Work doesn’t look like it used to — and neither do team offsites. These days, with remote work so much more common, we already spend a lot of time working outside the office. So do we really need offsites?
Short answer: yes. Why? Because offsites and working retreats are not simply about getting away from the office. They're about getting away from the same old, same old — whatever shape that takes. They’re about shaking things up and giving teams a fresh perspective, so they can work and interact differently — both during the offsite itself, and when they get back to business.
Here, we’ll look at the importance of team offsites and give you a guide for how to plan a successful offsite for small teams.
An offsite is any gathering of work colleagues that takes place away from the usual workplace and away from their daily work routine. Typically, an offsite takes place at a conference centre, hotel, or resort — giving participants a new environment away from the office.
There are many reasons for organising a team offsite. Maybe your team needs to focus on a specific project or strategy. Perhaps you want to run some skills development or team-building sessions. Or maybe your hybrid team would benefit from dedicated time and space to interact in real life.
Such team meetings and gatherings are important — all the more so now that so many of us work remotely and asynchronously. With less in-person interaction, team meetings are crucial for keeping us connected to our colleagues and our shared goals.
But couldn’t you do all that in your office conference room? Why go to all the effort and expense of organising an offsite meeting?
It’s true, there is a lot to be said for onsite team meetings. The logistics are less of a burden, and since you can use existing company resources, facilities and technology, it’s less costly. Being onsite is more accessible and convenient.
That said, onsite meetings still take place within the boundaries of the company workplace and workday. The great benefit of an offsite team meeting in new and casual surroundings is that it helps your team break out of those familiar working structures, so they can think differently, work differently, interact differently.
You may well be imagining an offsite meeting as one of those corporate retreats filled with the kind of team building activities and games that many employees dread. And yes, team building is a crucial part of a successful team offsite.
But what’s important is that you take into account the needs, preferences and personalities of your employees. If escape rooms and scavenger hunts make your employees roll their eyes, don’t do them. All you need are exercises they will engage with and enjoy.
Even better, offer activities that speak to the specific challenges they face, so they can actually see and appreciate how the exercises will benefit them.
By the end of your offsite, not only will you have given your team enjoyable activities, but you’ll have achieved something productive.
A team offsite is not only good for your employees: it’s good for your business too. Making the time every quarter, or even just once or twice a year, to bring people together in a new setting can pay big dividends for your employee experience and your organisational success.
With the rise of remote and asynchronous work, teams are collaborating at just a quarter of the level as before. Getting a small group together in a non-office environment can generate a new atmosphere that breeds collaboration and creativity. Research shows that in-person collaboration is 23% more effective than online.
When employees get together in person, it helps to build positive relationships, which in turn, reduce stress. Spending time together in a new environment allows working relationships and team performance to broaden and deepen, in different ways to their routine interactions. It’s also an opportunity to spend relaxing non-work time together, which can make team members feel more comfortable with sharing ideas and expressing their thoughts.
A team getaway demonstrates that you value their work and appreciate their contribution to the company. It can also be a real motivating perk for your people, giving them a focused period to work, but in an enjoyable and unpressured environment. Offsite meetings can help cultivate a sense of camaraderie and belonging that makes participants feel more motivated and engaged. In fact, employees’ motivation and engagement in their work has nearly 4 times the stress reduction impact than where they do that work.
Working together in person has been shown to make it easier to generate creative ideas. Teams have less restrictions and more freedom to explore and get creative. Getting away to new surroundings — and especially natural surroundings — can stimulate innovation and inspiration. This is one reason why Ashore offers offsite locations with easy access to nature — like countryside and coastal trails, National Trust woodlands and nature reserves.
Access to nature is also a great boost for physical and mental health and wellbeing. Not only that, but being in the more casual surroundings allows us to escape the professional decorum, to relax and be more ourselves. And that’s good for business, since happy employees are more productive and engaged, and are more likely to remain with the organisation.
