Group of coworkers serving themselves from a buffet lunch.
From virtual escape rooms to in-person "ask me anything" sessions, there are many company retreat options available to suit any company's needs. — Getty Images/Vesnaandjic

A work retreat will have a different meaning for different companies. Some large, fully in-office teams may use it only for realigning goals and departments. Smaller hybrid or fully remote teams may opt to leverage the retreat to simply spend time with and get to know each other. Factors like budget and employee availability can impact the size and purpose of the retreat, too.

No matter the overarching purpose, several guidelines stay the same across the board when planning retreat activities: Set expectations and clearly communicate with attendees; make fair and inclusive activity choices; factor in contingencies for extenuating life circumstances; and plan early to be fully prepared.

To create a company retreat that fosters growth, team building, and a positive corporate culture, consider planning a few of the activities listed below. While many of these are geared toward in-person gatherings, many can be adapted for virtual or hybrid retreats.

[Read more: Trust and Team Building: Imperium Data Co-Founder Shares Tips for Growing a Strong Business]

Escape room

Escape rooms foster teamwork and collaboration in the form of a challenging, fun game. With the recent boom in escape room interest, this activity works for both in-person and virtual retreats. You can choose to attend a brick-and-mortar facility, get an “escape room in a box,” or choose a completely virtual one that can be solved over Zoom.

Group photo shoot

Hybrid and fully remote teams can benefit from a short headshot session. Hiring a commercial photographer for a few hours is much more affordable than providing a stipend to employees to get their own headshots for the company website — and doing so provides a consistent aesthetic. Consider asking the photographer for individual headshots, team shots, and some candid photos to use for months to come on your website, social media accounts, and marketing materials.

Crafts

Simple crafts can be a great activity for even the most unartistic groups. In-person retreats can offer a small craft session (like painting a small wood sign, learning origami, or trying watercolors) in conjunction with another activity (like a breakout brainstorming session or headshots) to fill unused downtime and keep attendees engaged. Virtual or hybrid retreats have the option of purchasing craft kits for their teams to complete at their own pace and then having a “show and tell” at the end of the retreat.

An unstructured "ask me anything" (AMA) session with company leaders can help build stronger bonds between employees and their managers and offer insights into the business they might not always get to hear.

Work ‘power hour’

Incorporating productivity into the retreat can give in-person and virtual teams the motivation they need to renew their perspective on team goals. Setting up a “productivity power hour” works well for teams with a backlog of client or customer requests that they can work together to plow through in a small amount of time. Make sure to plan a celebration or incentive to share together.

[Read more: 10 Ways to Keep Your Employees Happy]

A company field day

While physical activities may not work for every team or employee, planning a field day gets your team’s blood pumping and enables friendly competition between coworkers. Activities might include fun outdoor competitions like a relay race, lawn games like cornhole or bocce ball, or even team-building challenges that involve solving problems together, like The Marshmallow Challenge. When announcing the winners, keep it fun and light so as not to alienate your team members.

Brainstorming sessions

Plan a brainstorming session that could focus on a particular campaign, product, or business vertical the team wants feedback on — or one that is designed to figure out better ways to work together and communicate. In a relaxed retreat setting, brainstorming may beget ideas the team hasn’t considered before.

‘Ask me anything’ sessions

A company retreat often provides a relaxed setting where people may feel more comfortable asking questions they may avoid on a Zoom call or in a conference room. An unstructured "ask me anything" (AMA) session with company leaders can help build stronger bonds between employees and their managers and offer insights into the business they might not always get to hear. These AMA-style conversations can also spark discussions about passions, interests, and struggles outside the workplace, which can ultimately foster deeper relationships that endure outside of the office.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published October 27, 2022