How to Plan an Immersive Hybrid Corporate Retreat in 2022 – Thriver Blog

In a Thriver survey conducted in 2021, 39% of HR and other professionals indicated that employee engagement was the most significant challenge they faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Why is this such a big deal? Employee engagement plays a massive role in a company’s success! When employees feel disengaged, the entire organization suffers as low morale, stifled productivity, and even faster turnover creep in.

While that might sound scary, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of creative methods to shake things up and reignite your team’s spark! This article will discuss one such way: corporate retreats. If you have a remote or hybrid team, corporate retreats may be the key to helping them connect more meaningfully after years of pandemic restrictions.

Keep reading for easy-to-follow steps to successfully plan a corporate retreat and create an exciting team-building agenda!

The hybrid workforce era has just begun

According to a recent Gallup survey, only 8% of US employee work locations were exclusively remote in 2019 (pre-pandemic). By February 2022, this number rose to 39%, and Gallup now anticipates this number to settle at 24% during 2022 and beyond. Furthermore, the same survey indicated that 32% of employees prefer exclusively remote work locations. 

This information reveals that a significant proportion of US organizations will likely maintain a hybrid workforce going forward. The trend is no different in other countries, especially those in the West, where there is a robust infrastructure to support it. 

What does all this mean for your organization?

Love it or hate it, the hybrid workforce isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And since employee engagement is crucial to your company’s success, this is a vital area to prioritize and invest in continually. It’s also important to balance the needs of both your onsite and remote employees as you implement programs to connect team members and boost morale.

What is a corporate retreat, and why are they so valuable?

So, what is a company retreat? 

A corporate retreat is an event used to bring all or part of a company’s workforce together. The goal is to create a deeper connection among team members by creating space for them to interact meaningfully in a structured yet mellow environment. While work retreat ideas may revolve around work-related activities like project post-mortems and development planning, companies are increasingly focusing on fun and relaxation to help participants spend time together in a less formal atmosphere.

Hybrid Corporate Retreats Help Connect Geographically Diverse Workforces

Nowadays, many companies have geographically diverse workforces. As a result, hybrid corporate retreats are quickly becoming a popular way to supercharge team spirit and connect people in various locations. While sometimes challenging, it’s completely possible to plan effective themes for team-building retreats that engage both in-person and remote employees.

Furthermore, an increasing number of corporate retreat planners are acknowledging the idea that team-building retreat ideas can strengthen the post-COVID-19 corporate ecosystem. Salesforce, an employer of tens of thousands of people, is a great example of a company that’s embracing this trend in a huge way.

5 simple steps to successfully plan an immersive hybrid corporate retreat

In order for your corporate retreat ideas to succeed, you must plan them very carefully. Planning for a hybrid team often requires an extra dose of effort because your team may not be located in the same physical space during the event. While the bulk of your planning will likely revolve around in-person attendance, consider how to incorporate resources that will effectively include your remote participants. No one wants to feel like an afterthought!

That might sound tricky, but the following steps will help you navigate this challenge more smoothly.

Step 1: Clarify Your Goals for The Retreat

Before brainstorming in-person and virtual retreat ideas, it’s important to get crystal clear about your goals for the event. Is the aim to clarify overall company goals and direction? Address work environment issues? Welcome new hires? Teach wellness skills? In addition to your goals, remember to also think about your employees’ goals! For instance, what challenges are they facing? What skills do they want to learn? Being clear about everyone’s goals will help you choose the best work retreat ideas. 

A word of caution: be careful not to pack your retreat with too many goals. In other words, aim for quality rather than quantity. Better a few well-targeted goals backed with high-value activities than a retreat chock-full of rushed activities that leave everyone exhausted instead of energized. 

You can use Thriver’s poll feature to ask for input from your in-person and virtual attendees. For example, you can find out what experiences interest them, specific skills they wish to learn, issues they want to address, etc. You can demonstrate that you value their presence and time by asking for their input, and doing so will inspire them to be more invested in what you’re trying to achieve!

What To Consider for Your In-Person Retreat

Remember, your retreat goals will dictate the activities you plan. Here are some general suggestions to keep your in-person attendees as immersed as possible:

  • Aim to bring everyone together for general activities like opening and closing activities, general presentations, and general discussions. Outside of those core activities, allow people the flexibility to wander around and do their own thing to recharge if they wish.
  • Plan activities with small groups to build stronger relationships and improve communication.
  • Vary group compositions to keep everyone from getting bored and help facilitate fruitful discussions. For instance, activities that require participants may require pairs or groups of three.

What To Consider for Your Remote Retreat

How do you ensure an immersive retreat experience for your remote participants? 

The trick is to make sure they enjoy an authentic retreat experience through their computer screens. It all goes back to setting effective goals and finding appropriate activities to meet those goals. For example, if the goal is to promote stronger collaboration, consider fun team-building activities like virtual strategy games.

Don’t be afraid to ask your remote team for their input; their feedback will help you decide how to involve everyone creatively and meaningfully.

Step 2: Decide On a Retreat Location

Where will you host your retreat?

Corporate retreat venueCorporate retreat venue

There is a lot to think about when choosing your group retreat location. Once again, you must consider how your decision will meet your retreat goals for both in-person and remote attendees. Once you clarify your retreat goals and activities, you will find it easier to envision the kind of venue you’ll need.

What To Consider for Your In-Person Retreat 

When choosing your retreat location, look for things like:

  • Size and number of workspaces and meeting rooms (and the flexibility of seating layout for different activities).
  • Quality of sound and lighting in meeting rooms.
  • Ability to customize room temperature.
  • Access to fast Wi-Fi.
  • AV setup options, support, and partners. 
  • Access to essential devices and equipment.
  • On-site rooms at an overnight retreat.
  • Accessibility – think transportation and access to facilities (especially for people with special needs). 
  • Health, safety, and comfort of participants.

What To Consider for Your Remote Retreat

Remote team locations matter too! Here are some suggestions for enhancing their retreat experience:

  • Encourage remote participants to find a safe space away from their usual workspace. That way, they’ll feel more relaxed away from their everyday work environment. 
  • If some remote attendees live near each other, you can suggest they meet in one place and participate together. 
  • If you have the budget, consider paying for remote employees who live not too distant from each other to travel and meet up so they can participate together, remotely. For instance, consider a co-working or hotel space.

Step 3: Create a Detailed Agenda

Now that you’ve booked a venue, it’s time to create your company retreat agenda. Let’s look at some general points to keep in mind as you craft your in-person and virtual retreat agenda.

Person planning an agenda for a corporate retreat Person planning an agenda for a corporate retreat

General Tips for Your Hybrid Retreat 

  • Don’t pack your agenda; aim for quality over quantity of experiences.
  • Don’t attempt to provide a 100% identical experience for in-person and remote team members; it’s okay to tailor your schedule for each group.
  • Make sure that all content is inclusive. For example, make sure it will translate well by video conferencing, and that it considers the needs of people with vision, hearing and other difficulties.
  • Incorporate Q&A and live polls to keep everyone well engaged. Consider providing swag and other small gifts to encourage participation even more.
  • Make sure sessions aren’t too long and involve multiple breaks. This is especially important for remote attendees who will see and hear everything via a computer screen. 
  • Allow time for in-person participants to settle down before the video conference begins. That way remote participants won’t feel confused by or excluded from pre-session conversations.
  • Emphasize next-step announcements so your remote participants know exactly what to expect.
  • Allow sufficient time to set up devices (such as iPads) to connect in-person and remote participants during group activities. Also, provide clear instructions about how to complete tech setups.
  • Schedule for downtime and personal development opportunities to allow participants to connect with each other on a personal level. 
  • Keep introverted and extroverted personalities in mind; some people may wish to spend some time alone, while others may want to participate in all the group activities. 

Overall, keep things inclusive and fun so participants can come away from the retreat feeling appreciated, relaxed, connected, and enthused!

What To Consider for Your In-Person Retreat

  • Plan the ideas for your work retreat activities well, but allow enough flexibility for optional portions of the event to avoid overwhelm.
  • Build in a buffer of 10-30 minutes after every task so there’s no stress if it runs over. However, remember that the buffer time does not replace the time needed for a break! 
  • For a full-day retreat, make sure attendees have at least one break in the morning, a long lunch with plenty of time to recharge, and an afternoon break. 
  • For a multi-day retreat, each full day should include at least two total hours of refresh time broken down into smaller chunks throughout the day.

What To Consider for Your Remote Retreat

  • Consider differences in time zones and think of how best to accommodate as many participants as possible (especially for sessions that require real-time participation).
  • Send remote attendants care packages and other items that they can interact with during the retreat (such as downloadable PDF workbooks and stationaries). 

Here are two examples that show how one- and three-day company retreat ideas can come together, so you can confidently plan your next corporate gathering.

One-Day In-Person Company Retreat

  • 9:00 AM: Stretch and deep breathing exercises
  • 9:30 AM: Team-building activity
  • 10:30 AM: Break
  • 10:40 AM: Continue team-building activities
  • 11:30 AM: Activity buffer
  • 11:45 AM: Lunch/downtime
  • 12:30 PM: One-on-one or small group activity
  • 2:00 PM: Activity buffer
  • 2:15 PM: Break/downtime
  • 2:45 PM: Workshop
  • 3:45 PM: Break
  • 4:00 PM: Continue activity
  • 4:30 PM: Activity buffer
  • 4:45 PM: Closing remarks and goodbyes

Three-Day Retreat

The schedule for a three-day retreat can follow a similar pattern as a one-day retreat, with activities following a certain theme like:

  • Day One: Wellbeing
  • Day Two: Professional Development
  • Day Three: Fun, Creativity, and Celebration

Step 4: Book a Caterer

Don’t let your team get angry! 

Corporate caterers preparing food for a retreatCorporate caterers preparing food for a retreat

Whether you’re planning a one-afternoon event or a multiple-day retreat, it’s important to make sure that attendees don’t have to worry about what they’re going to eat. Also, before booking a caterer for in-person attendees, find out if any of them have any special dietary concerns or needs and accommodate them as much as is feasible.

What To Consider for Your In-Person Retreat

  • Make sure your crew is covered for all mealtimes throughout the duration of the retreat.
  • Provide plenty of snacks. You can place prepackaged snacks on tables in front of every seat so attendees don’t have to congregate at a snack table at break time. 
  • Offer healthy options, but there’s nothing wrong with serving other “fun” items too. For example, lunch might be soup and salad, and dessert might be crumble cookies.
  • Opt for individually packaged lunches and cutlery for health and safety considerations.
  • Hire a server if you’re planning a plated dinner for an overnight retreat. 

Browse Thriver marketplace for local catering options near you that include boxed lunches, bowls, and more for your corporate retreat.

What To Consider for Your Remote Retreat

  • If remote participants need to pay for their lunch, make sure to reimburse them.
  • Send a snack box to help them keep their energy up during their virtual experience. 
  • If there is overlap between time zones for in-person and remote attendees, consider live-streaming meal sessions so everyone can eat together.

Step 5: Reflect on the Experience

Lastly, once the retreat is over, get honest feedback from your employees so you know what went well and how to improve for next time.

Image depicts the word feedbackImage depicts the word feedback

What To Consider for Your In-Person Retreat

Make sure feedback is left anonymously. Instead of asking employees to fill out a survey by hand at the end of the retreat, send them an email that allows them to vote for things like the company retreat games, food, and gifts they liked. Also, use this opportunity to gather ideas for the next retreat!

What To Consider for Your Remote Retreat

Your survey for remote participants will include many of the same themes as those for in-person attendees, however since hosting an online retreat comes with unique challenges, take a deeper dive into the effectiveness of the retreat and how employees felt overall about the experience. How was the technology aspect? Did everyone feel included enough? What would work better next time?

3 ways thriver can help with your corporate retreat planning

Immersive corporate retreats have a huge potential to boost employee engagement, especially if you have a remote or hybrid workforce. A successful event requires careful attention to detail so that everything goes smoothly and all participants come away with a positive experience. However, planning a company retreat from scratch is often an intense, time-consuming exercise. There are three ways Thrivers can take the stress out of the process:

  1. White-Glove Experience

Contact a retreat provider through our marketplace and they will plan your retreat from A to Z, from catering to team activities and logistics. This service will save you time, help you maximize your budget, and help you choose the best activities for your company’s needs and culture.

  1. Build Your Own Retreat 

You may prefer to DIY your retreat, but you don’t have to wander helplessly around the internet to do so! Browse our marketplace for the perfect meals and corporate retreat activities for your team (yoga classes, workshops, company retreat games, catering, gifts, etc.). Whether you’re looking for one-day company retreat ideas or something longer, you will find options to help you bring your team together.

  1. Build a Retreat With Our Thriver Experts 

Let’s say you’ve got some pretty solid employee retreat ideas, but you need a hand to make them happen. Take the pressure off your shoulders by contacting our Thriver experts! While they don’t provide help with booking flights or hotels (unlike with option#1 above), our customer success team will find and book experiences for retreats through our platform on your behalf. 

When you break down the corporate retreat planning process into steps, it becomes a lot easier to create the kind of retreat that boosts morale and keeps employees engaged!