More and more companies are opting for at least some remote employees. They offer extensive benefits, from employing a geographically diverse set of people to their ability to work through weather conditions. And most of all, they can save you an unimaginable amount of money in overhead costs. Think about what’s more expensive, keeping an office open five days a week, or having employees find their own places of work.
But there are obvious downsides. Without face-to-face interaction, communication can be limited, technology can fail or exclude less computer-savvy folks, and working from home can get straight up lonely. But many places of work are utilizing a creative solution: taking the money saved every day from working remotely, and spending it on team retreats. Retreats are hugely beneficial for a whole slew of reasons. You get tons of face time with employees you may have never officially met before, which can build trust, help you get to know one another, and strengthen your ability to work together. Plus some work just gets done better in person, so they can be hugely productive too. And if nothing else, they boost morale. Who would want to leave a company that takes them on vacation? Here’s how to plan the company retreat of your dreams.
There are tons of corporate retreat ideas out there, from weekends hiking in the mountains to ones spent exploring new cities, and working trips with fun activities mixed in to spur team building. The important thing is that you set goals for your trip beforehand. Team retreats are definitely a huge expense, and while they’re worth it, especially if you’re saving money on overhead, you’ll want to make sure that they’re as productive as possible.
Think about what you want your retreat to accomplish. Is it strictly for bonding and getting to know one another? Or do you need to get some work done that can’t be done online? Will it be a work trip, a true retreat, or a mix of both? Once you make these decisions, you can choose a location and start mapping out the itinerary.
Some of the best retreats leave time for work and play. That way it’s not totally unproductive, but employees will look back fondly and look forward to next year’s retreat. Plus, it leaves room for getting to know each other naturally, without the clinical, corporate feeling of forced team-building exercises.
Fun retreat ideas could include camping weekends, renting a house on a lake, escaping to the beach, exploring a nearby city or meeting in a different country that holds some of your employees.
Whether your ultimate retreat involves all work or all play, it’s important not to overschedule your employees. In fact, schedule in some downtime to ensure it’s an enjoyable week where everyone can work at their full capacity. If every spare minute involves a networking event, introverts may burn out quickly, and even the most outgoing might crave a minute to lay down or go for a walk. Plus some of the best bonding comes out of spontaneous run-ins. Give employees the space to discover that they both love morning runs or 4 o’clock dips in the pool.
Your budget will largely determine where you escape to, but beyond that, try to pick a spot relatively close to a major airport, where most employees can drive or take direct flights to. You don’t want to pile on any extra “work” to get there.
Many companies have found success in implementing yearly retreats that occur on different dates each year. This way it won’t fall on someone's birthday or family reunion every year. Additionally, having employees arrive a few days apart can help small companies maintain their productivity. If your entire customer service department is out of office on a plane on the same day, it may cause more problems than having them fly out a day apart.
Wondering whether your employees find value in these things? The best and easiest way to find out is to ask them! Feedback can be collected both before and after the retreat in order to assess what will work best for everyone and what can work better in the future.
If you really want employees to be able to relax, connect, and build strong relationships with one another, you don’t want employees to feel as though they aren’t invited to sit with someone more senior during meals or have to stick to work talk. Leave the titles at home and create opportunities to connect on a deeper level, regardless of status.
Some of the best opportunities for getting to know each other happens when breaking bread together. You can encourage bonding by forcing people to mix it up. Assign small groups to eat together for some meals, and have everyone dine together on other occasions. Maybe departments eat together the first day, and then everyone mixes it up the next night, and the week is bookended by large group dinners. But don’t forget to give employees some meals where they can choose to be alone or in smaller groups if they need to recharge.
Depending on the location, company retreats can be a great opportunity to meet clients. If you’re in a city where you have a large customer base, make it your mission to visit their office or invite them to dinner. There’s nothing like face to face contact to cement a relationship with potential clients.
No matter how accommodating you are, there will inevitably be one or two people who just can’t make it. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore them for the week. If there are multiple employees, they could get together for a satellite retreat. If that’s not possible, video chat them in at the very least. After all, you’re already skilled at making remote work happen.
As you can tell, corporate retreats can be amazing opportunities for remote teams. But there are some key steps you can take to make them as engaging, productive, fun and memorable as possible. Let’s review: