How To Plan An Inspiring Corporate Retreat That Will Empower Your Team

Remote companies and hybrid teams may enjoy optimal working conditions that allow them to be their most productive selves, but it’s not uncommon to hear that two people have been working together for years without ever being in the same workspace. Maintaining a consistent company culture and enabling remote and hybrid teams to connect has been a challenge for leaders around the world, making many of them consider organizing a corporate offsite.

A company offsite can create an opportunity for your team to get to know each other, collaborate better, and keep their spirits up during challenging times. It’s also an excellent way to remove yourself from the professional environment and relax for a moment.

But planning a company retreat is a complex task, especially if your team is scattered all around the globe. In this article, we’ll share some tried and true tips on how to make your next company retreat memorable and inspiring for your team members.

What is a company retreat?

A company retreat is an event or, more usually, a trip a company organizes for its employees to take a break from their regular work routine, especially their typical work environment. The retreat allows the entire team to engage in fun and dynamic team-building activities, brainstorming sessions, or other types of exercises designed to enable team bonding and improve collaboration, like:

  • Group discussions
  • Problem-solving exercises
  • Team-building games
  • Outdoor activities

A company retreat can take various forms. It can be an offsite trip to a new location, a weekend getaway, or a day-long event. Whatever form you choose, it’s critical to have it happen away from your usual workspace, especially if your team spends a lot of time working on-site.

What’s the purpose of a company retreat?

The purpose of a company retreat is to improve communication, increase team cohesion, and enhance the overall productivity of the organization, also being an opportunity for a team bonding experience, where employees can build stronger relationships and have fun in a relaxed and informal environment.

  • Talking business: A work environment that’s not your office can help you remove the usual tension many people feel at work. That improves dialogue and makes communication more effective, according to various surveys.
  • Learning more about each other: Corporate retreats are an excellent opportunity for teams to learn more about their colleagues. People are more than their resumes and professional skills; their character is what they bring to work along with their knowledge.
  • Having fun: One purpose of the retreat you organize for the team can also be to simply have fun. After all, when you let your mind relax, you open the door to creativity. It’s not unheard of that an excellent business idea came from a fun team-building event.

Why plan a company offsite?

You may experience plenty of benefits if you plan a team-building offsite. Here’s what an in-person event can do for your team.

Better interpersonal relationships

Spending time together in a relaxed, non-work environment can help team members get to know each other better and build stronger relationships. This can lead to improved communication and collaboration, which are essential for effective teamwork. Your team members will also learn how to communicate more efficiently. By engaging in various team-building experiences and working together towards common goals, they’ll also develop trust in each other's abilities and intentions.

Reduced stress

A more informal setting helps employees relax and stop worrying about every word they’ll say or every deadline they have to meet. When they’re not overwhelmed with work-related tasks, they may be more open to suggestions and resolving any potential conflicts. As an employer, you may be able to identify what your employees miss in the workplace to fulfill their optimal performance or find ways to reduce pressure and burnout in the office.

Boosted creativity

A company retreat can have a good ROI because it allows for work sessions in a more relaxed setting. Many people enjoy chatting with their colleagues and supervisors, but doing it while on a retreat is an entirely new dimension, giving everyone a chance to talk and exchange ideas as equals. Also, a change of scenery can help get your creative juices flowing. Working in a more relaxed environment that’s different from our usual home office setup, experiencing new sounds, smells, and visuals can do wonders for our creative thinking process.

Improved productivity

A well-planned and executed retreat that involves employee recognition and performance-related activities can help employees feel more valued and appreciated, leading to increased productivity and better results for the company. Having the entire team in the same room gives you space to talk to everyone about their role and performance at the company face to face, resolve any unaddressed conflicts, and give any kudos that are in order. This will positively affect employee engagement and morale, pushing employees to be even more productive.

How to plan a company offsite

The retreat planning process may seem overwhelming, but it shouldn’t be too challenging to get it right if you take it step by step and start planning ahead.

After all, we did it! Gable’s team spent an amazing week in New York City getting to know each other in person after two years of working together remotely. The event was an enormous success, and the team now feels more connected to each other, more aligned with company goals, and more confident in our team member’s expertise.

Read more about how we approached the challenges of gathering a fully distributed team and our team-building exercises during the retreat.

1. Determine the company retreat location

What retreat venue you’ll choose depends on:

  • What time of year you’ve chosen
  • What your retreat goals are
  • Where your teammates are

Bad weather can ruin a carefully planned event if you don’t have an indoor alternative, especially if you want to spend some time in nature. Camping is great, but if you’re planning a fall retreat, chances are there will be a lot of rain in many regions, so plan accordingly. Also, traveling off-season may be more affordable and less exhausting, so you can save both time and energy for when you actually meet up.

We chose New York because of its fantastic energy and because this location provided us with a chance to create an equitable offsite experience, given that we have no team members who reside in NYC, so everyone had to fly in.

