The Five Keys to a Successful Team Retreat in the Age of COVID – Smart Passive Income

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The Five Keys to a Successful Team Retreat in the Age of COVID – Smart Passive Income


As you could know, Workforce SPI is completely remote! This implies we do not typically get the possibility to get collectively in individual—apart from our annual summits. In the course of the difficult final ~two years of COVID, that in-person expertise has been… onerous to come back by. That’s why this previous summer time, with vaccines lastly a actuality, SPI management felt it was vital for morale and planning to get our entire staff collectively in individual safely if we might.

I am Sara Jane Hess, and I’m the senior manufacturing supervisor at SPI. It might sound odd {that a} manufacturing supervisor is speaking about planning a staff summit, however as soon as upon a time I used to be the operations supervisor and deliberate a number of of our previous in-person occasions. When our earlier operations supervisor introduced she was leaving, I stepped in to assist plan this yr’s summit and get all the small print in place. This included discovering and reserving venues, eating places, and actions, amongst different issues.

On this publish I’ll share the 5 largest concerns that went into planning and executing what was finally a enjoyable and profitable retreat. I hope it’s useful for you if you happen to’re enthusiastic about placing collectively your personal in-person occasion to your distant staff, particularly within the period of COVID.

Desk of Contents

  1. Pick a Great Location (We Chose Denver)
  2. Make Sure You’re COVID Safe
  3. Make the Most of Your Working Time
  4. Eat Some Great Food
  5. Have Some Fun

1. Choose a Nice Location (We Selected Denver)

We thought of a couple of totally different places for internet hosting our retreat, together with Columbus (the place Matt lives) and San Diego (the place Pat lives), however we finally determined to go together with Denver, Colorado (which additionally occurs to be the place I reside). 

We selected Denver for a couple of causes, however the principle one was that it was a extra central location for all members of the staff, on condition that three of our staff members reside in Denver or inside a 90-minute drive of town.

Selecting a spot the place workers already reside is not a should, but it surely’s a nice-to-have for a couple of causes:

  1. It makes planning for venues and eating places simpler as native worker(s) will be capable to make suggestions.
  2. It permits the staff to get to know the hometown of their fellow worker(s).
  3. It cuts down on some prices since native workers gained’t want lodge rooms, flights, or airport transportation.

Once more, having workers already residing in your chosen vacation spot is a nice-to-have. When you’ve chosen your metropolis, you could discover a venue to host your staff—a house base for all of the actions of the retreat.

Why We Went with a Lodge

In years previous we’ve had our staff keep at giant Airbnb homes. However due to the variety of folks on our staff, we’ve required at the very least two Airbnbs, which provides issues like proximity to one another, who stays the place, delegating an appropriate widespread space for folks to hang around throughout non-work instances, ensuring each Airbnbs are near eating places/different sights… the record goes on.

We’ve had all these challenges with previous summits, so this yr we determined to make use of a lodge. I felt that it made extra sense to maintain everybody in the identical place, give them their very own personal house, and nonetheless have them inside strolling distance of eating places and sights. Finance-wise, as soon as the price of a number of Airbnbs and extra assembly house are added up, they typically change into corresponding to a lodge.

 Listed below are a couple of key issues to bear in mind when deciding on a venue:

  1. Accessibility to the airport and different areas of curiosity.
  2. The venue must be good—clear and cozy with public gathering areas (like a foyer, terraces, and/or rooftop deck).
  3. Value. It must be reasonably priced, clearly. We set a objective for the value vary we needed to remain inside, then negotiated the value with the lodge, which was capable of maintain us in that vary.
  4. A number of choices/makes use of in the identical venue. For us, this was renting a convention room in the identical lodge because the staff was staying at. This allowed us to bundle prices, which allowed us to get a greater price for lodge rooms and the convention room, and allowed us to be in a location that restricted publicity to folks exterior our group (and subsequently COVID).

Talking of COVID security, our alternative of venue was guided largely by the necessity to maintain the staff secure whereas touring and assembly up throughout a world pandemic. Let’s speak just a little bit extra about what we did to cut back our danger.

2. Make Certain You’re COVID Secure

I am actually hoping we can’t have to contemplate this in future years, however numerous planning time went into ensuring that we minimized our COVID danger in the course of the journey. There have been two primary methods we did this: by requiring staff members to be vaccinated, and selecting a venue that would scale back folks’s general publicity. 

COVID Security: Vaccination

We required that anybody who attended was vaccinated and will present proof of vaccination.

We additionally made it very clear why we had been requiring proof. It wasn’t as a result of we did not belief folks, however as a result of we needed to construct belief among the many staff that we had been making an attempt to handle one another as a lot as potential.

These concerns went into selecting eating places as effectively. I referred to as the entire eating places we ended up consuming at forward of time to ensure they’d COVID insurance policies in place like masking and distancing, and in some circumstances required vaccinations of consumers or employees. We additionally ate exterior every time we might. That was just a little tough with the climate, however general it went easily—and most significantly, nobody received sick.

