Remote Team Retreats: Strategy, Ideas, and Activities


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Has it been too long since the team has connected in person?

Organizing retreats for remote and hybrid teams can be challenging, requiring significant coordination and effort from the entire team. 

However, the benefits of these retreats can be immense, providing a valuable opportunity for team members to connect, collaborate, and grow together. 

With careful planning and a commitment to teamwork, these retreats can be a powerful tool for building a solid and successful team.

This article will examine why companies invest in remote team retreats, how to organize them, and which ideas and activities to put on the retreat schedule.

Companies doing team-building retreats

Offering team retreats has become a must-have for remote companies. Dropbox, for example, countered record-high turnover with retreats and saw retention soar. 

Doist is another remote-first company with teammates in 35 countries. They bring the whole company together once per year and organize mini-retreats as focused team meetings. For example, the marketing department going to Mexico City and the back-end team gathering in Paris.

Doist Remote Team Retreat Calendar
Doist Remote Team Retreat Calendar

Stephanie Lee, Director of People Experience at Nansen, took 120 people from across the world to Bali earlier this year. She profoundly believes in the power of these retreats

"If you can really set aside a big part of your employee experience budget to run a company retreat, the payoff is incredible." – Stephanie Lee, Director of People Experience at Nansen

Stephanie says that people who attended the retreat are much more likely to approach each other and connect for projects and collaboration. 

The importance of strategy for your retreat

According to Stephanie, strategy is critical for company retreats. You may think about a week of fun in the sun, but the best retreats are organized with incredible intentionality.

A good retreat requires thinking about the company's needs at that point in time. The demands of the experience differ depending on the company's composition, and structuring team sessions around those needs is essential.

Stephanie also recommends setting the right expectations at the beginning: be present, contribute, and rest when needed. We're here to connect, but it is a work event. Doing this will increase the chances of a successful retreat that genuinely moves the needle. 

Remote Team Retreats: Strategy, Ideas, and Activities
Remote Team Retreats: Strategy, Ideas, and Activities

The Challenges Of Planning Retreats

Chase Warrington, the Head of Remote at Doist, noted some of the challenges you may experience when planning retreats or offsites:

  • When planning offsite events, teams may lose focus on their regular work. 
  • Leaders may get caught up in coordinating details, which could be more effective in using their skills and attention. 
  • Poorly synced calendars can disrupt company-wide workflows, resulting in various teams being out of the virtual office in consecutive periods.

Doist solved this by building an offsite program with clear ownership that would allow us to maintain a sharp focus on our day-to-day work while still enjoying all the benefits of bringing our teams together.

Ideas and Activities for your remote team retreat

As Stephanie highlighted, start by looking at your company's biggest challenge and design your retreat program around it. Your latest employee engagement survey is a great place to start.

With this challenge in mind, put together your itinerary. Some ideas to consider:

  1. Team-building activities: Plan activities that promote collaboration and teamwork, such as group problem-solving challenges, team-building games, or simple icebreakers.
  2. Professional development workshops: Consider inviting speakers or hosting workshops to help team members develop new skills and gain knowledge in their field.
  3. Outdoor adventures: Plan outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, or camping that encourage team members to bond and connect in a relaxed setting.
  4. Cultural excursions: Organize trips to nearby cultural sites or events that enable team members to immerse themselves in the region's history, customs, and traditions.
  5. Unstructured time: Leave plenty of unstructured time in the itinerary for team members to connect and socialize with each other. This can be as simple as scheduling meals together or providing downtime for team members to explore the local area independently.

If you organize a team retreat for your remote company, hopefully, the above will be helpful. Need more support? Our community is always there for you! 

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