Company retreats have become a popular strategy for organizations seeking to enhance teamwork, alignment with the company strategy, boost team morale, and drive productivity. 

This blog post will delve into the transformative power of company retreats and provide practical tips for planning and organizing an unforgettable experiences for your teams.

Why should your company invest in retreats? 

At Subvisual we do retreats since ever because we always felt the need to, periodically, go to a different place, block the agenda and take some time to talk about us, our challenges and issues or even just to spend time together and bond. Since the pandemic we, like many other companies, became a remote first company and retreats became even more important after this. 

The flexibility of working from anywhere is a real advantage but it doesn’t come without some significant challenge:  It's hard to create strong bonds when we're mostly connecting virtually, loneliness or poor engagement might rise, online calls’ fatigue or superficial connections between team members.

This is why our company retreat holds such importance. 

During these retreats, our team members will find the time, space and opportunities to connect on a much deeper level and build relationships that are hard to establish remotely. A quick example from our experience, would be how meeting face-to-face enables a better understanding of each other's working styles and communication preferences. This understanding has decreased significantly attrition in cooperation experience which leads to a positive impact in how our team experiences teamwork and camaraderie.

Company retreats create an environment for your team to step away from their daily routines, break down barriers, and form meaningful connections. By dedicating time solely to team bonding and collaboration, organizations can witness increased motivation, improved communication, and a more profound sense of belonging.

At Subvisual, we witnessed firsthand its incredible impact on our team. Since 2013, we've been organizing retreats twice a year, and throughout this journey, we have been continuously learning and striving to improve. Exploring different locations, work sessions, and team-building activities and gathering feedback from our team before and after each retreat has been instrumental in creating better experiences. We learn that every retreat is unique and serves a specific purpose tailored to the context of our company. Despite these differences, one common thread unites them: our team consistently feels highly energized, motivated, and aligned after each retreat. 

How to plan and organize a corporate retreat? 5 practical tips. 

Planning a successful company retreat requires careful consideration and meticulous organization. Here are some practical tips to guide you:

1. Define clear objectives and align them with company goals and context

At Subvisual, we approach our retreat planning with the guidance of three simple yet essential questions:

  1. We ask ourselves about the primary goal of the retreat (beyond team building).
  2. We reflect on the driving forces that motivate us as a team, encapsulating them in a few words that serve as constant reminders during the planning process.
  3. We outline the specific outputs we expect from the retreat.

By anchoring our planning around these thoughtful questions and adapting to the team or business momentum, we ensure our retreat experiences remain purposeful, focused, and impactful for the entire team.

2. Select a location that caters to both work and leisure activities.

The heart of any memorable retreat lies in its location and activities. Whether it's an adrenaline-pumping adventure course or a serene nature hike, each activity should foster collaboration, boost morale, and ignite creativity. 

At Subvisual, we highly value having a dedicated space exclusively for our team, providing privacy and comfort for focused work sessions and conversations. Additionally, we seek a location that offers an optimal balance between work and leisure, with ample room for work sessions and opportunities for social activities like board games, which we thoroughly enjoy. During the summer, a pool for relaxation during free time and serene spots outside for reading or socializing are cherished aspects. In the winter, we seek the warmth and coziness of a fireplace. We tend to opt for locations with natural surroundings, even if they may not have various activities available. The tranquil ambiance of being in the heart of nature outweighs the proximity to a bustling city. Lastly, a well-equipped kitchen is a must, as we find joy in cooking and preparing meals for each other, fostering a sense of community and shared experiences.

Take the time to communicate openly and engage in active discussions with your team to understand their preferences, needs, and desires. 

3. Craft an engaging Retreat Agenda: striking a balance between Team-Building, Work Sessions, and Free Time

Thoughtfully considering the retreat agenda is crucial for an impactful experience. 

The goal, drives, and outputs expected previously defined guide us during this process. 

Our work sessions are thoughtfully structured to encourage collaboration, creativity, and productivity. They also have an outcome expected at the end. However, we keep flexible and adapt the work session agenda if needed. Having many work sessions can be counterproductive and drain our team's energy. 

We recognize the value of free time, which often leads to organic team-building experiences. At Subvisual, we realized that we foster lasting connections during these moments through games, shared cooking, and simple yet meaningful conversations.

Additionally, we plan at least one memorable team activity that brings everyone together in a fun and challenging way. Each team activity leaves a lasting impression, from exciting karting races to adventurous canoeing trips, from thrilling paintball battles to collaborative design exercises, and even mind-bending escape rooms.

It's worth mentioning that we didn't have a team activity in one of our previous retreats, and it still proved to be a memorable and rewarding experience. So, if you can't organize activities in a specific location, remember there are many other enjoyable ways to bond and create lasting memories.

By crafting an agenda that balances team-building exercises, productive work sessions, and ample free time for organic bonding, we ensure our retreats at Subvisual remain enriching and unforgettable for the entire team.

4. Pay attention to logistics

Paying meticulous attention to logistics is crucial to ensure a smooth retreat. At Subvisual, this involves confirming everyone's travel arrangements, securing suitable accommodation, and being mindful of dietary restrictions or preferences. Planning well-balanced and nourishing meals energizes the team throughout the retreat. Creating detailed shopping and material lists for work sessions also facilitates efficient planning and organization. Booking activities in advance ensures a seamless and enjoyable experience for all. And create a wiki to provide the team with essential information such as the location, agenda, logistical details like room allocations and nearby amenities, a collaborative Spotify playlist, and additional information about work sessions to encourage preparation and participation. This way, the team can focus on fully immersing themselves in the retreat.

5. Allocate time for reflection, action planning, and follow-up after the retreat.

By providing dedicated time for reflection, team members can process their experiences and identify key takeaways and key learning points. After every retreat, we share the outputs of the work sessions with the team and define DRIs that will convert ideas and discussions into actionable steps and strategies, ensuring that the retreat's outcomes translate into tangible results. 

We also conduct an asynchronous retrospective focused explicitly on the retreat experience, allowing us to gather valuable feedback and insights from team members, enabling us to iterate on future retreats.

Company retreats are more than just a getaway; they catalyze growth, innovation, and collaboration. By investing in these transformative experiences, organizations can unlock the full potential of their teams and create a vibrant company culture. Now, it's your turn! Consider planning a company retreat and witness firsthand the positive impact it can have on your organization. And feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with us on Twitter or Linkedin.