Corporate retreats and company “offsites” have never been as important as they are today in the post-COVID era of remote teams who frequently work from home. In-person corporate retreats promote better collaboration among team members, clearer communication, sharper brainstorming, and faster problem-solving, while also reinforcing company culture and positive morale. They also allow co-workers and executives to create personal connections, which is ultimately better for your business.
But company offsites and retreat activities these days don’t have to be—nor should they be—the awkward, overly programmed, Vegas hotel conference room style events that many people envision when they think about traditional corporate events.
Today’s offsites and retreats—especially for start-ups and companies with Millennial, Gen Y, and Z employees—need to combine creative brainstorming and focused goals along with meaningful leisure and shared experiences in unique locations in order to make them worth the time and expense. Plus, all of these elements help team members to return to work reinvigorated.
For corporate executives and HR professionals doing the retreat planning, this means defining your objectives upfront, blending free-flowing games and activities with purposeful meetings and strategy sessions, and most importantly ensuring adequate free time for team bonding and relationship building.
It also means that in addition to where you’re going, it’s essential to think about how you’re staying. While mega hotels with sprawling meeting rooms can still be efficient and economical, private vacation rentals that offer more personalized accommodations, like open living and gathering spaces, full kitchens and bathrooms, and interconnected outdoor areas, can create a much more conducive retreat environment for a creative mix of corporate work and experiential play.
So, if you’re responsible for the planning process and looking for creative corporate retreat ideas for your next company getaway, here are 12 that will be sure to create a one-of-a-kind experience at any time of year that your employees will never forget—and will improve the performance of your entire team in the long term.
1. Take to the Water
Getting out on the water is soulfully exhilarating, mentally challenging, and physically stimulating. And doing certain activities on the water requires teams to work and perform tasks together, so it’s an ideal way to reinforce the relationships and responsibilities that team members need to be comfortable with in their everyday work.
Guided aquatic activities like a sailing charter, canoeing, kayaking, or standup paddle boarding with a professional tour company will also give you and your co-workers the opportunity to get out on the water and work together. That means great views, the wind freely blowing through your hair, experiencing unique ecosystems and wildlife, and unobstructed sunsets which will put your teams at ease and in a relaxed state of mind in addition to promoting camaraderie and a healthy company culture.
2. Play An Easy Team Sport
Team sports that are fun and easy to play, but also focus everyone on a shared goal—literally and metaphorically—are ideal to incorporate into your next company retreat or offsite.
Team sports encourage in-person physical activity, form stronger interpersonal relationships, and are also a great icebreaker for new employees or executives to get to know one another.
Pickleball, volleyball, kickball, capture the flag, scavenger hunts, and ultimate frisbee are all great corporate retreat team sports, particularly for large groups, since they’re low impact, don’t require a lot of expensive equipment or complicated facilities, and simple to pick up if someone hasn’t played them before. Plus, they’re fun—especially when you win!
3. Get Some Fresh Air
No matter where or when you’re planning your next retreat, sometimes nothing is easier or more rewarding for employees than the simple act of getting outside. Hiking, biking, spending time by the pool, relaxing by a fire pit, or having an al fresco dinner around an outdoor dining table can do miracles for team morale and emotional health. It can also promote better, more free-flowing communication between team members.
If your team is on the more adventurous side, activities like zip lining, rock climbing, or the challenge of a ropes course can also be great to add to your itinerary.
4. Plan a Late-Night Game Night
On the back of a long day of brainstorming about company strategy and participating in organized team-building activities, game night can be an amazing way to end the night. After a happy hour or dinner, gather around a large table for a little late-night competition and laughs. Some classic favorites include casino night, trivia, charades, and bingo.
If you have a larger group of people, breaking up into smaller teams for board games like Pictionary or Monopoly is also a great way to combine a little brain-stimulating fun and healthy competition with team building and creative collaboration.
5. Sing Together
Few things are able to unite an entire team better and faster than being in a situation that makes people feel vulnerable. So, unless co-workers have the voice of Mick Jagger or Taylor Swift nothing is more certain to produce heartier laughs and fun memories at a company retreat than an evening of open mic karaoke.
If you’re hosting your offsite at a vacation rental, karaoke is also an ideal activity to get everyone together in a private, central location without needing to rent separate meeting rooms or another venue altogether.
