How to Plan an Immersive Hybrid Corporate Retreat

Dec 1

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COVID-19 has exacerbated a lot of problems that have been plaguing workplaces for years. According to our survey conducted in 2021, 39-percent of HR and people operations professionals find employee engagement to be the #1 challenge that companies are facing now. If employees aren’t engaged at work, they are going to be less productive, and if morale is low, you’ll find turnover is a problem at your company as well.

Corporate retreat planning is one potential solution to these problems!

With a corporate retreat, you can help your team get to know each other better, everyone can learn a new skill, and much more, but that’s only if you plan it effectively.

Make the most of your next corporate retreat by breaking down the process into these easy-to-follow steps with tips that are perfect for planning both in-person and remote corporate retreats.

Get Clear About Your Goals for the Retreat

Before you get into the nitty-gritty of choosing between various in-person and virtual retreat ideas, it’s important to get crystal clear about your goals. The best way to zero in on the goals you have for your retreat is to think about the challenges your team is facing and plan your retreat to address those challenges. The work retreat ideas you consider in the upcoming steps will be very different if you want to boost employee morale as opposed to teaching your workforce a new skill, for example.

In addition to your goals, you should also think about your employees’ goals! Whether you’re planning an in-person retreat or a remote retreat, you need to ask your employees to provide you with their input. You can use the Thriver poll feature to ask everyone what experiences they are interested in, what skills they want to learn, and even what they want to eat for lunch!

What to Consider for an In-Person Retreat

Building stronger relationships and improving communication are great topics to tackle at an in-person retreat, but don’t automatically assume staying in a large group throughout the duration of your retreat is the best way to achieve your goals. Instead, look for ways to vary the size and composition of groups throughout the retreat.

For example, an opening activity would be a great opportunity to bring the whole group together, a brainstorming session might lend itself well to small groups, while an activity that requires participants to share information would be best when done in pairs. Not only will varying group sizes help you tackle your goals, but this can also keep everyone from getting bored.

What to Consider for a Remote Retreat

It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the fact that everyone has to meet remotely when choosing themes for a remote team-building retreat, but that line of thinking can end up sabotaging the planning process. You might end up overlooking a team-building or morale-boosting retreat in favor of an educational retreat just because you don’t know how you can make it happen over a computer screen.

Instead, think about your goals before you get hung up on the fact that you aren’t meeting in person. Ask for input from others on how you can meet those goals with a virtual retreat, and be open to trying creative ideas.

For example, a team-building retreat is still worthwhile, even if everyone can’t meet in person. A few team-building ideas for a remote retreat could include:

  • Playing a game, like charades.
  • Planning a show and learn session, where one team member teaches the others something new.
  • Scheduling a remote class for something that isn’t work-related, like painting.
  • Eating lunch together, even if everyone is eating something different.
  • Starting a virtual club, like a book club.
  • Taking a personality test and discussing everyone’s results together.

Decide on a Retreat Location

Where are you going to host your retreat? This question can be difficult to answer if you’re weighing your options for in-person group retreat locations, but there’s more to think about when it comes to a remote retreat than you might think.

Corporate retreat venue

What to Consider for an In-Person Retreat

In some cases, the location for your retreat will become obvious as you clarify your goals and what activities you want to do. An educational retreat may require you to travel to a conference, while a fun activity, like an escape room, will obviously have to take place in the proper venue.

If your goals allow for some flexibility when choosing your location, you should look for things like:

  • The size and number of workspaces and meeting rooms.
  • Access to fast Wi-Fi.
  • AV setup options.
  • Access to essential devices and equipment.
  • On-site rooms at an overnight retreat.

COVID-19 safety requirements should be top-of-mind. That means making sure attendees can stay socially distanced throughout the retreat, as well as how thoroughly and how often the venue cleans their rental space. Complimentary hand sanitizer, masks, and rapid tests may also be something you want to look for when choosing a venue.

What to Consider for a Remote Retreat

The location of a remote retreat matters too! Encourage your employees to find a spot away from their home office so they don’t feel like they’re at work. A local coffee shop or a back porch will make your employees feel like their online retreat is a little different than every other day they spend at work.

Do some employees live near each other? Suggest pairs or groups of employees to meet for the retreat. If you have it in your budget, consider paying for some employees to travel so everyone has a partner for the next online retreat.

Create an Agenda

Once you have identified your goals and you have booked your venue, it’s time to create your agenda. From team-building exercises to wellness activities and learning and development, there are many ways you can create a company retreat agenda that works for your team.

Person planning an agenda for corporate retreat

What to Consider for an In-Person Retreat

Planning activities for work retreats is an important part of the process, but make sure you also include flexibility. You want your employees to be able to continue participating in an activity that they end up really enjoying without worrying about being late for the next activity. Build in a buffer of 10-30 minutes after every task so there’s no stress if it runs over.

Building in a buffer should not replace the time you set aside for breaks. Break time should still be penciled into your schedule separately. So for example, an activity should be followed up by a buffer, and then followed up with a break. If the buffer isn’t needed, it just means break time can be extended, or you can start the next activity a little early.

