Have you moved your work retreat for the umpteenth time because it just doesn’t fit into the schedule (or budget) this quarter? Team retreats are often viewed as unnecessary expenses that do not directly impact productivity. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Team retreats boost morale, create more empathy between and among departments, and give vital time for your team to recharge.
In a professional consulting company like Beacon Digital, we find that retreats are even more challenging because the nature of our work requires constant client and customer interactions.
Planning a team retreat can be intimidating, especially if you’re coordinating a mostly remote team, as many of us are in the post-COVID working environment. From setting boundaries to planning activities, here are my suggestions for planning a retreat that leaves your team refreshed and refocused on your business and clients.
Set expectations for work and activity time during the retreat
One workweek tends to be the perfect amount of time for a retreat. I’ve found that a schedule like the following works best for our employees and clients. By sprinkling in time to work, our employees feel comfortable being out of the office for a week and are better able to focus on retreat activities during the designated times. Once you have set specific working hours, make sure all employee’s tasks are manageable during those hours. If not, consider if the deadlines can be moved forward or backward to better accommodate.
- Monday - Regular day
- Tuesday - Work half-day and/or travel
- Wednesday - Retreat activities with scheduled time for co-working
- Thursday - Retreat activities and fully offline (with built-in breaks for checking emails if needed)
- Friday - Retreat activities and fully offline (with built-in breaks for checking emails if needed)
Clearly communicate with clients
Send your clients or customers notification of the retreat several weeks in advance so they have time to prepare any questions or needs beforehand. Your announcement can include why you believe team retreats are necessary to your company and why they will benefit the client. Reschedule meetings in advance so your clients or customers can look forward to your next conversation and don’t feel neglected.
In addition to setting up out-of-office emails, try creating an email signature template that includes a reminder about the upcoming retreat. For example, “X Company offices will be closed __-__ for our company retreat.”
Connect and recharge
The overall goal of a retreat should be to connect and recharge. This requires creating time and space for activities that allow the team to bond and relax together. Examples include afternoon small group activities like scavenger hunts or team lunches.
Activities should never be forced. Instead, try sending a survey to employees and breaking them into groups based on their activity preferences. Mix up various departments whenever possible so more individuals get the opportunity to meet others outside of their day-to-day team.
Look into hiring a coordination company to assist with activity planning. We’ve used Hosts Global in the past and have been very happy with their work. This ensures that no employees have to miss out on the fun because they’re busy hosting.
Workshop and brainstorm
In-person, off-site retreats are the perfect environment to discuss current goals and potential ways of achieving those goals. Because you are not boxed in by your normal environment, new ideas might flourish. By involving more employees in these decisions, they will take more ownership and be more excited about the company’s path. Retreats are also a great opportunity for top leadership to show some transparency. At Beacon, we discuss the future of our company at each retreat, clearly outlining each department’s and team member’s role in that future.
Thought leadership presentations have also become a popular workshop during our retreats. We invite members from each department to share their role in the company and how their work affects clients. This has been hugely beneficial for employees to understand the various pieces of our company and the importance of collaboration between the departments.
Learn from the process
Once the retreat is over, send out an anonymous survey asking for feedback on lodging, meals, activities, and workload. Ask which activities they felt were most beneficial and why. For example, we learned that one retreat per year was simply not enough! Our employees felt that they could have benefited from at least two retreats per year so they had more time to digest the information and get to know their co-workers better.
The best retreats will result in more team members feeling excited about what they do and having better relationships with their co-workers. This turns into a desire to contribute more to the business and its growth. You’ll likely also see increased employee retention and satisfaction.
While the retreat may be only a week, the effects are long-lived and visible in every aspect of the business. After our most recent retreat in Las Vegas, for example, team members have asked about helping with presentations and planning for the next retreat. They’re eager to contribute to internal blogs and other content. Team members feel seen, which is reflected in the way we engage with one another. By learning more about what our coworkers do, we see that no matter how different our roles or departments may seem, we’re all working together towards the same goal: a thriving business that consistently delivers awesome results to our high-growth clients.
Posted In: Company Retreat
Ilana Hernandez is the Human Resources Manager for Beacon Digital Marketing. She has a passion for community building and is committed to supporting and empowering women-owned businesses like Beacon Digital. She earned a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Marketing from LIM College.