How to Plan a Company Retreat

Company retreats offer opportunities for staff members to connect at a deeper level. They allow for improved morale, communication and cooperation at the office. How can business leaders design retreats meeting these objectives?

The answer lies in understanding what makes people tick. Follow the tips below to plan a company retreat your employees will look forward to year after year.

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1. Set a Clear Goal for the Event

Before doing anything else, consider why you want to bring the team together. Will your retreat focus on generalized team-building, or are you hoping to spread the news about a new product or service? The best purposes for taking a company retreat spell out Twitter-style in a single sentence or less.

2. Select Dates Collaboratively

Scheduling a retreat during holy days for staff members of faith guarantees absenteeism, as does picking a date when most take vacations. Send out a calendar invite to determine what dates work best for the majority of employees. You can't please everyone, but you can increase attendance by acting considerately.

3. Cover Expenses for Low Earners

Personal aside: The most stressful work conference I ever attended occurred when I was a contractor who didn't get paid when not on the clock. While many salaried staff enjoyed their free mini-vacation, I spent the entire conference stressing how I was going to pay rent after losing a full weeks' pay.

Keep costs low, but pay heed to those who live paycheck to paycheck. Avoid requiring doctors' notes for those who cannot travel for health reasons if the company budget prohibits paying for medical insurance.

4. Choose a Unique Destination

If you think taking a company trip means footing hefty hotel fees, think again. Create a memorable retreat by selecting alternative lodging, including anything from treehouses to yurts. This works particularly well for team-building exercises where electronic devices are verboten.

5. Focus on Pushing Boundaries

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One purpose of company retreats involves getting staff out of their comfort zones. Within reason, plan for activities that push boundaries without triggering those with specific phobias. Keep in mind physical ability levels as well — not all employees can hop on a horse or manage a 10-mile hike.

6. Smash the Hierarchy

Think back to your first job and imagine taking a vacation with your original supervisor. If you're like many people, the thought carries as much relish as undergoing a root canal without anesthesia.

Research from Stanford University indicates the typical hierarchies found in many organizations set up a threatening type of relationship between employees. People controlled by fear react less logically than those motivated to do well for the greater good of the team. Forget titles and fancy sports cars — take off the designer suit and mingle with the team ultimately responsible for business success.

7. Include Activities for All

Sure, you may relish the thought of kayaking the Colorado River, but employees who prefer sitting on the dock of the bay fishing may not share your enthusiasm. Keep in mind that different staff members have their own levels of comfort with various activities.

When planning activities, ask for team input and provide various opportunities that don't require athletic ability to tackle. Remember, the ability to create a work of art like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel doesn't necessarily exist only in bodies regularly competing in marathons.

8. Disconnect

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Finally, leave the tech gadgets at home, especially if you work in a field dominated by constant connectivity. People are human beings first and workers second. Without being dictatorial, suggest staff leave phones and tablets at home or set to silent during the days' activities.

Creating Retreats Staff Members Love

The best company retreats consist of fun group activities partnered with opportunities for employees to relax and unwind in their spare time. Make such events valuable and enjoyable by drafting plans with purpose and creating inclusiveness for all.

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