Written by Roy Wainer, Founder & CEO at Townish
Team retreat activities are on the rise. Employees and companies are seeking ways to increase connection to work and the people they work with. Company retreats for team building have increased significantly in the past two years, and Allied Market Research predicts that the market for company meetings and retreats will grow by 19% annually over the next decade.
It is well deserved that retreats are gaining popularity, as they generate a high return on investment and increase employee productivity and morale. No matter if they work remotely or consistently come to the office, teams should consider retreats for team building to drive business results.
What are team retreats?
A team retreat is an activity designed to increase team cohesiveness, provide coaching and training to the team, and allow the team to have fun together. Team building retreats are also a cost-saving measure for companies that relocate office costs to retreats or offsites.
According to Skift, a major travel research site, 63% of corporate travel managers are excited about hosting regular company offsites and retreats, and 66% of employees are excited as well.
There are no rules of how a corporate retreat should look – they can take place in a tropical destination or in the city, can involve different sizes of groups and have different agendas, but the common principle is that they provide opportunities for colleagues to share experiences, and to improve team performance in many different ways.
Why organize a team retreat?
In terms of team morale and productivity, team retreats can be extremely beneficial. Our experience has shown that team retreats are invaluable for the following reasons:
Even if your team goes to the office every day, an outing outside of the office provides an unparalleled opportunity for your team members to further bond and connect with one another.
Aligning the team
We all know how important it is to focus and row in the same direction. Nonetheless, it is easier said than done, and as the company and team grow, the challenge becomes exponentially more difficult. Setting some clear goals and changing the setting is one of the best ways to deal with this. Our experience shows that some of the best teams set quarterly goals at the beginning of a quarter retreat, then analyze the results and set some new goals at the next retreat.
There are retreats that are aimed primarily at training, whether it be a training for salespeople, or a training for leaders, or a retreat where the main focus is on coaching rather than training.
Rewards and perks
There are some companies that offer retreats to their employees as a perk. In most cases, they do this multiple times each year and it usually involves team activities, games, lots of food and, most importantly, a lot of fun.
A successful retreat combines all of the above, or at least 2-3 of them, and creates team bonding, promotes strategic alignment, enables team professional development, and is a lot of fun.
Top Team Retreat Ideas for Team Building Activities
Here are a 23 ideas for a team retreat in 2023:
1. Strategic alignment
Holding a successful team retreat is a good way for management teams or functional teams to align on their strategic goals and objectives.
2. Digital detox
After a big project, a fundraise, or closing a big client, some teams are just burned out. A digital detox can help them clear their minds and prepare for the next challenge.
3. New year resolutions
Even though it is already deep into 2023, there is still time for you and your team to make some new year resolutions for the year ahead.
4. Product road mapping
Product teams are unique in the sense that they spend a large portion of their time just sitting around discussing, iterating, and innovating as a team. What better place to do a product roadmap than a villa near a lake or in the mountains?
5. Sales kickoff
No job is more challenging than selling, so sales teams are always seeking motivation. Corporate retreats that include motivating sessions, discussing pain points, and building plans are good ways to motivate your team.
6. Relax and unwind
Sometimes a team just needs to unwind. Nature is the best place to relax, especially if you’re surrounded by great food, hiking trails, and games to do so.
7. Team bonding
Although bonding can happen anywhere, research validates that intentionality plays a big role in some successful bondings, especially for remote teams that bond in person.
8. Creativity session
There are a number of scientifically proven methods that can be used to enhance your creativity. A good way of finding the inner creativity is to reduce the burden of day-to-day tasks and focus on getting your creative juices flowing during a retreat.
9. Motivation week
It is important for every team to take some time to motivate one another. In order for their employees to succeed, managers must constantly motivate them. Getting out of your regular routine for a week certainly helps.
Have you ever tried to gather ten engineers in one room? Usually, magic comes out of that. Imagine doing the same thing for a few days with better food and a beautiful landscape. You won’t be disappointed with the results!
11. Innovation week
This is the week of wild ideas, iterating, launching, and innovating. While innovation can occur spontaneously, we have seen that intentional gatherings can lead to more innovative thinking.
12. Board meetings
This is an interesting up and coming trend for best retreats. Board meetings no longer have to take place in dull boardrooms with old pastries, but instead can take place at a retreat, where your board of directors will experience a new wave of warmer board meetings.
13. Sales event
Retreats are the best way to sell. Clients will love you, and once clients love you, selling to them will be much easier. In the end, it’s all about relationships
14. Bring your families to work
Some retreats aren’t just for employees, but also for their spouses and children. There isn’t as much work done in those, but there’s always tons of bonding and fun to be had
15. Executive team offsite
Executive teams often hold retreats. They need some time apart from their daily tasks to strategize and align for the next quarter. It is also very useful in bonding and discussing some of the more strategically controversial topics that are discussed during those sessions.
16. Get to the next level
If spearheaded by the right leaders and coaches, a gathering designed specifically to assist leaders with getting to the next level in the company can be extremely effective for them.
17. Work hard, play hard
It is important for every team to get some playing time under their belt before they start working hard again. Retreats are the best times for team play.
18. Design week
One of the best friends of a design team would be a bit of tranquility and peace in a pastoral setting.
19. People & culture together
It is important that the people operations team and HR team spend some time together to determine how they should go about dealing with the most important resource in the company – the people.