To pick your perfect location, think about the goal of your company offsite.

If you’re looking to generate some great business ideas, look for venues with large conference rooms, stable and fast Wi-Fi, and all the necessary equipment like projectors and large whiteboards. If you want to relax and recharge, a corner with unspoiled nature may work better.

But if you still want a nice meeting room to accommodate breakout sessions: check out this amazing co-working space in NYC.

Think about who’s going to attend the event, too. Is it only for executives or the whole company? Make sure the location is accessible to everyone, and if you’re planning to make it a two-day retreat or an even longer one, make sure you also book accommodation and transport, if necessary.

Our tip: Check if any of your team members need visa assistance to travel. You may be able to help speed up the process with invitation letters or other paperwork.

Finally, ensure that the venue you’ve chosen has good catering options. Depending on the size of your team, barbecuing may also be one of the activities you can do together.

Get our Corporate Event Planning Checklist!

2. Set a company retreat theme and goals

To make your company offsite even more interesting, pick a theme. This way, you’ll be able to pick and organize all activities and games to align with the primary theme of your offsite.

You’ll easily choose a theme if you know what your offsite goals are. What are you hoping to achieve with this retreat? Better interpersonal relationships within your team? Improved individual performance of your team members?

If you want, for example, to make everyone feel more like a part of the team and help them understand the company’s values better, that can be a good theme for a retreat. You can plan your activities and speeches around that topic and add games that will boost team spirit and highlight the importance of teamwork. Order and distribute company swag to create an even stronger sense of belonging in your team: caps, T-shirts, planners, pens, mugs, and more.

“We didn't have a specific agenda in sight right away, but we did know one thing: our offsite was not going to try and replicate the office experience. The last thing we wanted was for our team to fly halfway around the world just to sit at desks, headphones in, and work in solitude,” says Liza Mash Levin, Gable’s CEO.

3. Create a company retreat agenda

Even though you’re in an informal setting, you should have an agenda to match the specific goals for the retreat. What’s essential for a good agenda? Remember these things:

  1. People’s focus will likely be lower than in the office. Ensure the activities don’t last for too long - about an hour each is just fine. After each activity, whether it’s a quiet coworking session or a dynamic scavenger hunt, your team should have some downtime. Rest is necessary to keep the energy at an optimal level.
  2. Include activities in which all your employees will participate and plan for each department to have some separate games and tasks that will help them grow as a team. Have a backup plan for team members who don’t want to engage in particular activities—not everyone’s a fan of sports or board games. All participation should be voluntary.
  3. Leave enough “free time” without any activities planned. Unstructured time at the end of each day will let your team reflect on what they’ve been doing all day and help them gather their thoughts and insights.

“The north star of our offsite planning was to design an agenda that maximizes the impact of the time we'll spend together. Our primary focus was on fostering meaningful connections and collaborations, sparking fresh ideas, and having fun together,” says Liza Mash Levin.

4. List company retreat games and activities

What’s a retreat without a few games? It’s what adds the final touch to your company offsite—the time when everyone can have fun, laugh, and wind down.

Include all kinds of retreat games and activities into your plan to match everyone’s personality. There can be:

  • Sports (or any games that require physical strength or fitness)
  • Knowledge and trivia quizzes
  • Pictionary
  • Cultural shows (especially if you’re a global team)
  • Sightseeing tours (if you’re in a city for the first time)
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Team contest for the best business idea/slogan/creative solution for a problem
  • Guessing games that will let your employees get to know each other better
  • Cooking classes
  • Fancy team celebration event

and more.

Top tip: Don’t forget to start each activity with an icebreaker to help set the right tone for the game. Here’s our list of cool icebreaker questions and games to try.

Can a virtual company retreat improve employee engagement?

Skift found that around 70% of corporate travelers believe building professional relationships in a hybrid work environment is challenging. However, difficult doesn’t mean impossible!

In fact, if you run a remote or hybrid team, virtual company retreats can be an excellent way to facilitate team bonding and help your team work more efficiently even if you’re not able to get them all in the same room.

It’s critical to plan activities a few months ahead and ensure you have adequate technical support for the event. If you have a remote team, a virtual offsite may be the only way to hold a team-building event. Luckily, there are many virtual retreat activities you can do together, from the company bingo or culture shows if you have people from different backgrounds to various contests and fun rewards.

Get some tips on how to host a brilliant virtual retreat for your team.

Plan a perfect company retreat with Gable

We know how much it means to you to be able to spend time with your team in person. We’re in the same boat, and we want to sail together as often as possible!

That’s why Gable helps you find incredible locations and venues for your team retreat, too. We’re not all about the office—we also want to enable distributed teams to pick the ideal spot for their company offsite and have the best and most inspiring time together. You can also manage the entire event with our Gable Events feature.

Check out our vetted locations worldwide and book them with just a few clicks through your Gable account.

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Andrea Rajic