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Post title image: Corporate Retreat Planning: How to Get it Right Step by Step

Corporate Retreat Planning: How to Get it Right Step by Step

There's no point in having one if it doesn't get you the results you're looking for (an engaged, restored, and productive team). So here's how.

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Sometimes, the best out-of-the-box thinking comes when we quite literally step outside the box. And with corporate retreats, you and your employees get the opportunity to do just that.

But traditionally, corporate retreats can be a little… dry. Which isn’t surprising, given most retreats are held in a beige-coloured conference room. Not exactly a place where fresh ideas thrive.

That’s why many companies are looking for a way to shake this process up—but where do you even start?

Here’s a good place. At Ashore, we’ve developed a simple, 9-step process to help you craft a corporate retreat that truly does what it’s supposed to: help your people reset, refocus, and rediscover.

How to plan your corporate retreat in 9 simple steps

Planning your first corporate retreat can feel overwhelming. The secret lies in your preparations. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “Success is the residue of planning.”

Here are your 9 simple steps for planning a company retreat that ticks all the boxes.

Step 1: Figure out your budget

Let’s get the practicalities out of the way first. Working out a realistic budget for your retreat is non-negotiable. You’ll need to account for things like:

Step 2: Reserve the time in everyone’s diary

Early in your planning process, aim to identify a selection of dates that work for all attendees. A polling tool can help you work out who’s available and when. Once you’ve found a suitable slot, try to allow for a little flex on either side of your ideal dates, in case you need to adjust them according to the availability of accommodation, or to account for travel time to and from the retreat location.

Step 3: Find the right location

Retreats are the ideal time for your employees to step out of the office and into another world. Company retreats often used to be held at generic conference centres or hotels but these days, environmentally and socially conscious companies are ready for something different. And not all locations are created equally.

Choosing a more unique setting can be beneficial in many ways. A location that’s conducive to creativity can often help inspire new ideas, while immersion in nature can help decrease stress.

Often, the perfect place doesn’t always have the perfect workspace. But at Ashore, our handpicked locations combine incredible, peaceful spaces with the best-in-class technology your teams need to get the work done.

Other things to consider when choosing a location include:

No matter what you’re looking for, you’ll find a stunning Ashore property to suit your small corporate retreat (but bear in mind our exclusive locations aren’t suited to larger groups, as the maximum size group they can accommodate is eight people).

Filter by the number of guests, workspaces, bedrooms, or bathrooms to find the perfect fit.

Or use the map to choose anything from a remote modern house on the Isle of Skye to a Coal Merchant’s cottage in the Cotswolds.

We’ve also curated three types of trips to suit all types of retreats. Choose from:

Step 4: Think through logistics

Now your business retreat location is confirmed, it’s time to think about logistics. At the forefront of this stage should be the goal of creating a retreat that’s inclusive and accessible for all.

Ask employees if they have any allergies or food preferences. Bear in mind that not everyone will be comfortable taking part in activities that centre around alcohol.

Now is also the time to book speakers and facilitators, and arrange any optional activities that need to be booked in advance. Remember that not all employees will want to, or be able to take part in physical activities, so take the time to factor uncovering individual requirements into your planning process.

Transport to and from the retreat also needs to be considered. How will everyone reach the retreat? Is it accessible by public transport or will people need their car?

For small retreats where everyone is arriving together, you can allocate a fairly small time slot for arrivals. But if people are coming from different locations using different modes of transport, it’s best to ask everyone for an estimated arrival time and then leave a larger time slot for these scattered arrivals.

Step 5: Consider what you want the retreat to achieve

Now the budget and logistics are out of the way, it’s time to turn your attention to the retreat content. Setting an overall purpose for company retreats is essential because otherwise, they run the risk of becoming an expensive exercise that doesn’t actually achieve anything.

Your leadership team might already have a clear goal in mind, something that was possibly decided upon during their own executive retreat. But if not, some examples to draw inspiration from include:

You can get hyper-specific or keep it general.

Once your goal is set, make sure to clearly communicate this with all attendees, and explain how you plan to use the retreat to reach this objective, together.

