How to host a team retreat

For most of us, a Work from anywhere Workplace model was a new concept three years ago. While some companies, like our team at VSC, are offered on a weekly basis remote working days, the prospect of never returning to the office would have seemed unimaginable. For years, our offices were the center of our work, where we met clients, collaborated with colleagues, celebrated successes and solved problems.

However, as the pandemic forced us to leave these familiar spaces, we found new ways to connect.

Remote working has opened up endless opportunities for employees across the global workforce. Working parents found new opportunities for flexibility and work-life balance, while others sought to travel and found happiness in exploring new cities or visiting friends and family while still getting work done.

However, many of us were still missing something: personal contact.

How to externally host a destination

Offsite, retreat, and face-to-face meetings have sprung up to fill the gap. These meetings are an increasingly important tool for building your culture at a work-from-anywhere company and for reminding employees that their colleagues are more than just a face on the screen.

At VSC, our partners invited our team to our second 3-day retreat in Hawaii last December. Peppered with team building and fun group activities, we gave our team the opportunity to play together, socialize and celebrate victories together.

As we move into the new year and make plans for 2023, here are three ways you can build an exciting and impactful offsite for your team:

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A case for no work, all play

The pandemic has proven that you can work from anywhere. Spending time with your co-workers, however, cannot.

We know that for teams like ours, which has employees in 15 different states and two countries, it’s not always easy to bring everyone together in one place. When we do that, we want to make the most of our time together personally.

In our experience, an all-play offsite with no work works best. Rather than hosting meetings or sitting in conference rooms listening to presentations, investing in small-group activities specific to your remote location, like ziplining, surfing, hiking, or horseback riding, can have a big impact in establishing a positive workplace culture. Each of these activities provides opportunities for bonding and allows teams to build lasting relationships and memories with their peers.

The reality is that people work better together when they get along. Your offsite should prioritize improving your team’s collective EQ by having fun and enjoying some well-deserved time partying while disconnected.

Offer flexibility when booking trips

Making it easier for your team to come together is an essential first step in creating a successful offsite. Offer your employees a flight stipend based on ticket costs and allow your employees to make their own travel bookings. This allows them to choose their stops and length of stay. As an added benefit of a remote workforce, some of your team members may choose to remain remote after it ends.

It’s difficult to get everyone in the right place, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on the little things. Your offsite is an opportunity to prove the value of your culture—make it memorable with goodie bags of site-specific items like sunscreen, branded towels, bottled water, flip-flops, and branded incidental gift cards.

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To ensure your team can revisit their memories after the trip, consider hiring a photographer who is available for group photos and snapshots. Not only can these be used later for social media, but they will also remind you of the fun you had together.

Encourage employees to stay connected

When colleagues make friends, it can be hard to say goodbye at the end of the offsite. If your colleagues are planning new times to meet independently after offsite, consider organizing local meetings once everyone has returned home.

While a dispersed workforce means not everyone can attend the local meetings every time, in big cities setting a place, date and time for small groups to meet can help them stick to their plans to IRL too connect. After all, the offsite is only a few days a year. If your goal is to build a team that works well together throughout the year, especially as new members join, these smaller gatherings build on the momentum of bringing all teams together to solidify your company culture.

To get the ball rolling, share some upcoming meeting dates while you’re in the field.

prioritize connection

As budgets shrink and with them the workforce, the value of the connection is perhaps more important than ever. By prioritizing your team’s happiness and ensuring they have opportunities to foster lasting relationships with their colleagues, your offsite proves your team can have the best of both worlds: a flexible work environment and the benefits of personal connectivity.

Anne Sophie Hurst is a highly experienced agency professional with more than 20 years of leadership experience in digital brand engagement for the retail, technology and start-up industries. As Head of People and Partner at VSCshe leads the team and operations while nurturing a strong corporate culture spread across fifteen states, two countries and five time zones where the company’s 40 employees work remotely.

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