The company retreat, meant to be a time for bonding, team building, and relaxation, can easily turn into mandatory fun, especially when employees have to be “voluntold” to go. Given how important company retreats can be to company culture and morale, if you find that most employees are dreading the upcoming trip, or making excuses as to why they can’t make it that sound less than believable, it’s time to reconsider your organization and planning.
First, Refocus: Why Are You Hosting A Retreat?
As your company grows, especially if many employees work remotely or teams are geographically separated, retreats are an important part of creating a common bond and sense of unity within the company.
The extended time spent together also gives quieter team members time to open up and expose their hidden talents and personality quirks, and let down their guard with their coworkers. For many individuals, spending a few hours at a restaurant is not enough time to relax, and the office environment keeps their mental walls up.
Focus on why exactly your brand is hosting a company retreat. What is the goal? Do you have a dispersed team? Are you feeling that there’s a lack of friendships within your company? Has your office been feeling like a ball of tension and nerves that need to be unwound? Is it mainly serving as an employment perk? Once you know why you’re hosting a retreat, you’ll be able to make better decisions about where and what goes on during it.
Planning The Perfect Retreat
Now that you have the “why,” it’s time to look at the “where” and “what.” By examining not only your office culture and needs, but also your employees’ requirements and priorities, you’ll be able to plan a retreat they’ll be raving about for months - or years - to come.
The question of when the retreat takes place, and for how long, will be a careful juggle between when your industry is the most quiet (hint: for most industries, that’s summer) and when the majority of your employees are available for a few nights away from home. This gets more complicated if you have single parents - or parents in general - so don’t be afraid of asking everyone what works best for them. You’ll also want to check the vacation calendar, as causing someone to cancel their vacation is a great way to breed resentment.
The next question is how long will your retreat be? This is almost always directly decided by budget vs. size of staff vs. location. If you’re planning at least one overnight, you’ll need to poll those with commitments outside of work. A single day retreat can sometimes be enough to pull a team together, get some creative juices flowing, and still fit in at least one really fun activity, but if you can, a few days away will instill more of a “camp” vibe that will help your more introverted team members to relax a little.
The important thing here is to either pick something unique that most haven’t done frequently, or to pick something that everyone always likes. Unsurprisingly, the first one is a bit easier, as everyone has different tastes.
If you have the budget for it, consider a destination that’s a bit out of the way for most, but still accessible and full of fun activities. Unless you’re working with a sales team, it’s likely that if a flight is involved, they’ll get excited!
Prefer to stay local? Check out parks, hotels and destinations that are easy driving distance from you. This can be a bonus if you have a few employees who won’t be able to leave at the same time as everyone else - if they can drop in for part of the retreat, they’ll still reap some of the benefits.
I’m a big supporter of more physically active retreats, especially ones that involve nature and sports. Getting your teams moving - and maybe a little scared - encourages bonding over shared experiences. It’s kind of hard to keep your guard up when there’s water, snow or dirt involved.
If you’re not willing or able to include outdoor sports into your retreat, make sure to create some kind of group activity that’s worth looking forward to; generally, this means something a little more exciting than a simple happy hour. If you have a low budget, consider a winery or brewery tour, a movie and dinner, (indoor) rock climbing or even a trip to a local historical site. The more it encourages your employees to play, the better!Have you gone on a particularly great retreat? What’s been your favorite memory with coworkers?