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  • Sarah Lindsey

Company Retreat Case Study

The phrases “you’re on mute” or “would you mind turning on your camera?” have joined the world of common business jargon. Now it seems that we are all, for better or worse, working in the virtual world. While this can be a positive thing, virtual working allows for more flexibility in meeting places and work schedules, it has also come with some definite downsides. According to a study conducted by the Harvard Business School, employees sent about 8.3% more emails after business hours, spent 13% more time in meetings, and that the workday lasted about 8.2% longer for employees. While this has led to increased productivity the pressure to always be online or available can be a stress point for employees. So, how should companies work to maintain the same productivity levels while also prioritizing employee well-being? There are a few different solutions that brands have applied over the pandemic but one solution has been surprising: Company Retreats.

Company retreats almost seem like a vestige of a pre-pandemic world, spending time in mass conferences with countless people is unheard of right now. While everything is beginning to reopen, some are still anxious about traveling or in-person events. Don’t wait to host an in-person event, now is the perfect time to start planning your virtual company retreat. Here’s how you can plan the perfect retreat for your company.

Virtual Retreats

Just one google search and you will be able to see countless examples of different companies that have held virtual company retreats. For this post, I want to share two different companies that saw great success in hosting virtual retreats. HelpScout, a software company headquartered in Boston, is a virtual company, to begin with but as a company rep, Becca Van Nederynen, stated “While we love being a fully distributed team — with 106 employees in 75+ cities around the world — in-person time is precious to us at Help Scout. Typically, we see each other twice a year and get a chance to reconnect, build trust, and gain momentum.” When the pandemic hit they planned a week-long virtual retreat complete with team events like a movie club, home tours, town halls, and The Amazing Remote Race (a virtual scavenger hunt). These events were a big success amongst employees. Another company that found great success is Trainual. Trainual had an originally planned retreat to Park City Utah but with little time to plan they created a one-day retreat. "It took a lot of research and several brainstorming sessions. But we finally had an outline that balanced the need for team bonding and fun, with reflecting on the last quarter and building momentum for future projects and goals," said co-creators of event Sasha Robinson and Chelsey Krisay. Some events that were included were a virtual coffee break with the CEO where they could ask any questions, team-building activities, and a state of the union address, and team awards.

What we learned from these two virtual retreats:

  • Town halls and state of the union addresses were great for helping employees catch the vision for company goals and expectations. It was also a great time for employees to voice any concerns or ask questions- this helped build trust in the organization.

  • Providing fun activities or kits to employees was great for helping employees feel appreciated. Kits like those below are a fun way to prep employees for the virtual retreat.

  • A major part of the success was attributed to leaning into the “silliness” of the retreats. They weren’t the normal format and they didn’t pretend to be, this helped employees embrace the new circumstances and enjoy the event.

  • Recognizing the great work employees have put in was also crucial to the success of the events. An especially fun element is to add in useful, fun awards. Our favorite example is using this speaker from OrigAudio and customizing it to look like a reward.

  • The most important element is to offer downtime. The company retreat should be a chance for employees to connect, learn more about the company and its goals, and also take some time off from the job.

Company retreats are a great way to show your employees you care and help reduce stress. During the retreat employees will have the chance to reflect on their experience at the company while also becoming a more unified team, which will help productivity in the future. While it can be intimidating to host a virtual retreat the positives outweigh the negatives.

*This post was inspired by articles from Trainual and HelpScout. Find their respective articles here: How To Plan The Ultimate Virtual Company Retreat and A Retreat Apart: Planning Help Scout’s First Ever Remote Retreat

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