Staff Away Day 2019

A large group of mixed adults standing outside of Westminster Abbey gates

Tuesday 8 January was a very different day for us here and the Jewish Museum London as we closed our doors to the public for our annual Staff Away Day. This was a special opportunity for all our staff members to come together, share our skills and insight on different topics and – more importantly – to get to know each other in a more relaxed and casual environment.

This year, the location for the day was Westminster Abbey. We’d like to extend a thank you to the Westminster Abbey Learning Team for letting us use their education space for the day and for looking after us.

To begin with, we warmed up with a silly game of ‘Splat’ inspired by the comic book superheroes of the late Stan Lee. The concept is simple, you have to ‘splat’ the other person before they ‘splat’ you! We highly recommend this game with your groups, it’s fast-paced and energetic, perfect for waking you up at the start of a long day.

After a few very competitive rounds of games, it was time to settle down to why we were here: to celebrate the museum. To start, we hosted a ‘Pecha Kucha’ style Highlights of 2018 where each department were allocated 6 slides, 20 seconds per slide, to share their success and moments that made them smile over 2018. There was a lot to pack in and the pacing meant we tended to speak very fast leading to lots of laughter but also touching moments to show how much we achieved as a museum over the last year.

We were treated to a guided tour of Westminster Abbey, including perching ourselves on the comfy choir stands and receiving a surprise mention during the midday prayer reading. Most of the staff had never been to the Abbey before and found this tour incredibly moving and fascinating, learning about British history but also viewing some truly stunning architecture.

A group of adults seated and facing a standing female whilst she speaks

Director of the museum, Abigail Morris, addresses the restless staff who have eaten the building materials for their Sukkot shelters

The afternoon was a real workout for the mind and our creative instincts. We were asked to work in mixed teams (no sitting with your usual desk buddy!) and think about tangible ways we can enrich the experience our visitors receive when they come to our museum. We won’t give away too many details at the moment but we definitely had some very interesting and exciting ideas we can’t wait to roll out.

It’s important after a long day of discussion and idea creation to take time to unwind. The next activity led to many of us to overindulging our sweet tooth as we were challenged to build a Sukkot shelter using biscuits, sweets and icing. We were asked to consider the theme of home and homelessness and what this meant to us. As a result of all that sugar, this activity resulted in some slightly bonkers shelters but the feeling was consistent – we all felt home was a place where everyone was welcome.

When you work in an office, large or small, it is very easy to get involved in your work and forget to congratulate others on their achievements and personality. We rounded off the day with Museum Mensch (mensch is Yiddish for a person of integrity and honour) and wrote one thing about each other that we thought was admirable. A genuine and heartfelt moment was shared across the Jewish Museum London team.

Although this day only happens once a year, we do regularly come together to share ideas and support each other in our work. Every Wednesday we hold Wellbeing Wednesdays when we ask staff to step away from their desks for half an hour to reflect and unwind.

This may not be how everyone does a staff away day, but this is how we do ours and it’s something we can all agree was a day to be remembered.