Being divided into and within departments can create such a significant amount of distance that it can be easy to lose sight of common goals. Even if you see the same people every day in passing, people who work for the same company can still feel disconnected from one another.
Aside from a yearly holiday party, it can seem like the team is more segmented and not together. A company retreat can take individual people who work for the same company and make them all come together as one team.
What is a company retreat?
A company retreat is a team building outing for members of a single company. Attending a company retreat can be the perfect outing to help the community break down walls and enjoy activities away from the stresses of the office. Though the needs of your particular company should be considered, the overall idea is for participants to enjoy an activity or set of activities that promote team bonding. Some retreats can last for a day while others can take place over a weekend or even a week depending on the company’s budget, schedule and desired outcome.
What should you do on a work retreat?
These ideas can be implemented for fast day trips or for longer outings. There are many possibilities of where to take your work crew, but here are a few ideas to get started:
1. Belt out the tunes with your team.
People may say that ‘the eyes are the window to the soul,’ but the true window is someone’s go-to karaoke song. Set up a booth and have team members show off their singing skills. The evening is sure to end with plenty of surprises and laughs!
2. Dance it out.
Learn a group dance at a studio for an experience that’s likely to be a first for many. Having an instructor come in to teach popular choreography can be an awesome way to get the blood pumping and everyone to share a common experience.
3. Escape the room.
Nothing says teamwork like coming together to get out of a room together. Completing an escape room with colleagues is an ideal way to get everyone to work together by solving puzzles and putting together clues.
4. Break out a bow and arrow.
Channel your inner Katniss Everdeen by heading to the archery range. Having an expert show everyone how to do something indisputably cool will leave everyone walking away with fun stories to be recounted time and time again by the watercooler.
5. Attend a professional development workshop.
If you’re interested in putting on a retreat with a really solid take away, sign your team up for a professional development workshop. There are options for almost any facet of the workplace, and this can be a great route if many members of the company are lacking in the same area.
Whether your team members are Top Chefs or kitchen novices, setting up an interactive cooking demonstration can bring everyone together. Making pizza from scratch or baking a batch of perfect brownies are delicious ways to get everyone involved. Bonus: attention to detail, patience and perseverance are all skills that come in handy in the office and in the kitchen.
7. Paint & sip.
Uncork a bottle, uncap some paint and relax with wine and art creating with your team. Paint & sip sessions are a low-key way to unwind with coworkers and have a fun piece of art to take with you at the end. Many session leaders give you outlines to start off and talk you through the process, so it’s essentially a paint-by-number activity but for grown ups!
8. Take a hike.
Gather with your coworkers to collectively enjoy a breath of fresh air. Get away from harsh florescent lights and get under the sun! Overcoming a difficult climb and take in a beautiful view is an ideal way to bond outside of the office.
9. Be an Olympian for a day.
Setting up a mini-Olympics for coworkers can give everyone a chance to shine. Obstacle courses are an ideal way to help everyone work together and really put those teamwork skills to the test!
10. Head to a local farm.
Visiting a local farm is an awesome way to get out of the office and into nature. Being able to milk a cow or pick up fresh eggs can be a nice change of pace to connect with animals. Slowing down can be just the break everyone needs.
11. Make something great at a pottery class.
Throw it back to art class and create an object that will last beyond the outing. Making something useful or beautiful will allow colleagues to tap into their creative side.
12. Have a blast at laser tag.
Enjoy a communal adrenaline rush with a few rounds of laser tag! Running around in a fun environment and being able to tap into their inner child.
13. Think on your feet.
Learn the tricks of the acting trade by taking an improv class with coworkers. Many practices that are used on improv teams are transferrable to teams of all kinds. Communication and teamwork essential skills and honing them through theater games can get everyone involved.
14. Have a fireside chat.
Get out of the office and into nature by bonding over s'mores and stargazing. Relieve your camp days and sit by the fire. Just don't forget the insect repellent!
15. Get sporty with your team.
Dig out your favorite jersey and root for a sports team with your coworkers. Heading to a local stadium can be a great way to bond with other employees in a super casual environment. If you're putting together a longer retreat, maybe even schedule a basic lesson or intramural match.
5 tips for planning a company retreat
How do you narrow down the options when there are so many to choose from? Here are some of the most important things to consider before you even send the ‘save the date’ cards to staff:
Understand the ‘why.’ Before you begin creating concrete plans, decide what you want your team members to take away from the retreat. Do you want people who have worked together for a long time to get to know one another on a deeper level? Blow off some steam after a particularly stressful quarter? Integrate new employees in with older ones? Having an understanding of what you want to do should strongly inform what activity you select.
Establish a budget. Decide how much your company will be able to spend on the activities. You may have a great idea, but if there isn’t enough money to make it happen, you’ll run into trouble. Keep stress levels low by creating and maintaining a budget that will keep your company from overspending. Make sure you’ve contacted the venue where the retreat will be hosted and develop a definite understanding of what’s included to avoid hidden charges later. Understanding what your company will be able to provide financially will help you manage expectations while also providing the best experience possible.
Ask for input from your team members. Once you’ve established your goals for the trip and have narrowed your retreat down to a few different possibilities, ask those who will be attending to vote on the top choices. Leave plenty of room for commentary so that people can voice concerns if they need to. For instance, if someone on your team is unable to do physically strenuous activities, you should rule out booking a dance class or game of laser tag. If not everyone is comfortable being around alcohol, scheduling a paint & sip won’t be the best option. Ensure that you’ve decided on an activity where everyone will feel comfortable. Also, make sure that the timing works for as many people as possible. If one department has a major deadline scheduled for the week after the retreat, that can add stress and cause the retreat to seem more like a hinderance than a help.
Create a schedule. While retreats should definitely be fun, there also needs to be structure. Let employees know that they should save the date as far in advance as possible. Once you have a general idea of the time frame, book a venue as soon as you can. Plan out breaks, free time and meals according to the length of the retreat and scheduled activities. This will help keep the events on track and allow team members to get the most out of the experience.
- Choose the right venue. Make sure that the venue you select will fit the needs of what you have planned. For instance, if you plan on hosting a cooking demo, select a spot with plenty of kitchen space. If you intend to set up obstacle courses, make sure your venue has lots of even ground outside to set up.
Though the prospect of planning a retreat may seem overwhelming at first, taking time to follow these steps and determine what activities will provide the best experience for your team members will pay off in the long run. Taking time to bond with the team will help contribute to a positive company culture that'll pay off.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.