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By Joan Icotanim – Maslang

Almost eight years ago, when we were starting COMCO, I remember overhearing the founders talking about the places they would like to visit with the team. So much so, the travel destinations became part of the annual planning and budgeting. Slowly but surely, team travel became weaved in the fabric of our team culture as we decided to invest in shared experiences as part of our investment in our people. As we continued with our out-of-town trips and away days in different countries, we saw the positive effects it had on the team, and here are a few reasons why.

Helps Foster a Workplace Community

According to a survey entitled Investing in Travel to Strengthen Culture and Increase Engagement conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, a well-managed travel for internal purposes can be a smart investment, yielding stronger relationships among employees, greater collaboration, increased employee engagement, a more unified culture, and increased feelings of inclusion.

Our team is our greatest asset, and their well-being is crucial in achieving organizational goals. Beyond the traditional team-building activities, travel presents a distinctive and profound opportunity to fortify connections, improve communication, and spark creativity within a team.

In the same survey, respondents indicate that one of the “greatest business benefits of trips with co-workers is stronger relationships between employees/teams.” In COMCO, our shared experiences and memories created during our team travels build connections and friendships among the team that go beyond the confines of our workplace. We’ve experienced sleeping our way from Tokyo to Osaka in an overnight bus, taking care of an injured teammate and wheeling her around while we explored Calle Crisologo in Vigan, trying out different cuisines and educating our palates – all of these contribute to a sense of camaraderie and shared identity among our team members.

Production and Logistics Attendant Ramil Balaong shared, “Mula po nung makapasok ako sa COMCO, napuntahan ko po ang mga lugar na pinapangarap kong puntahan. Hindi ko po inaasahang sa posisyon ko ay makakasama ako sa pagpunta sa Singapore noong 2023, pero sa COMCO po kahit sino pwedeng makasama basta naabot mo ang requirements at maayos ang performance mo. Walang iwanan dahil kahit anong posisyon makakasama. Hindi ko po makakalimutan ‘yon dahil hindi ko po inaakalang makakapunta po ako sa ibang bansa. Maraming salamat po sa COMCO dahil nakakapunta ako sa mga lugar na gusto kong puntahan” [“Since joining COMCO, I’ve been able to go to places that I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. I didn’t expect that I would be part of the company’s 2023 Awaydays in Singapore with my position, but in COMCO, anyone can join team trips as long as they hit certain milestones. No one gets left behind because anyone from any position can travel with the team. The trip was unforgettable, and I never would have thought that I would be able to go overseas. I would like to thank COMCO for the opportunity to travel to places that I can only dream of”].

While there are no hierarchies in COMCO and our leaders are accessible, it is still possible for some kind of barrier to exist – and team travel breaks that down and fosters an open communication as we interact in a more relaxed and informal setting. There were no traditional office roles when we explored Taronga Zoo in Sydney, the Acropolis in Athens, Disneyland in Tokyo. Our exciting adventures and new experiences promote more equal and open communication among team members.

“Believe it or not, most of my local and international travels are because of COMCO, and my first overseas trip is also with COMCO. I’ve had wonderful memories with the team, and I thank them for giving me wonderful opportunities to experience other cultures and grow closer with them,” shared Queenie Resmundo, Account Operations Manager and Business Unit Administrator Pro Tempore for Public Relations and Communications.

Improves Adaptability and Problem-solving Skills

In a survey report called Back To Blue Skies released by American Express Global Business Travel, respondents said that travel is a way to fuel creativity, innovation, and problem-solving skills, and pushes them to get out of the day-to-day monotony of their jobs and provides opportunities to get out of their comfort zone.

Traveling with a group of people often involves unexpected challenges. Be it an almost missed train in Osaka, rescheduled flights, unapproved visas and passport renewal mishaps, untimely accidents, and of course safety restrictions during the pandemic which made us celebrate Christmas in a yacht instead – we navigated these challenges as a team and sharpened our adaptability and quick problem-solving skills. Our experiences in organizing our itinerary and executing our plans translate directly into the workplace whenever our team is faced with unforeseen obstacles and draws on our shared travel experiences to find creative solutions.

“Traveling with the team in a foreign country helped me learn to adapt quickly to my surroundings. Some countries have different modes of transportation, use different languages, and have different customs and traditions that must be observed. I feel extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to experience different cultures firsthand and that I had the chance to learn about them in our different trips,” shared AC Recio, Senior Account Operations Manager and Business Unit Administrator Pro Tempore for Content Studio and Multimedia Arts.

Broadens Horizons, Introduces New Perspectives and Inspires Creativity

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In our industry where fresh ideas and disruptive initiatives are a key part of our campaigns and day-to-day work, team travel promotes cultural exposure and encourages innovation. We have been exposed to new customs when we traveled to Japan, Australia, Greece, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates (UAE); and even in our own shores in the Philippines when we visited Ilocos, Bataan, Batangas, Baguio, Benguet, Tagaytay, among many others. Our encounter of novel customs, traditions, and viewpoints aids our team members in cultivating cultural awareness, nurturing an inclusive team culture that appreciates and honors diversity. Moreover, embarking on journeys as a team establishes a setting conducive to brainstorming and collaboration and can widen our knowledge about humanity and inspire creativity.

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“I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to visit Japan, Australia, and Greece for the first time with COMCO. These experiences have broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding of the cultures of these countries, as we were able to immerse ourselves in them firsthand rather than simply reading about them in books,” shared Harvey Llamosa, COMCO Mundo’s Chief of Staff to the Group Chief Executive Director and Senior Executive Initiatives and Communications Manager.

Strengthens Team Trust and Camaraderie

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Most importantly, traveling together as a team builds rapport and mutual trust – a foundational element of a strong team culture. Our experiences in exploring different places and navigating unfamiliar territories provide opportunities for our team members to rely on each other, which fosters trust and deepens our bond as a team and among individuals. Our shared journeys and even the challenges and unexpected circumstances create lasting memories that contribute to a sense of loyalty and camaraderie.

“Team travel is an investment that we at COMCO Mundo strongly believe in. These shared experiences of learning, discovering and growing together while immersing in different cultures connects the team like no other, and we’re looking forward to keep this tradition going,” shared Ferdinand Bondoy, Group Chief Executive Director and Lead Strategic Communications Counsel, Partner and Co-Founder of COMCO Mundo.

By investing in travel as part of building up our team, we have unlocked the potential of one another and strengthened our foundation as an agency with a positive and dynamic organizational culture.