed a boat tour and shopping trip in Amsterdam, as well as sampling some of the city’s many cultural attractions.
A trip abroad tends to have universal appeal, and provides something employees find more exciting than the usual Christmas party, says Lauren Archer, brand marketing and PR consultant at Evolved Search. “Everyone was over the moon that their work was taking them on a trip,” she says. “A lot of people now, with family commitments and general life, can’t necessarily afford to do extravagant things like going away. If they get to go away with work, it is an interesting opportunity, rather than going for the average Christmas dinner.”
The Christmas trip is an excellent tool for staff recruitment and retention in a competitive industry, says Archer. “The way staff feel about it, there is such a buzz and such excitement about what we offer versus our competitors,” she says. “We post about it on Instagram, we keep it light-hearted and fun.”
The organisation starts to gauge interest in the trip during the summer months by writing to employees to ask for availability. The December 2019 excursion has been planned, but the details are a closely guarded secret in order to stir up more excitement and engagement.
There is a relatively small pool of digital agencies in the north east of England, and many people compare their benefits and jump ship if other options are more tantalising, explains Archer. Not so at Evolved, which in five years has only seen one departure.
Surely, however, taking a whole organisation away for Christmas would be prohibitively expensive for most employers?
“I think, with these things, there are always ways and means to make it work,” Archer explains. “We start planning in June and July and when looking at flights at that time, things are a lot cheaper. [Employers] can always make it less expensive by being more organised.”