20. Marketing enhancement week
It goes without saying that marketing is a lot of science and also a bit of art at the same time. A marketing team sitting in a room together can do a lot of scientific experiments, while also letting their creativity run wild.
21. The quickest product market fit
During a retreat, a founding team that is building a new product or a R&D team that is looking to ship a new product could do it in the fastest possible way, with no interruptions.
22. How to manage
As a team lead or manager, you will benefit greatly from a retreat to learn how to manage your team and how to manage your stress. This retreat is particularly beneficial for team leaders and managers.
23. Look out, 2023
2023 will be the best year ever. Getting started is the first step on the road to success. Is there anything better than going on a retreat?
How to plan a team retreat
Organizing a team building retreat is not as difficult as it sounds, and it really depends on the size of the team. For a larger team, a travel agent or event organizer can help you customize every detail (and a company offsite, for example, has a lot of those). If you have a small team, a tech platform should do the trick, and you won’t have to pay an organizer.
Anyone involved in the planning process of a corporate retreat should consider the following quote from Jen Fisher, Deloitte US’s chief wellbeing officer:
“We need to redefine why we gather, how we gather, and what we gather for. If we are gathering simply to sit in a room and do work, that’s a no go.”Jen Fisher
Here are few necessary steps for organizing a team retreat:
Don’t let your budget dictate your goals. Often I see teams and companies doing it backwards. They realize that with X amount of money, they can do one thing, but can’t do the other. However, meeting the team is the destination, and all types of budgets can work. There are many affordable retreat options nearby, and you will get the same results from them. You just need to figure out what you want. Is it determining a new strategy? Is it planning for the next quarter? Does your team need coaching or training? Is it all of the above? Identify what you want to accomplish, but don’t try to achieve everything. Humans need some time to digest (literally, as retreats tend to have a lot of food).
Prepare a preliminary agenda
What is the number of days you need to achieve your goals? Do you think it’s realistic? Here is where you need to start the iterative process of understanding how much you can realistically accomplish in the retreat. 3 days is not enough time to do it all, but if your retreat is properly planned, you can accomplish a lot.
Define your budget for team activities
It’s time to start thinking about the budget. Based on our experience, the budget will not prevent you from reaching your goals. At worst, you can have fewer company retreats per year but make each one much more meaningful for your team. You will need a solid estimate of your budget at this point.
Location and dates
Okay, so you have goals, a preliminary retreat agenda, and a budget. The next step is to choose a retreat venue and timeframe that works for your team. We’ve noticed that even remote teams have a basecamp – a city where most of the team lives. Booking an event near this area would be the most affordable solution. For example, Townish works with multiple teams in Ontario whose members live primarily in Toronto. Just in case some team members are flying in, the retreat location should be near a major airport.
In terms of dates, make sure all your team members are available during those times. If you plan a retreat, make sure it’s inclusive – you should find a date that works for parents, and give them as much notice as possible.
When your team agrees on dates and location, you can close a place to stay. Depending on the accommodation, you can arrange the rest of the details (food, team building activities, etc.). Townish offers packages that include accommodation, food, and more, as most people prefer to have everything in one place.
Accommodations must work well for your team members – private / shared rooms, private / shared bathrooms, meeting rooms, kitchens, etc. We have seen it all. It works differently for each team, but ensure that it works for yours. It’s important to get the retreat off to a good start.
The team is out, you have to feed them. You don’t need me to tell you how important food is. We’ve found it works best to serve light meals and snacks during the day, followed by a nicer dinner in the evening, as the topics of conversation change from more work-oriented to more casual.
Team building activities and experiences
Accommodations and food are non-negotiable. Is there any budget left after those? You don’t have to spend it, but there are a few good ways to do so. As you might expect, it’s all about aligning with your original goals.
You can book plenty of team building and fun activities during the retreat, as well as wellness experiences (it’s never a bad idea to start your day with yoga or meditation). A coaching session should be booked if the main goal is training. Offsites that include executive leadership retreats or professional training sessions have proven very successful, and booking the right sessions for those is crucial.
Closing the agenda
Now is the time to close everything to the minute. Give yourself some breathing room, rest, and errors, but you can start planning the retreat and get your team excited! Include your team in the planning process, in the suggestions, and if possible, in spearheading some of the sessions. Having everyone involved in retreat planning could make all the difference.
At the end of the day, corporate retreats make work more relatable, effective, personable, and enjoyable. Delegate as much as you can and make the most of your retreat time before, during, and after it. And don’t forget to have fun!
Team retreats are a learning experience for every company. Write down what worked and what didn’t, and get feedback from your team. No team retreat is perfect, and there is always room for improvement.
There are a lot of moving parts involved in organizing a successful team retreat. It can take a lot of effort and time to organize a retreat, and most companies do it ineffectively. For these reasons, many companies do not organize events as much as they should. This is unfortunate since retreats are the best way to unite your team, and when done right, they boost productivity and morale. Additionally, if you choose the right partners, retreat planning won’t be time-consuming or expensive.
It is important to have a retreat strategy in place. The cadence, the messaging, and the goals. A world full of uncertainty makes team retreats more critical than ever.
ABout the Author
Roy Wainer is a Toronto-based entrepreneur who is building Townish, a platform for planning and organizing team retreats. Townish partners with villas and hotels, chefs and caterers, and local experiences, as well as professional coaches to help teams succeed.
Roy is very engaged in the Toronto tech ecosystem and is always willing to have a coffee with fellow founders who need advice.