Years ago, I worked for a charity as an Outreach Worker, engaged in visiting people who were house/bed-bound in my area, and even though they may not have needed any jobs done (hauling peat became a personal achievement), they may just have needed someone to talk to outside the family, or to discuss their condition, and I would report back on both their physical and mental status. I would ensure their safety – no cables draped across the floor to catch them unawares, no tea towels left on top of the stove to catch fire, enough milk in the fridge or bread in the ‘press’ - (from an Irish word 'prios', meaning a place to store things).

This was rural Ireland, and most of whom I met were country folk, tending a few acres of land for vegetables or turf, where perhaps they only met their neighbours at church if they were able to get there. I was employed by the Association but sometimes came away with an armful of veggies as a ‘thank you’ from a grateful family member.

I was not alone

Across Ireland were many others doing the same as I was, a team of 20/30 or so, and we never saw each other, except at formal meetings now and again that were called to discuss procedures or protocols.

I guess our team building started with learning physiotherapy, attending college and practicing our new skills on each other, together with testing each other on bone and muscle names and so on.

Our Team Leaders then had the bright idea of organising a Team Building weekend, and a date was set at a venue miles away from anywhere, nestled at the base of a massive upheaval of a hill, not quite a mountain, but I wouldn’t have wanted to climb it on a wet day. The upside of this isolated spot was that there was no phone signal, so we were pretty much isolated, and those with young families were at a distinct advantage by not being in touch to answer domestic problems!

Fun Weekend

I must say this was the best weekend I have ever spent, despite me moaning that it wasn’t going to be my ‘cup of tea’. We did get to know each other, and had to work as teams doing silly things – for instance, one exercise was to divide into two teams, one team blindfolded and instructed to put up a tent, while the others gave verbal instructions on how to do it - and to make it harder, we were inside a roped off ‘boxing ring’ square, where stepping outside the ropes was considered a fall from the imagined mountain and incurring a ‘time out’ penalty. Orienteering in the pouring rain (more like mud-wrestling), and the safe way to point a bow and arrow in an archery competition were also on the agenda.

Now what do people do?

Since the pandemic, our lives have changed in ways that are beyond our norms. We were forced to adjust our old routines and habits on how we did things on a daily basis. Even companies and corporations had to do the same, and one area affected was team building. Many people were forced into working remotely, but team building was able to continue - online at the time - called Virtual Team Building, and this is still possible. A creative range of virtual activities and entertaining games was offered, with features that were designed to impart new knowledge while also bringing a smile to employees' faces - modern, high-quality activities that were suitable for everyone.

But physical team building is still alive and kicking - even here in Portugal – where organisations can arrange partnerships with hotels, restaurants, etc for team-building days or weekends, including any special requests if required. They can take care of organising a stay regardless of the size of the number, and take care of any meals, snacks or drinks that might be necessary.

The benefits of team-building include building and strengthening connections, inspiring confidence and improving communication and morale within employee groups, and crucially, identifying leaders for the future.


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan