13 Ideas for Team-Building Retreats
Team-building activities are crucial for establishing a positive and effective company culture. They facilitate better teamwork by fostering a sense of connection between colleagues.
Retreats provide a perfect framework for your team-building activities.
Spending time with colleagues outside of work can help employees understand how their work and the company’s vision line up to project a meaningful future.
Brainstorming company retreat ideas and booking a cozy venue are vital components of building camaraderie.
The point of a team-building retreat is to help your employees grow, learn and develop. Planning team-building events and activities in advance is a winning strategy for supporting growth and development.
Your Main Goal: Emphasize Togetherness and Collaboration
Togetherness is the foundational building block of any corporate event.
The goal of your corporate retreat is to bring people together, have fun, get out of the office and make sure that everyone connects on a personal level.
A successful retreat should accomplish the following:
- Strengthen communication
- Develop interpersonal bonds
- Resolve tension
- Identify problems and brainstorm solutions
- Innovate and optimize products or processes
- Improve your work culture
Planning activities that emphasize inclusion (especially among people who don’t usually work together) is paramount.
What About Retreats for Remote Teams?
Nowadays, more and more companies employ remote workers to perform vital company functions.
Do your employees primarily work remote? Do they communicate mostly through email or Slack?
You still can — and definitely should — make it a point to schedule a team-building retreat and include your remote workforce in it.
In fact, remote teams may benefit even more from such a retreat than those who work together in person.
Bringing your remote crew together gives you an ideal opportunity for bonding and mutual learning. Despite all the remote collaboration tools we have at our disposal now, there’s just no substitute for real, in-person interactions!
This is important for any company to keep in mind, but it’s even more beneficial to companies with an off-site workforce. Remote workers are more prone to feeling isolated and unengaged from the rest of their teammates.
1. Play an Icebreaker Game
During your retreat planning process, choose some icebreaker games to play on the first day of your retreat.
If you’re having a one-day retreat, this game could take place first thing in the morning.
If you’re planning a retreat for one or more large groups, you may need to brainstorm an activity that’s fast-paced and easy to get through.
Here’s one of our favorite icebreaker games.
- First, take a blown-up beach ball and write a bunch of questions on it.
- Toss the beach ball around the room, making sure everyone gets several turns.
- Whenever someone catches the ball, they state their name, department and job title.
- Then they answer whatever question their right thumb was closest to.
We recommend making the questions a mix of silly, ridiculous and thought-provoking.
Of course, there are a ton of icebreaker game ideas online. A quick Google search yields dozens of excellent results.
2. Brunch, Followed by a Company Strategy Meeting
Yes, it’s a retreat, so you don’t want to overwork everyone. But early on, minds will be fresh and creative energy will be at its peak — and you can absolutely take advantage of this to generate some great strategic ideas for your company.
Start with a yummy brunch to get the creative juices flowing. Then, leverage this energy to focus on one crucial company problem or innovation goal.
Lead the group to brainstorm solutions, offer perspective and develop a vision or plan.
The venue or hotel needs to have a meeting space or conference room for this part, which is something to consider when pricing your venue and planning out your itinerary.
3. Do Something Outdoors
Regardless of where you plan to go for your company getaway, it’s ideal to be able to schedule some outdoor activities, like boating, hiking or even something adventurous like zip-lining.
The fresh air and exercise will help energize your colleagues and make time for informal socializing.
When scheduling these types of events, try to keep them themed with your destination and use local resources to your advantage.
Is your retreat going to be in upstate New York? Rent a kayak or a canoe and journey down one of the region’s many lakes, rivers or reservoirs.
Most people find kayaking to be an activity that’s both relaxing and full of adventure (which makes it perfect for team-building).
Are you planning to go to San Francisco? The Bay Area offers many amazing parks and destinations to enjoy the outdoors. Or, travel north and spend some time in beautiful Marin county.
Going to Colorado? Depending on the season, go snow tubing, ziplining or hiking (just watch out for bears).
Going to Florida? Obviously, visit the beach.
4. Explore a New City or Location Together
Exploring together facilitates bonding, discovery and creativity.
As the facilitator, you can add a little structure and friendly competition by putting together a scavenger hunt.
Doing so can offer a ton of opportunities for spending time together and finding new fun activities to enjoy.
This type of free-form activity can provide your remote employees with a fantastic opportunity to bond with the rest of the team.
Check out options in your destination city — many major cities have pre-planned scavenger hunts that can be conducted via smartphones, and can even help your employees learn some history and fun facts about where they are.
5. Share Meals and Drinks
Enjoy a happy hour or dinner together to take in the beauty of the city, retreat or resort that’s serving as your event space.
You all can meet for a happy hour at the venue’s hotel bar/restaurant if one is available. Or, you could head out to sample some of the local cuisine.
For best results, keep this occasion fun and light.
You could discuss the company or the business, but try not to push conversations too much.
Many case studies and reports support the fact that sharing meals serves a positive purpose within families and social groups. For example, students who regularly eat meals with their parents are more likely to have better school attendance.
