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How to Plan an Effective Company Retreat

April 12, 2017 / in Blog, Internal, Team / by Lisa Warner

Imagine coming to work on a chilly morning, walking into the office to find a table laid with savory breakfast tacos and carafes of hot coffee, and your co-workers smiling. After breakfast and office banter, you are shuttled to an inviting center for a session on mindful meditation where you spend a peaceful morning in simple guided meditation with your co-workers. From there you are shuttled to a brewpub for lunch, board games, conversation, and a craft beer. After lunch, you stroll down the street to a local escape room where you break up into teams to solve puzzles and beat the clock to “escape the room.” After this long day at work, you return to your office to wrap things up with another beer and shared laughter. It sounds like you never got out of bed and are dreaming…or it is a company mini-retreat? AMP hosted our first annual mini-retreat for employees in January of 2017. We enjoyed a day of nurturing our strategic minds with meditation, conversation, team building puzzles, good food, and of course, craft brew. It was a fantastic way to start the new year with a boost of morale and team building.

The reasoning behind taking a day to do a company retreat was simple. Mini-retreats are cost efficient and have big returns, the biggest return being increased engagement. Data shows that companies with high levels of employee engagement receive 2.5X more revenue than companies with low engagement. Company retreats increase morale that leads to high engagement. Low morale is a vital factor in reduced productivity. Company retreats, whether one day or several days long, remove employees from their typical context, revitalizing them to take pride in their work and expand the limits of their creativity.

But how do you plan an effective retreat that will positively impact your employees?

At AMP we like to talk about our creative hearts, strategic minds, and hands on technology. We challenge ourselves and each other to come up with innovative and effective digital media strategies for our clients. Part of giving AMPers what they need to achieve these goals is building a strong team and company culture.

 

If you’re picturing trust falls or dated and cliche team building exercises right now, think again. Planning a mini-retreat for a group of creative problem solvers presented a challenge. Luckily, this retreat was a hit and a great way to start 2017. The success of this retreat was in part due to following a few simple and universal guidelines. Check out these tips when planning your company retreat.

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Find an environment that is NOT part of your work environment.

It is impossible for employees to put work aside and focus on fun and team building when laptops, emails, edit suites, and a studio full of video technology looms near. We are a small company and chose to go to three different locales, rather than a hotel or center built for company retreats. The beauty of being a small firm is that we have flexibility in our numbers and can be creative with our venue. Resources are abundant on the internet. You can find everything from simulated sky diving to world class spas. Be creative and have fun with the venue and the activities.

Make the activities novel and varied.

We started the day at a sleek and soothing Center for Mindfulness Meditation that was a 10-minute drive from our offices. After a commute to work, commuting long distances to a retreat is counter-productive, so keep it close to the home office.

 

We then traveled to a to a hip brewhouse and restaurant that was close by in a historic entertainment district. It was the perfect place for a delicious lunch and ridiculously good beer. Choosing a restaurant where food is served family style on long benches in an open, free-flowing environment facilitated conversation and sharing. Then came the board games! We took two hours for a leisurely lunch. A long lunch allowed employees to unwind, eat, drink, play, and connect with people they don’t normally interact with on a day-to-day basis.

 

From the brewhouse, we took a short walk to an escape room. Escape rooms are a new form of entertainment. An escape room is a physical adventure game in which players are locked in a room and have to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles and escape within a set time limit. They are novel and the ultimate in team building as you work together to beat the clock and solve puzzles collaboratively. When you plan your company’s retreat, try to accommodate learning styles and activities that are a support a myriad of collaborative styles.

 

Next is the single most important element of a retreat that engenders engagement and morale.

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Hold your retreat during working hours.

Honor your employee’s work/life balance by holding your retreat during the work week. That is correct: pay your employees to have fun! One of our tenets in the AMP Code is to “Grow Your Garden”. We recognize that we all have rich lives outside of the workplace and we honor the time involved in maintaining our home lives. Our lives inform our work, and our work should nurture our lives at home.

At the end of the day, we all shared an experience that was fun and challenging, and we are a closer-knit group from having shared the mini-retreat. I discovered hidden talents and interests in my co-workers. I learned that I have co-workers who are masters at tying knots, have interests in Appalachian clogging, are fiercely competitive gamers, and have a passion for tater tots. The decision to do a retreat was simple: participate in team building activities, while simultaneously boosting morale, engagement, and productivity. It’s a no brainer — I am already planning another for the summer!

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About Lisa Warner

Never underestimate the power of a creative thinker with organizational skills and hand puppets. As AMP’s one-woman Human Resources department, she's the one searching out the best benefits for our small business and ensuring that the budget for office snacks remains healthy.

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