To get the best of those benefits, though, you need to provide just the right offsite experience for your team. And as work dynamics have seen big changes in the last few years, so have offsites. Different ways of working call for different approaches to team retreats. Here’s why:
Organisational structures have been shifting towards working in smaller teams for more focused communication and impact. The big corporate gatherings of the past are not fit for purpose for today’s ways of working. Offsites for smaller teams — which is what Ashore specialises in — allow you to be more focused and tailored to your team’s own priorities.
With the increase in digital work, we’ve gotten used to interacting with our teammates on screens rather than in person. Hybrid work requires more of an active effort to cultivate human connections and interaction. Rather than getting teams out of the office to meet people from other parts of the business, today’s offsites are more focused on getting to just meet each other.
In the past, offsites were simply about getting away from the traditional office setting. They could still be top-down and one-directional, full of presentations and leader-led activities. But this doesn’t fit the needs of today’s more collaborative workforce. Offsites need to be less about information sharing and more about facilitating peer interactions.
Employees often dread the traditional company offsite or corporate retreat, with the expectation of having to take part in activities and minglings they don’t see the point of. To make offsites attractive and effective, you need to offer participants something different, something that’s relevant to your teams, while also being a relaxing, low-pressure and enjoyable experience.
With all that in mind, we think the best offsite experience for today’s teams should be:
At Ashore, we specialise in offering company offsites that meet exactly those criteria.
How you run your offsite is up to you and your team. But whether you’re focused on productive work or relaxed team development, it’s important to plan well. We’ve got a more detailed guide on how to plan a successful team offsite, but here are the key steps to take:
Decide who will be going on the offsite. Try to keep it small so that you can really get that deep impact. This is why Ashore focuses on small team offsites for up to 8 people.
With small teams, it’s even easier to make sure you arrange an offsite that fits everyone’s interests and preferences. Use pulse surveys and team conversations to collectively map out and plan your ideal offsite.
If your few days away as a team is to be effective, it’s important to have an objective, and an agenda for how to achieve it. As a team, define what it is you want to achieve, and how you plan to achieve it over the course of your offsite.
Involve your team in deciding what activities would best benefit them both as individuals and as a team. Brainstorm some options and narrow them down together. Browse the leisure options available at different offsite locations and use that to help you choose where to go and what to do.
Decide where you want to spend your offsite. Choose a place that best ticks your boxes in terms of your objective and your teams’ needs and preferences. Ashore’s menu of offsite offerings makes this easy by giving you all the details about each offsite location to find what best suits you and your team.
Set out all the details your team will need to know, in terms of accommodation, accessibility, working facilities, food, transport, recreation and any costs involved. Address any queries and concerns the team may have.
Keeping your objective in mind, set out an agenda for achieving it. But remember to balance productivity with flexibility. One of the priorities of an offsite is to escape the pressures of the office environment, so make sure you make space to do what works best for the team in the moment.
At Ashore, we know the world of work is changing, and we know that calls for a new approach to company offsites and corporate retreats. An effective modern offsite doesn’t need to be big and bold. In fact, it will be better if it’s not. Simply getting away from the familiar — even for a few days once or twice a year — makes for a more engaged, creative, collaborative and productive company culture.
Our aim is to provide your small teams the most rewarding offsite experience in the most peaceful and inspiring locations in the UK. To see what suits your people and how we make team offsites different, explore Ashore.
A team offsite is any gathering of work colleagues that takes place away from the usual workplace and away from their daily work routine. Offsites can be used for many purposes, such as to focus on a specific project or strategy, run problem solving sessions or a learning and development programme.
Onsite meetings are held on company premises, while offsites take place in another location. Onsites have the benefit of convenience and lower costs, while offsites offer fresh surroundings and more casual and relaxed settings, which can improve creativity and productivity.
Team retreats and offsites have many benefits, both for employees and organisations. These include:
6 steps for planning an effective team offsite.