Sharing meals together matters and is sacred in many countries and customs. You can leverage this powerful social practice to bring all of your colleagues together and foster a better sense of community.
6. Get to Know How Employees Really Feel
Having fun and bonding are the primary goals of any company retreat. Yet, another important goal is to identify problems and brainstorm potential solutions.
Having everyone together in person is a great way to get a sense of employee perspectives on the business and whether there are problems that should be addressed.
To generate valuable, candid feedback, structure your discussion around a few simple questions like:
- Where was the company a year ago?
- Where is our company now, in comparison to that?
- What has improved?
- What has changed?
- Where is our company headed in the future?
- Is this a good or bad direction? If it’s bad, how do we change it now?
Encourage everyone to really dive into this conversation. Allow them to get creatively energized in their own unique ways and give them space to be super honest. Make sure to set the expectation that honest feedback is welcome and no one will be penalized for speaking up.
You might just end up with a major breakthrough about how to solve a certain pain point, or to keep the company heading in the right direction.
7. Trivia Night
After those frank conversations, it’s good to divert that energy with a lighthearted activity, like trivia.
Although your brains will still be active with company ideas, you might want to base your game around topics unrelated to work.
Some basic geography trivia questions about the retreat location would be fun, especially if you did the scavenger hunt activity. You can also purchase board game-style trivia games or even find options online.
You can, of course, make the trivia topics about your company itself, but keep them simple and fun. Here are some good questions to include:
- In what year was our company founded?
- How many branches do we currently have?
- What is the top-right option in the warehouse vending machine?
8. Play Team-Centered Sports
Games like volleyball, bowling or kickball tend to be the most popular. They’re fun, easy to play and are not too difficult to pick up if someone hasn’t played them before.
This activity encourages physical exercise and gives everyone the chance to work together on something fun.
Potential alternatives to “team sports” could include ropes courses, mini-golf, an obstacle course or an escape room.
9. Play Tabletop Games
Not everyone uses sports as their go-to way of having healthy competition. Another way is through tabletop games, a broad term for a board game or any game played on a table.
Board games have come a long way from checkers and Trouble; there are plenty of challenging games out there that some of your colleagues might not be able to get enough of! Some games are even focused on collaboration rather than competition, which is great for a work retreat.
If in doubt, you can really never go wrong with Jenga.
10. Hold a Management Listening Session
You could do this during a walk through a peaceful park or sitting quietly around a campfire.
The key here is to allow everyone the opportunity to candidly share feedback that they might not otherwise feel comfortable bringing up.
This is an opportunity for your team members to feel safe enough to share honestly. Managers/leaders should encourage open communication without repercussions or judgment.
If people prefer, you may want to split up into smaller teams so members don’t feel as put on the spot in front of everyone.
This works better in a fixed, distraction-free location. Also, make sure to schedule plenty of time so that everyone gets their chance to speak. You won’t want to cut this activity off without giving everyone the chance to share.
11. Schedule Free Time for Rest and Relaxation
As important as it is to plan activities, bond and solve company problems, it’s also crucial to provide your employees with some much-needed R&R.
Rest and relaxation are essential.
Remember — another vital goal of any team-building retreat is to resolve tension and allow the opportunity to de-stress. One of the best ways to do this is to give everyone some room for doing their own thing, on their own time, in whatever social circles or groups they’re feeling.
12. Sign Everyone Up for Lessons to Learn Something New
Learning things together can be a great team-building experience.
This could be surfing, crafting, a cooking class, or really anything relevant to your retreat location. Keep in mind that you should have a backup activity for those who don’t want to participate (you never want to force anyone out of their comfort zone).
You can get creative with this one.
13. Spend at Least One Evening Just Being Together
Crack open some cold ones, put on some upbeat music, bust out the karaoke machine, enjoy the sunset and simply spend the evening being humans together. Don’t set a time limit.
Yes, you’re all connected by your work, but this activity will emphasize the fact that you’re more than just co-workers.
You’re a community with your own culture and blend of unique identities.
By taking some time to be together and enjoy one another’s company, you’ll double down on what is perhaps the most important lesson of all: at the end of the day, the overarching goal is to connect with each other on a human level.
If your company can bring a bit more of that attitude back into the business, it’ll do wonders for morale and culture.
We’re confident that at least a few of these thirteen work retreat ideas will empower your team to take your planned trip to the next level.
Just remember: the better you plan your company retreat’s ideas out in advance, the better off you’ll be.
Prove how much you care about the company culture by putting effort into every aspect of the trip-planning process:
- Choosing the location
- Booking the hotel
- Scheduling activities
- Managing time during the retreat to keep everyone on track
And, hey, if you do a fantastic job of organizing and planning this retreat? You’ll also win over their loyalty and goodwill toward you as a planner, human resources manager or team leader.
So get out there, plan the best retreat experience possible and watch your team thrive, grow and bond.
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Audrey Fairbrother is the Content and SEO Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days writing about all things business travel, researching topics that are important to Hotel Engine’s audience and cultivating the company’s brand voice. When she’s not working, Audrey enjoys spending time with her family, and hiking in the nearby Rockies with her dog, Albie.