The Basics of Organizing a Productive Work Retreat

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It’s that time of the year again: your company is gearing up for the annual work retreat. The business outing takes coworkers out of the office, and often, the aim is to leave work out of it.

Different companies go for work retreats for various reasons. The primary goal is usually to have colleagues bond or establish rapport. Additionally, such functions strive to reinforce the company culture, and it’s only possible if the out-of-office gathering is designed with this aspect in mind.

The thought of going for a weeklong getaway with workmates isn’t always appealing, but you can make it a worthwhile out-of-office leisure experience by settling for the best retreat location.

Alt-text: A group of people with bowling bowls and a black ball.

Why take the team out of the office?

A company retreat isn’t your typical vacation with colleagues — while it emphasizes relaxation, talking shop is still an important part of the agenda. It’s an opportunity to take the staff members to a tranquil location away from the day-to-day grind.

Having staff mingle more casually allows them to learn more about each other, which in turn strengthens the company’s internal community and ecosystem. It also boosts employee morale contributing towards performance enhancement and overall productivity.

Whether it’s the first out-of-office gathering for the company or one on the list of many, staff members will look forward to enjoying a fun-filled and memorable retreat.

What activities take place during a work retreat?

Company retreats have a reputation for being booze-filled getaways punctuated by corny team-building exercises. They can essentially take shape in whatever form you please, as long as the time always feeds into the main goal.

It goes without saying that a corporate retreat agenda should include the right combination of business, activities, and enough free time for employees to unwind. Having a schedule guides the occasion, but a work retreat should also leave room for spontaneity. These occasions have helped colleagues create lasting memories and forge even stronger working relationships.

A corporate retreat can be a night, weekend, or week-long event. However, the way it’s organized makes or breaks the out-of-office experience. Here are a few activity ideas for your next company retreat.

Alt-text: A group of people toasting over a campfire.

Host a welcome mixer

Once everyone arrives at the retreat venue, a mixer-type gathering sets the tone for the corporate getaway. It can happen as a dinnertime extension just for everyone to get better acquainted and adopt a positive attitude for the rest of the retreat.

Get the meetings out of the way

When colleagues get together, it’s important to plan for an all-hands-on type of meeting with the CEO or board of directors. Schedule them for the earlier parts of the retreat for everyone to discuss the company’s successes and brainstorm how to steer the business to the next level.

Share the discussion points early enough so that everyone is adequately prepared. Split up the sessions and hold them in between other activities to break the monotony of having day-long meetings.

Include visual aids as part of the meetings for more interactive and engaging sessions. Play a video that captures your company culture, or even plans to film one during the retreat. It’s a way of giving an insider look at what it’s like working for the company, and it also serves as a future reminder for everyone down the line.

Team building activities

Let’s face it — team-building activities are part and parcel of a corporate retreat. It doesn’t have to be the usual tug-of-war or sack race activities, but it’s still important to schedule fun and invigorating activities for the team.

Going for a hike, kayaking, cycling, or just exploring the surroundings on foot are great options. If the retreat venue has golfing, rock climbing, or basketball courts, allow team members to make the most out of these facilities.

Encourage participation, but don’t make it mandatory. Teammates will enjoy having the freedom to choose their dose of relaxation that will help them leave feeling well-rested.

Make mealtimes mini events

Use meal times as a way of introducing even more fun to the retreat. Break down the team into groups, and make sure at the end of the getaway everyone has met and mingled.

It doesn’t hurt to indulge in a drink or two. A tour of a vineyard or brewery is a great way to turn it into an event.

Schedule a cooking class for the team to learn how to whip up a new delicacy. It helps build camaraderie, with a meal to look forward to at the end of the activity.

Game nights

Provide board games that colleagues can enjoy during downtimes. Host a game night and include fun activities with an element of getting to know each other beyond just being colleagues.

Where should you host a work retreat?

Individual companies settle for specific retreat locations for various reasons. At the same time, work retreats can happen virtually anywhere. You want most, if not all, employees to make it to the corporate getaway.

First things first: people don’t like being stuck on a long bus ride even if the payoff is reaching a paradise-like destination. It doesn’t have to be an out-of-town location, but if jetting away works for everyone, plan, and budget for flights or other hassle-free modes of transport.

Remote campsites, resorts, and boutique hotels are popular choices for work retreats. Just make sure that the chosen location has the necessary facilities that allow the team to access facilities like a boardroom or conference equipment.

Organize your next productive work retreat: final thoughts

Schedule time to wind up your retreat by thanking the team for their participation, summarizing discussions, and reviewing decisions made. The progress made shouldn’t come to a halt, and issuing assignments for implementation helps to reinforce the overall agenda. Last but not least, close it off with a final fun gathering so that the getaway ends on an equally high note just like it started.

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