Forget visions of you and the team hanging out around a campfire singing Kumbaya – corporate retreats have gone luxe and there’s no better way to bring a group together by Cora Lydon
1 It forges strong bonds
A workaction (AKA working while on vacation) could be just the thing you need to get to know Marge in accounts better or to bond over beverages with the new guy in the office. The whole point of a corporate retreat is to connect at many levels as a team – and that’s rarely possible if your setting is a bland conference room. A retreat, on the other hand, expertly blends the needs of the corporation with the ability to relax attendees and create shared opportunities. Ultimately you want to develop a strong team who share a positive culture and the best way to help foster that is to create the right compelling atmosphere. And it doesn’t have to be just the old Trust Fall activity that can shake up a team – today’s corporate retreat activities tend to be less obvious and highly effective. If you can develop a strong team then you have a team who can communicate with each other better, who implicitly trusts each other and who has an enhanced appreciation for each other – and that brings about increased productivity when you’re back to the 9-5pm routine.
2 It shakes up routine
It’s not called a retreat for nothing. No one will be fooled if you set your retreat in a local conference centre – so if you’re going to do it, do it well. Getting away from the office is absolutely vital to ensure no one is constricted by the role they play when in the office. Office attire and attitudes should be left at the door when the retreat starts. By getting as far away as you can from the corporate world you can also bring out the best in everybody by unshackling them from their usual routines. Plus, everyone will be far more relaxed if the focus is shifted from outside the office, and the change of pace will refresh and revitalise a team.
3 It encourages shared success
Once in the office the average keyboard warrior tends to be focused on their own successes, but a corporate retreat focuses on success as a group and the activities planned are usually designed to encourage teams to pull together, rely on each other and cheer each other on. Being able to share in this experience will help a group recreate this in the office when it’s most needed. It’s also useful to eliminate any hierarchies and ensure everyone attending is given equal footing.
4 Hidden talents are revealed
Despite the fact that you may spend all day fielding calls for the boss and sourcing new venues, do your co-workers know what your other talents may be? Probably not, but by taking teams out of their regular patterns and tasking them with new problems and challenges everyone has their chance to shine. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about how people function, their attitudes to risk and how they cope with problems and all of this information gained can be put to good use back in the office. Organising challenges throughout the day will help bring a team together and get them identifying people’s strengths and weaknesses and delegating – the same skills they use to survive a night in the wilderness, are the ones that will be invaluable in the office.
Ready to plan one?
So, if we’ve convinced you to approach the boss to approve a retreat for the team these should be your next steps:
Start at the beginning: Before you get carried away and start booking you first need to determine your end goal – do you want to foster great collaboration? Kick start a brainstorm? Shake things up in a staid workplace? Once you decide what the objectives are you can consider whether you’re after a teambuilding slant, a skills building session or more inspirational activities. Team building has become its own science and there organisations that focus almost exclusively on teambuilding and training, for a happier and more productive workplace. A conversation with an expert will offer you some interesting insights, not least of all because they are not part of your business and therefore in a position to be completely objective.
Location, location, location: The location can really make or break your plans. You want to whisk staff away to somewhere away from the office, away from distractions yet close to amenities. You’ll also need to consider that it has the space and facilities to host what you need either onsite or somewhere in the vicinity.
Find a facilitator: Yes, you or one of your colleagues could facilitate the retreat – but it’s far better to get an impartial person to manage this side of things. You can also find someone who can not only play referee but also who has some specialist knowledge that they’d be willing to share to get more bang for your buck. Alternatively you may find that a teambuilding business has the perfect package for you.
Always plan breaks: Despite the fact that you’re out of the office you still need to ensure adequate breaks – especially during any information sessions. The average person’s attention span will start to waiver after about 90 minutes, not to mention most people will be itching to check their phones by then too. Longer, activity-based sessions will need less regular breaks so why not plan your day to mix up the types of sessions being offered and pepper them with breaks.
Consider the final details: If you’re hoping for outdoor activities, always have a back-up plan just in case of any seasonal downpours; plan the first and last days around any hotel check ins and outs to make the day easier for attendees; if the retreat is for more than one night, consider going off site to eat for subsequent meals so people can try something different; ensure the location is easily reachable by public transport or arrange transport options. Put yourself in the delegates’ shoes and check that everything will be as comfortable for them as possible.