6. Explore a New Place
Discovering a new place or learning something new together stimulates curiosity and communication in addition to promoting interpersonal bonding and creativity. It’s also a simple and inexpensive way for co-workers and team members to discover their own common interests, especially if your company retreat is hosted in a town or new city that’s not where your business is based.
The act of “going local” together can be free-form and spontaneous, like taking a neighborhood tour of local artists’ murals and installation art. Or it can be more planned and structured, like doing a farm-to-table restaurant crawl.
Either way, getting familiar with a new town is one of the best—and simplest—in-person team bonding activities to schedule for your next retreat. Some companies even offer dedicated on-the-ground concierge services and specialize in booking local outings, which can help from the planning point of view.
7. Allow For Zen Moments
Work can be stressful—no matter how well your team problem-solves together. Add in the realities of raising a family and commuting to and from work (for those who still don’t work remotely), and it’s likely your employees haven’t had a minute to really “have a moment of zen” for months.
So, if you’re responsible for retreat planning, schedule time for wellness on your next offsite to allow team members to slow down and decompress with one another. Morning yoga, an afternoon meditation, or a bonfire and stargazing night are all great options that are sure to get everyone in a better zen-like frame of mind to be their best back at work.
8. Turn Up The Heat
In a cooking class, that is. Countless Hollywood romance movies have inspired and reminded us about the power of food and how it can bring people together. In this case what applies to love also works in business.
Breaking bread (and making it) with co-workers in a test kitchen or taking a cooking class with a professional chef is a great way to break down boundaries, learn to work better as a team, promote unexpected creativity, and most importantly, make sure everyone is well fed.
An all-hands-on-deck potluck or dinner party for your team at a vacation rental in a culinary destination like Napa Valley with a chef’s kitchen can also accomplish the same objectives without the formality and expense of a professional cooking class.
9. Give Back
Being able to help your co-workers or staff when they need it—whether that’s in the pursuit of a company objective, closing a sale, or solving a problem—is one of the most important parts of being a successful team member.
So, as part of your next company retreat or offsite, set aside some time for team members to volunteer together. If your company is in the real estate business, volunteer for Habitat for Humanity for a day. If you own a restaurant, have your team help plant vegetables at a local farmer’s market for underserved communities.
Few things strengthen the bonds between people faster and will make your corporate retreat experience more meaningful than sharing the pride that comes with helping out and supporting a worthy cause.
10. Get The Adrenaline Up
Of all the fun activities that you’re planning as part of your next company offsite, don’t forget to give your teams and co-workers the opportunity to get their adrenaline up before or after a day of meetings and brainstorming sessions.
Hitting the dopamine button with activities like go-cart racing, going to an amusement park, trying trapeze, flying high in a waterfront ferris wheel, or watching an experiential IMAX theater movie are proven to create better team building energy, develop deeper trust, and promote longer-term loyalty.
So, whether you host your next company offsite in a buzzing downtown business district or in a remote resort town in the middle of the mountains, make sure to plan team-building activities that will also stimulate your employees’ adrenal glands and funny bones as well as their problem solving and creative abilities.
11. Plan An Escape
No, unfortunately, we’re not talking about a spontaneous vacation to a private Caribbean island here (though that would probably be high on most people’s company retreat wish lists).
We’re talking escape rooms a.k.a. “exit games” where teams are challenged to work together to get themselves out of a theme-based room in an immersive adventure game using clues to accomplish incrementally harder tasks and tests while the clock is ticking.
Escape room themes run the gamut: nuclear reactor meltdowns, zombie apocalypses, prison breaks, and murder mysteries. Whichever you choose for your team, escape rooms literally and figuratively will have them problem-solving, communicating under pressure, and most of all, laughing all the way to safety.
12. Do Absolutely Nothing
While planned activities are great to keep everyone entertained, giving your team free time—and space—to do their own thing on a retreat is just as important. Whether that’s running, reading, napping, or a quick Netflix binge, downtime will help them feel “off the clock” even while onsite at a retreat.
All-in-all, small moments like a fire pit at sunset, a cold beer by the pool, and some good music can frequently do far more to help your team open clearer lines of communication, find common ground, and elevate corporate culture than a hundred overpriced corporate consultants.