What do you remember most about the times you’ve traveled for get-togethers like destination weddings?
Catching up with an old friend, trading stories with someone you just met, enjoying fantastic food and laughs in the small moments between big events – these are the same things that make a corporate retreat invaluable.
These moments are possible because you’re removed from daily distractions, spending unscripted time with friends, family, or co-workers. The togetherness is almost more important than the event at hand.
After two years apart, you no longer need to lure guests by going big on an exotic or trendy locale. While locations will always play a role, emphasis has shifted toward quality time spent together, rather than blockbuster destinations. A wider range of locations, offering flexible, collaborative spaces, unique activities, and ease of attendance, are becoming the new hot spots for many a reunion – or company offsite.
A corporate retreat is an opportunity for team members to come together away from the office and their typical responsibilities. It might include learning experiences, team-building activities, downtime for informal socializing, or collaborative work sessions.
Prior to 2020, company retreats were often viewed as a “nice-to-have” perk. Now, executive coaches consider business retreats “critical to culture-building.” These events carry significant benefits for hybrid teams, no matter where they’re hosted.
74% of companies adopting a hybrid work model have found that shorter trips nearer to home can be more effective and more memorable for employees.
Successful company retreat planning doesn’t just focus on the where, but also on the what, the how, and the why.
As corporate retreats have become more about getting the collaborative work done and less about recognition and rewards, more companies are opting to spend their offsite dollars on more frequent, more personal, more impactful events. But with greater frequency, they also need to be easier to execute and participate in.
As the offsite becomes the new onsite, companies are thinking differently as they plan retreats. They are taking advantage of unique local recreation and culture to build group activities and relaxation into the offsite agenda.
With this in mind, here are a few essential factors to consider when planning your next retreat.
It seems obvious, but the first step toward a successful offsite retreat is to build your agenda around your desired end goals. What knowledge, experiences, and skills do you want people to leave with?
You need to have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish:
Each of these suggests a specific type of event and specific type of space needed.
Knowing what you want people to take away will ensure you plan your retreat with all the right elements in mind.
Picking the right location is a huge factor for your corporate retreat. Consider cities offering a variety of experiences, convenience, and lower cost, in addition to the usual suspects like New Orleans and Las Vegas.
For example, Phoenix, with its backdrop of Camelback Mountain, makes a fantastic off-season destination for those who like championship golf courses, great Southwestern-style food, or luxurious spas.
Columbia, SC, has a rich history to explore, the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park for a leisurely stroll, and good ‘ol fashioned Southern food.
Choosing locations that are closer to where people live also shows you’re taking the personal lives of employees into consideration. There are so many destinations with airports within a forty-five-minute drive, people no longer have to worry about flights and long drives to get to their destination.
Choosing your venue isn’t just about location. You need to think about the type of space you need to hold your retreat.
“You should also consider the type of event you’re planning and what you expect to get out of it. A rooftop is an ideal location for a celebration or award ceremony, but you’ll want a good-sized indoor space with presentation screens for an innovation summit.”Expansive – Sarah Weiss, National Event Director
Large open spaces are perfect for an event showcasing a product, not a small team-building exercise.
By keeping these things top of mind, you’ll ensure that the location and the type of space are perfect for your needs.
Effective corporate retreat planning doesn’t just include finding a venue. When people arrive at the destination, they’ll want to know they’re near the heart of the planned activities. Not only that, they’ll want to know how to get around, so transportation planning should be on your list.
This is where having an on-the-ground local point person can save you a lot of planning time and day-of headaches – while directing you to some truly unique retreat experiences in the area. A corporate retreat isn’t a mass vacation to a new city – it’s a chance to bond, learn, and collaborate in a new, engaging environment. A local expert will know which vendors and locations can support those goals.
Leaning into your local point people as thought partners for brainstorming ideas and logistics for your corporate retreat agenda will ensure a memorable corporate retreat. Remember, they’ve done this before and are there to help!
Best of all, your future retreats become that much more effective, thanks to the relationships you build.
For example, Expansive’s events team has hosted programs across 30+ cities in the US, from corporate offsites and conferences to film shoots and weddings – they’ve seen it all and can be great resources. Thanks to strong local networks and event-planning expertise, it can help with recommendations for everything from transportation to entertainment.
There’s nothing like sharing a meal to create a sense of bonding. Researchers from Cornell University have even found that workers who share meals report better team performance.
Food is an integral part of any event. It’s what people remember. A great meal can make a good event amazing. Or vice versa if you’re not careful.
Making the menu at your corporate retreat should be additive to the experience, not an afterthought.
Consider introducing local flavor alongside hometown favorites to ensure everyone gets something they enjoy, whether it’s a newly-discovered dish or a classic done just right.
Make sure everyone has a seat at the table, no matter their dietary needs. Vegetarian, gluten-free, allergy-friendly – what we eat says a lot about who we are. Inclusivity is just as crucial at the meal table as it is in the workplace. Demonstrating your company’s values at the retreat means ensuring everyone eats well.
Make your team’s meals an experience in their own right and a powerful part of the social impact of having a great corporate retreat.
When employees think of corporate retreats, offsite activities are the first things that come to mind. Zip-lining, team-based competitions, trust falls – there’s a variety of adventurous outings to keep people busy, but you need to balance that with downtime.
And while your retreat needs to be fun and memorable, they also need to serve a purpose – it can’t be all play and no work, nor can it be all work and no play.
It’s important to vary the energy level of your event by providing a range of activities for participants. If you have an intense brainstorming session in the morning, follow it with a quiet lunch or provide places for people to go and unwind by themselves.
You don’t want people ending the day exhausted or burnt out.
If you already have some activities in mind, it’s still a good idea to reach out to your local contacts for their perspective. Seasonal events or activities you can only do at that particular location are a great way to make the event unique and give your employees more to look forward to.
Having an in-town contact will help you stay informed of any important developments and be the first to hear about exciting or unique events that can become part of your corporate retreat agenda.
For example, after a morning of intense breakout sessions in Denver, the team might enjoy a short drive out to the Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater for a one-mile hike and stroll through the venue’s museum to get people energized and out of the work mindset for an hour or two. That’s the kind of unique local experience that fits easily into many retreat schedules.
“If companies can get together even for a half-day retreat or a weekend upstate, those moments of physical colocation are like rocket fuel to the process of creating trust and a sense of belonging.”Kerry Goyette – Founder and president of Asperio Consulting Group
Organizations doing hybrid the right way are starting to see the value of holding more frequent corporate retreats in less complicated destinations.
In the new reality of hybrid and remote work, people are excited to have fun with colleagues, learn from each other, and collaborate in person – and it doesn’t require a five-star resort to create those meaningful experiences.
What it does take is a retreat location that fits your needs, including spaces for all-hands events, smaller team work sessions, and anything else you have planned.
When you know your retreat objectives, you can plan it from the ground up to ensure that not only are those goals met, but that everyone who attends is excited about the next retreat.
From the perfect space to balancing work and play, from delicious (and inclusive) food choices to seamless transportation and recommended hidden gems – leaning into local resources will help you host a fun and effective retreat.
Remember, there’s no one right way to do a corporate retreat, and each one can be different from the next. A thoughtfully planned agenda can transform a work trip into something extraordinary that energizes people, boosts morale, and encourages innovation long after the event.
Let Expansive help you take your next retreat to new heights. Our flexible, fully customizable event spaces in premier cities across the country will connect you with all the resources and local hosting expertise you need to design an exceptional experience. See our complete list of event spaces and book a tour today.