Whereas corporate retreats were once associated with stuffy hotel conference centers and never-ending PowerPoint presentations (that you had to sit through in impossibly uncomfortable chairs), that’s not the case anymore. Far from it. Small startups and larger corporations alike are embracing more modern, engaging, and less “corporate” offsite experiences that represent a starker departure from office life — think hiking, swimming, board games, cooking classes, etc.
And while the idea of getting away isn’t anything new, the emergence of remote or hybrid work culture in the wake of COVID has reinforced just how necessary retreats are to fostering connection and camaraderie.
“Retreats have gone from a ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have,’” argues Edward Sullivan, CEO of Velocity Group, in an article on Axios. Kerry Goyette, founder and president of Aperio Consulting Group, agrees. “After over a year of working from home and not having these tiny little social interactions, people are starting to feel a crisis of belonging.”
Below are four specific reasons why a getaway is one of the best investments you can make for your bottom line:
1. To build psychological safety
Defined by Harvard Business Review as “the belief that one can speak up without risk of punishment or humiliation,” psychological safety is a prerequisite for effective brainstorming, decision making, innovation, professional development, organizational efficiency, and overall well-being at work.
“Not every idea is good, and yes there are stupid questions, and yes dissent can slow things down, but talking through these things is an essential part of the creative process,” writes Amy C. Edmonson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School. “People must be allowed to voice half-finished thoughts, ask questions from left field, and brainstorm out loud; it creates a culture in which a minor flub or momentary lapse is no big deal, and where actual mistakes are owned and corrected, and where the next left-field idea could be the next big thing.”
And yet, without face-to-face interaction, this can be difficult to come by. Bringing the team together in an informal environment and introducing activities that require teamwork, trial and error, and problem solving to reach a common goal will strengthen the connective tissue of trust so employees can feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work.
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2. To align on shared goals & prevent a siloed work culture
In a remote work environment, it’s all too easy to fall into silos by focusing exclusively on your team’s goals, metrics, and deliverables. And according to SendWithUs CEO Matthew Harris, this needs to be addressed.
“Departmental silos become problematic when departments develop tunnel vision, solely focused on their own functional area,” he explains in an article on CMSWire. “They can lose sight of the big picture and fail to take into account the impact of what they’re doing in other departments. Communication and transparency between departments breaks down, resulting in organizational dysfunction on multiple levels.”
Annual retreats offer a unique environment for employees from different teams to interact with each other. Cross-departmental collaboration for things like relay races or Chopped-style cooking classes will facilitate cross-departmental collaboration at work.
READ MORE: 15 Great Team-Building Activities For Work
3. To retain a culture of flexibility without sacrificing connection
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past 16 months, it’s that team members can be trusted to get their work done outside of an office setting. And while some executives may be tempted to bring everyone back in a return to “business as usual,” employees, when asked, express a preference for flexibility in their working arrangement. In a May 2021 Harris Poll published in USA Today, 40% of Americans prefer to work from home full-time, compared to 35% who are open to a hybrid scenario and 25% who are interested in returning to the office full-time.
Corporate retreats present a great opportunity for concentrated interaction that offers the cultural benefits of spending every day together in an office without the rigid in-person structure that can increase turnover and deter new talent.
“The genie is out of the bottle for remote work, and if we wanted to bring everyone back to headquarters I don’t think it’s doable,” argues Oleg Rogynskyy of People.ai Inc, in an article on The Wall Street Journal. To try and do so anyway is “how you lose your best employees.”
4. To reward employees for their hard work
The importance of public, positive acknowledgment of work has been widely studied, with research indicating that it improves happiness and feelings of loyalty while decreasing turnover. In a remote or hybrid work environment, many companies are turning to retreats as a way to do just this.
Take Ophelia, for example. When this online healthcare startup for opioid dependence traveled to Jamaica for a corporate retreat, their goal was to leverage this opportunity to make progress on and codify some areas of the business (think vision, strategy, organizational structures, company culture, etc), which can be difficult to do over the course of day-to-day work. However, having just raised a round of funding, they also wanted to bring employees to a beautiful, relaxing destination as a reward for their hard work and dedication — a reward that came to life in the form of team dinners, excursions to local beach bars, and walking tours.
“The retreat was an invaluable moment for where we’re at as a startup,” explained Co-Founder and COO Mattan Griffel. “We had some really important conversations, got to know each other better than we ever could have otherwise, and created memories that we’ll have forever.”
Not sure where to go on your company retreat? Check out our full run-down of factors to consider when deciding — plus 15 of our favorite domestic and international destinations.