It’s great to get away from the office, isn’t it?
These days, we have more freedom to work when and where we work best. We have more flexibility to manage family time, school runs and healthcare and the rest of life’s tasks. No wonder nearly nine out of ten of us jump at the chance to work remotely at least part of the time.
Of course, it’s not all smooth sailing.
With remote working, the boundaries between work and personal time can get blurred, so we don’t get the rest we need. We have less face-to-face contact and connection with our colleagues and teammates. Even working from home, we can still feel disconnected and overworked.
Companies have long used business retreats to give people a change of scenery and pace—to network and connect, build team spirit and morale in a more casual environment. But these big events are out of sync with our new ways of working—especially for small teams.
What workers today need is simply a fresh space to focus, reset or discover new inspiration. Here, we’ll look at why small retreats are more in tune with today’s workspace, and how to create a getaway your employees will look forward to—and benefit from.
“Companies that take the time to regularly get away from daily routines to refocus on and rally around purpose set themselves apart as a desirable place to work,” writes Jerremy Newsome in a recent article for Forbes, “and company retreats are a fantastic place to do just that.”
But all company retreats are not created equal. If you want your team to get the best from a few days away together, you need to make sure it’s the right retreat for what they need.
Let’s look at why a small team escape is better suited to the way we work today.
Large corporate retreats had their day—especially for large corporations.
They helped get people together from across the business who might otherwise have no opportunity to connect. They were used for networking, team building, for making cross-departmental connections, for collaboration and idea sharing. And with bigger budgets, they could offer high-end event spaces, activities and workshops, maybe even a guest speaker or two.
But were they really effective or productive?
Sure, large events helped make connections, but how deep were those working relationships? And for introverted employees—who work more effectively in small groups than crowds, large corporate gatherings could be overwhelming.
What’s more, by trying to cater for everyone across the board, a large business retreat could become generic and superficial. Workshops, presentations and team-building activities could feel like being at an extended work meeting. Not to mention the logistics and expense of accommodating and catering for a large group of people.
Most of all, though, large retreats aren’t a viable option for small businesses or small teams.
Work life has changed—and so have working retreats.
Nowadays, much of our networking and collaboration happens online, not through team building workshops. Digital office suites and superfast broadband allow us to work from all sorts of locations besides the office.
We don’t need to go to the effort and expense of large corporate gatherings for learning and development either. Now we can learn in the flow of work on our company learning platform.
And since we can work from anywhere, we can also take a break from our usual routine, get away to a new place to rest and reset—even while continuing to work.
What we need from a working retreat these days is an attractive space to work together and work better, away from the everyday stresses and distractions.
Small group retreats offer a more intimate atmosphere, which can make it easier to focus on their specific objectives and make real progress.
Digital and hybrid teams who rarely work together in person can cultivate more effective and deeper personal interactions and collaboration. With a small retreat, you’re not bound to a fixed agenda of pre-planned events.
You can be more agile and flexible, and really make sure that your team gets the experience that meets its needs. And when the work day is over, you’ve got new surroundings to explore.
If you’re a small business or team with a limited budget—if you want to reward your team and still have real impact, a small retreat can be just the ticket.
When it comes to large corporate getaways, employees are not enthused.
“Forced fun” is how one product manager describes her marketing firm’s all-expenses-paid 5-day trip to Cancún for her 300 co-workers.
And yet, 63 percent of employees and 60 percent of decision-makers say they’re excited by the idea of regular company offsites or get-togethers. The question is, how to do it right.
A recent Gartner HR survey of almost 3,500 employees concluded that in-person connections and proactive rest are vital to creating a productive and human-centred business.
Gartner found that, if their company fosters intentional, meaningful workplace connections, employees are 12 times as likely to feel a bond with their colleagues. Companies that enhance in-person connections can improve collaboration by 23%.
Meanwhile, encouraging effective rest for your employees boosts performance by 26%, and decreases the incidence of burnout from 22% to just 2%.
“Rest should be embedded into the workflow,” says Brent Cassell, Gartner HR’s vice president of Advisory, “to prevent burnout rather than being used to recover from it.”
When it comes down to it, that’s really what a corporate retreat is all about: rest and connection that can lead to better performance and collaboration.
So how do you achieve that?
There are three key aspects that Gartner recommends offering your employees: choice, structure and a sense of fun. So the recipe for creating a business retreat your team actually wants to go on is this:
Expensive bells and whistles not required.
At Ashore, that’s the recipe we offer. We have a wide choice of small retreat venues with customised workspaces all around the UK. We offer three menus of retreat locations — Focus, Reset and Discover — so your team can head off with a clear objective in mind.
What’s more, our unique houses are all set in beautiful locations, with an eye to balancing leisure time with work.
You can choose between group trips for small teams, or send your team on an individual retreat to focus or recharge by themselves.
Our four-day Focus stays are ideal if you need to get away from distractions to concentrate on a project. Whether you’re wrapping up an important project, or laying the groundwork for the next one, you need quiet and secluded surroundings, with all the equipment and connections you need to maintain high-quality work. But focused work also needs to be balanced with restorative relaxation. Coastal and countryside walks, and interesting cultural sites, help support that vital downtime.
For example, The Worker’s Cottage.
This spacious and cosy three-bedroom cottage on Sandringham Estate has two hi-spec workspaces to get your best work done in a relaxing environment. And when it’s time to recharge, head for afternoon tea at nearby Bircham Windmill, or take in an exhibition at Houghton Hall.
If you need a little more time to be able to think big and get inspired, Discover retreats give you a whole week to explore a new location. While digital office suites provide lots of tools to let remote and hybrid workers collaborate and experiment, there’s nothing like getting together in person to spark creativity. In fact, just four days in natural settings can double our creativity. Imagine what you can achieve after a week at one of Ashore’s countryside or seaside locations.
The Blackwood, for example, is an award-winning house set in National Trust woodlands in Norfolk. With lots of open-plan areas and ample space for 6 guests, it’s an ideal space for unhurried and creative thinking. What’s more, you can add a little adventure by chartering a boat out of Wells Quay.
Even with flexible working patterns, burnout is still a concern for employees. Last year, a study found that 62% of UK workers had felt burnt out over the previous 12 months. When your team deserves a bit of a reward after finishing a gruelling project, a Reset retreat is a great way to take a short breather and recharge your energy before getting back into the thick of it again.
What’s more, if your teammates only know each other under the pressure of deadlines and high-intensity work, spending time together in a beautiful location can help deepen their relationships.
The 18th-century Weaver's Cottage in Somerset is an amazing retreat location for up to 4 guests to relax and reset. Right in the heart of Frome, with plenty of quirky restaurants and bars, art and cultural venues, it's the perfect setting for unwinding—even if only in the garden hammock.
Whether your team needs a change of scenery to focus, reset or discover—and to have fun—it’s time to consider an Ashore retreat.
Explore all our trip types and locations around the UK and book a retreat your people will thank you for.