After two long years of working during a pandemic, many companies are looking for ways to boost team morale and get their teams back together for some much-needed bonding. It's likely your team has changed over these two years:
Without being in the office to build genuine face-to-face rapport, it's likely had an impact on your company culture.
As of February 2022, it’s estimated that more than 90% of Americans have some level of immunity to COVID-19 through vaccination or prior infection. Fortunately, as the risks of COVID start to decrease and some people begin to move back into the office or some semblance of routine, it's a great time to start thinking about your next team offsite or retreat.
Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Photograph: Reuters
Imagine what you could gain if you get everyone away from their desks and connecting outside of Zoom and cloud-based collaboration tools? Add that to a combination of fun team building activities and dynamic planning sessions, and there are only upsides!
The benefits of a team offsite are many. First, it's a chance for your employees to get away from their desks (and maybe outside the city too!). An offsite is also an opportunity to bond and work together to plan for the future.
Increased Employee Engagement
Remote working has left a lot of employees not feeling connected to their team members, their job, and the company. An offsite is a great way to learn about your team members' interests, passions, and skillsets and understand how they can best contribute to projects in the future. During the offsite, you can use a combination of information-sharing, brainstorming, planning sessions, and fun team-building activities to build rapport and give everyone a chance to help drive the company or team's future projects and direction.
More Effective Planning
Company offsites give us a chance to separate ourselves from the distractions of daily life and business operations and have some uninterrupted time for focused planning. Without the need to put out fires and attend back-to-back meetings, we can take a balcony view of what's happening in our team and what we can change and focus on to improve and grow as a unit.
Dedicated Time To Recognize & Reward Efforts
Research from Gallup shows that recognition and reward are significant drivers of employee engagement. While no one size fits all, offsites are an excellent opportunity to show your employees how much you appreciate all of their contributions.
It could be a simple gathering with food and drinks, a happy hour or show, a formal awards session, or even a fun non-work activity. Regardless of what it is, your team members will love that you have noticed and appreciate their work and that you're "giving them permission" to have a little bit of fun "on" the office.
Time For Team Building
Team building happens every day on the job. However, offsites give us the opportunity for targeted team-building activities. These activities can help team members get to know each other, build rapport, communicate more effectively, and solve challenges together. They're also a great way to build targeted skills like communication techniques or resolving conflict so your team can be more efficient and productive on future projects.
Here are a few suggested team building activities, especially for hybrid teams.
Whether you're just thinking about an offsite or planning is already underway, it's essential to think about your planning in the context of your company's employees and their new working culture. Your last pre-pandemic offsite may be very different from what you plan this year. For example, if your team is working entirely remotely, maybe it's important to get everyone together for a week full of activities and fun.
If your team has some immuno-compromised members, perhaps you need to prioritize health and safety focus on some targeted remote activities. Above all, offsites should improve employee morale, build more meaningful relationships, and help everyone get on the same page regarding company direction and priorities.
1. Figure out your goals and objectives.
Before you start planning out the logistics of your offsite, take some time to nail down your top three goals for your time together. For example, do you want to focus on team communication? Get to know new team members? Reward everyone for a recent project win? Build new skills? Set and plan for a new strategic direction?
Once you've agreed on your top three goals, take it one step further and decide what achieving each of those goals would look like to help you design your schedule.
2. Find a time that works for everyone.
For many teams, some weeks are busier than others. It may go without saying, but try to avoid scheduling an offsite during one of these extra-busy weeks. If all participants are constantly checking email or cramming work into short breaks between activities, you're not going to get as much out of the offsite as you should.
Instead, consider surveying the participants about the best time to run an offsite and lock it in as soon as possible. If it's more than just a one-day event, chances are your employees need to line up schedules with a significant other, find child care, coordinate plans to support their workflow, and clear out their calendar for the retreat.
3. Location, location, location!
Location matters. It's an 'offsite' after all, right? Luckily, that may be interpreted in a variety of ways. You can run an offsite remotely, in a different building, at a dedicated events center, or even further afield in a different city. Of course, you can also run an "offsite" onsite. What's important, though, is it's different from your usual day-to-day working environment.
You'll need to consider costs (especially if people are flying in for it) and think about a convenient location for everyone in terms of travel and accessibility. And if your entire team is working remotely, remember the cost of flying them all in for a few days. All expenses paid are probably cheaper than office overheads.
4. Involve your team in the planning.
If improving team coordination and collaboration is one of your offsite goals, why not get some participants involved in the planning? For example, they could help organize the catering, a guest speaker, a team happy hour, or even a fun team activity like trivia.
In addition, when employees are involved in the planning and organization, they feel a sense of responsibility, promoting greater buy-in amongst the rest of the team.
5. Choose team building activities that work for everyone.
While it's important to schedule some time for fun team-building activities during an offsite, it can be hard to accommodate everyone's interests, tastes, and styles. That's why we recommend incorporating a few different inclusive activities, suit your team members' personalities, and link back to areas that need team focus. For example, don't organize a beer tasting event if you know a number of your team members don't drink, or avoid doing a sales-based activity if your team needs to work on their collaboration skills.
Another idea is to make some activities mandatory and others optional. That way, you can make sure everyone participates in the targeted team-building activities but then give options like a food tour, museum visit, or a game night as optional after-hours activities for whoever wants to participate. If you need some ideas, here are a few of our favorite indoor team-building activities for 2022.
6. Build some downtime into your schedule.
Unless everyone in your team is best friends and loves spending every waking minute together, it's important to schedule some unstructured free time in your offsite's schedule. That way, everyone can choose how they want to spend that time. For example, they could do some sightseeing, squeeze in a quick workout, meet some colleagues for a drink, or even catch up on some shut-eye. As an organizer, be sure to communicate what's mandatory on the schedule and what's optional.
7. Make sure everyone is well-fed.
While food is not usually top of mind, it's an essential part of any offsite. When people are hungry or waiting for their next break, they can be more irritable and less productive. So for in-person offsites, make sure you have snacks and beverages available between sessions, and for the main meals, consider including a wide variety of dishes to accommodate preferences.
If you're running a remote retreat, consider ordering some meals and snacks through delivery apps like Uber Eats or DoorDash, so they don't have to think about their meals on those days.
Reminder: Ask everyone about their dietary restrictions or allergies in advance.
8. Communicate your plans well in advance.
There's no such thing as over-communication when it comes to company retreats. Make sure you give everyone plenty of notice about when the offsite is scheduled, where it is happening, and the general plan. You might also want to consider leading up to the big day or week with some bit of teaser events, prep activities, or a "know before you go" session. That way, everyone can start to get excited about the event and discuss any questions they may have!
Honestly, who benefits from surprising your team…? Especially if pleasant surprises are not generally a large part of your company culture.
9. Conduct a post-offsite survey.
While a post-offsite survey isn't a regular part of offsite planning, it's essential for prepping for your next offsite gathering. As soon as your offsite is over, you should solicit input from your team on the schedule, activities, planning sessions, and more.
Not only will it show your team that you value their input, but it will help you improve the planning and organization of your next offsite meeting.
How are you and your team planning to spend their next corporate offsite?