Every day of a retreat should include at least two total hours of refresh time that is broken down into smaller chunks throughout the day. For a full-day retreat, make sure attendees have at least one break in the morning, a lunch with plenty of time to take a break, and an afternoon break. 

What to Consider for a Remote Retreat

A virtual retreat agenda should include ways to get participants up and out of their chairs. Try hosting a yoga session or send employees a care package with items they can interact with during the retreat, like a notebook where they can jot down their thoughts as they participate in activities.

Book a Caterer

Don’t let your team get hangry! Whether you’re planning a company retreat in the afternoon or you’ve got multiple days of activities planned, it’s important to make sure attendees don’t have to worry about what they’re going to eat.

Caterers

What to Consider for an In-Person Retreat

Make sure your crew is covered for meal times by catering breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but you should also make sure there are plenty of snacks around. Offer healthy options, but there’s nothing wrong with having a little fun and serving other items too. For example, lunch might be soup and salad, but you might decide to serve cookies in the afternoon.

Health and safety considerations are important, especially now. Individually packaged lunches, as well as pre-packaged silverware and napkins, will keep germs from spreading. Hire a server if you’re planning a plated dinner for an overnight retreat, while prepackaged snacks can be placed on tables in front of every seat so attendees don’t have to congregate at a snack table at break time.

Browse Thriver marketplace for local catering options near you that include boxed lunches, favorites served family style, bowls, and more for your corporate retreat.

What to Consider for a Remote Retreat

Take care of your remote team with meals and snacks too! Send a snack box to help them keep their energy up during a virtual corporate retreat, or pay for employees to have something delivered to their home for lunch. That way everyone can eat together, even if they aren’t eating the same thing.

Incorporate Downtime and Opportunities for Personal Development

It’s important to incorporate breaks in between corporate retreat activities, but you should take things a step further and plan downtime and opportunities for personal development. This gives your employees a chance to connect with their coworkers and themselves in a more personal way.

What to Consider for an In-Person Retreat

Company retreat ideas for in-person gatherings can include one-on-one sessions with a personal coach, a masseuse, or the choice between solitary health activities, like meeting with a personal trainer or a dietician.

Provide retreat attendees with areas where they can congregate and talk during downtime. You can also hand out journals or workbooks complete with writing prompts so employees can process their experience.

What to Consider for a Remote Retreat

Employees can break away and have a one-on-one session with someone on your team or another person you have hired. Providing a downloadable PDF workbook is also a great way to keep them engaged during downtime.

Reflect on the Experience

Corporate retreats can get a bad rap because employees aren’t always impressed with the activities and food you choose. It’s important to get feedback from your employees so planning a staff retreat that everyone actually likes is easier in the future.

Image depicts the word feedback

What to Consider for an In-Person Retreat

Make sure feedback is left anonymously. Instead of asking employees to fill out a survey by hand at the end of the retreat, send them an email that enables them to vote for things like the company retreat games, food, and gifts they liked, as well as ideas they have for the next retreat.

What to Consider for a Remote Retreat

You will ask many of the same things on a survey for an in-person retreat as a remote retreat. In addition, you may want to take a deeper dive into the effectiveness of the retreat and how employees felt overall about the experience because hosting an online retreat comes with unique challenges.

Retreat Examples

Now that you have had a chance to review all the steps that are included in planning a corporate retreat, it’s time to put everything you’ve learned into action!

Check Thriver marketplace for offsite and retreat planning ideas.

Here are a few examples that show how one- and three-day company retreat ideas can come together so you can confidently plan your next corporate gathering.

Sample Schedule for a One-Day In-Person Company Retreat

  • 9:00 AM: Stretch and deep breathing exercises
  • 9:30 AM: Team-building activity
  • 10:30 AM: Break
  • 10:40 AM: Continue team-building activity
  • 11:30 AM: Activity buffer
  • 11:45 AM: Lunch/downtime
  • 12:30 PM: One-on-one or small group activity
  • 2:00 PM: Activity buffer
  • 2:15 PM: Break/downtime
  • 2:45 PM: Workshop
  • 3:45 PM: Break
  • 4:00 PM: Continue activity
  • 4:30 PM: Activity buffer
  • 4:45 PM: Closing remarks and goodbyes

Three-Day Retreat

The schedule for a three-day retreat can follow a similar pattern as a one-day retreat, with activities following a certain theme like:

  • Day One: Wellbeing
  • Day Two: Professional Development
  • Day Three: Fun, Creativity, and Celebration

Virtual Retreats

Sitting in front of a computer can be very tiring, so virtual retreats should be much shorter. Keep the retreat to a max of a few hours each day.

If you want to utilize the entire day, host one hour long activity in the morning and another hour long activity in the afternoon. Sending presents, self-care kits, and reflection activities can help employees extend the retreat experience after the online session is over.

Conclusion

When you break down the corporate retreat planning process into steps, it becomes a lot easier to create the kind of retreat that boosts morale and keeps employees engaged!

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