Step 6: Choose a format

The format of your corporate retreat will depend in part on the goal defined in Step 5. If your primary goal is to build trust and foster well-being, your retreat might look a little different to a working retreat to discuss strategic objectives. Most primary goals can be broken down into two formats:

Whatever the format of your retreat, it’s likely to include some work sessions. Consider whether you need small workspaces that can act as breakaway rooms or a larger space where employees can gather together. For retreats with a business format, make sure to define ahead of time what kind of technology attendees will need.

Step 7: Create an agenda for the retreat

Even though corporate retreats have a more relaxed structure than your typical workday, it’s still important to create an agenda that aligns with your specific goals.

While there’s plenty to achieve, it’s crucial to balance work and play. Make sure to leave enough unstructured time for your team to relax and recharge.

For some, that might involve a hike through the local countryside, while others may prefer to curl up in front of the fire with a book.

This time is also essential for your employees to reflect on what they’ve achieved during the day, and to gather their thoughts.

An example agenda for a three-night retreat with a business format could look like this:

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An example agenda for a retreat with a social focus could look like this:

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Step 8: Create an information document

Sending an information document to all retreat attendees ahead of time helps them feel informed and involved. It’s also a great way to have all the details they need, without wading through email threads or Slack messages.

Include things like:

Step 9: Offer and ask for feedback

Towards the end of the retreat, include a session aimed at revisiting your initial goals. Have they been met, and how can employees take these learnings back to their desks? This step helps ensure that what you’ve achieved during the retreat helps create long-term, sustainable change.

Once the retreat is over, your work still isn’t done. Asking for feedback is a valuable way to discover what went well and what could be improved or adjusted for the next company retreat.

A short post-retreat survey can help you collect people’s thoughts, although it’s best to make this anonymous so everyone feels they can be completely honest. In addition to some quick opinion or Likert scale questions, leave space for open-ended questions designed to uncover more detailed, qualitative, feedback.

You might also choose to host a group debriefing where attendees can informally discuss their thoughts, or hold one-on-one meetings for more detailed feedback. When you’re ready to plan your next company retreat, these answers can help you solve any pain points and improve the experience next time around.

Common mistakes to avoid when corporate retreat planning

No one wants to plan a company retreat that ends up falling short of expectations — but it happens. Usually for one of these reasons:

Benefits of an effective corporate retreat

From boosting creativity to giving your employees the chance to really get to know each other, there are many benefits of corporate retreats. Here are some of our favourites.

Boosts innovative, out-of-the-box thinking

Stepping away from the everyday humdrum of day-to-day life gives us the chance to shake loose new ideas. A report by Human Spaces found that incorporating biophilic elements into workspaces can:

What are biophilic elements, anyway? These are design features that centre around natural elements like water, sunlight, and plants.

And anchoring experiences in the elemental is something that we’re passionate about here at Ashore. While you might not have the budget to create a biophilic office like Google or Microsoft, our retreat locations are bathed in natural light and surrounded by the elements.You can use our locations to periodically give your people this experience.

A restorative alternative to remote or office work

Choose the right retreat location and give your team the chance to feel restored and reinvigorated. Sometimes a change of scenery is what’s needed to boost creativity and well-being.

Improved team dynamics

Retreats can help employees who work remotely build meaningful relationships with their co-workers whom they may never have met in person before.

For office workers, it’s a chance to get to know each other on deeper levels and create stronger bonds that will carry over into the workplace.

Instead of focusing on traditional team-building activities, offer employees the opportunity for hiking, cooking classes, wine tasting, or a scavenger hunt (which often end up achieving the same thing as team-building activities, but in a less forced way).

Frequently asked questions about corporate retreat planning

What is a corporate retreat?

Corporate retreats take your employees out of the office and immerse them in a new environment. This might be a hotel, conference facility, or other accommodation set up for remote work.

How long should a corporate retreat last?

The length of a corporate or company retreat depends on your budget, the amount of time available, and the goals you’re aiming to achieve. Most retreats last somewhere between one and five days.

What usually happens at a corporate retreat?

During a retreat, employees have the chance to step away from their desks, bond with each other, and discuss new ideas. In addition to work-based discussions, most corporate retreats include elements like team-building activities, social events, and opportunities to relax and recharge.

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