COVID Security: Location

As I used to be planning the summit, I attempted to reduce the variety of places our staff would want to go to. So, we picked a lodge that was centrally situated within the metropolis, near Union Station the place everybody could be arriving and departing from. The lodge additionally had a convention room on web site that we might use.

This completed a couple of various things. First, it gave folks extra time, particularly within the mornings and the evenings earlier than dinner, as a result of they did not should journey very far to attend conferences—primarily, simply an elevator journey. It additionally saved them from coming into contact with numerous totally different folks.

The placement we’d initially thought of for our work time in the course of the summit was a very cool coworking house that in regular instances would have been excellent. However I’d been to that location earlier than and knew that it was a maze of places of work with lots of people crammed right into a small space. I knew that if our staff met there, we might be coming into fixed contact with any of the few hundred individuals who could be understanding of there on a given day.

I felt it wasn’t a danger that was value taking, so we consolidated all the things to the convention room of the Rally Hotel. This ended up being an ideal resolution as a result of we had been inside strolling distance of not solely Union Station, but additionally some actually nice eating places and bars.

I used to be actually happy with the way it turned out —and I feel the staff was too. If we ever do one other summit in Denver, I’d undoubtedly contemplate following this similar sport plan.

Associated Studying: “5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Conquer Loneliness and Feel More Connected

3. Make the Most of Your Working Time

Our staff has the advantage of having run a number of in-person retreats previously, and we’ve seen what works and doesn’t on the subject of the schedule and format of the enterprise portion of the occasion. This yr we tried a barely totally different format from previous years, and I feel it was a hit.

Our summit ran Monday to Friday, and Tuesday and Wednesday had been dedicated to working time. We usually use these working classes to recap the yr and begin planning for the next yr.

This yr, Matt acknowledged that in previous years we hadn’t completed as a lot enterprise planning as we needed to in these classes. This was largely as a result of numerous our assembly time usually concerned management presenting to the staff.

To counter that, this yr we tried to “democratize” issues by having every subteam (advertising and marketing, manufacturing, options, and management) run their very own portion of the assembly to determine issues and alternatives of their respective areas. We additionally made these classes interactive, so the entire staff was concerned in brainstorming concepts and options for every space of the enterprise.

Scheduling was additionally vital. It’s additionally tough to hold the eye of the complete staff for a protracted time frame, so we broke up the schedule with totally different actions and a few downtime.

So what format do you have to select for the enterprise portion of your subsequent retreat? It’s all about realizing your staff and the targets you’ve got to your time collectively so you may profit from it. The perfect format will not be going to be the identical for each staff, so my recommendation is to contemplate what’s labored (and never labored) to your staff earlier than.

4. Eat Some Nice Meals

One other problem for us was discovering eating places that appealed to everybody. Our staff contains folks with dietary restrictions for gluten and dairy, in addition to a vegan. So it was fairly the method to undergo and discover eating places that supplied these choices and additionally had a bigger menu so everybody might discover one thing they preferred.

Fortunately, with Denver being a various culinary metropolis, it wasn’t too tough to search out these sorts of eating places. It had been a battle previously in different cities, however Denver supplied an excellent spectrum of eating choices. As a plus, I didn’t really feel like all two meals or menus had been the identical, which has not at all times been the case.

What’s the important thing to a profitable eating expertise to your entire staff? The principle factor is simply doing a ton of analysis. Discuss to locals and discover out what their favourite eating places are. Additionally, for the folks on the staff with dietary restrictions, I offered the restaurant choices to them first and had them give the okay earlier than I introduced the choices to the complete staff.

5. Have Some Enjoyable

Particularly after the past almost two years we’ve all been through, it felt tremendous vital to take pleasure in our time collectively. It’s vital to plan in a while that doesn’t require a lot brainpower and permits folks to get to know one another a bit extra. Along with our dinners out, which had been nice for staff bonding, within the evenings some folks did karaoke on the lodge’s rooftop deck, and one evening we visited a “barcade.” We additionally took an entire day to go to Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park and had a good time climbing and picnicking.

One among my favourite components of planning summits is to give you gifts for people on the staff. It’s numerous enjoyable to determine what folks may take pleasure in and use repeatedly that might additionally remind them of our time collectively as a staff.

In previous years we have finished tote baggage full of T-shirts, stickers, and pins. We saved with that theme this yr, however we additionally gave some items that might turn out to be useful in the course of the journey, particularly since we had lots of people coming to Denver (5,280 toes above sea stage) from decrease altitudes. First-time guests to town (which a number of teammates had been) do not at all times take into consideration the significance of adapting to the altitude, in addition to the excessive ranges of sunshine.

So issues like water bottles, sunscreen, and chapstick had been wonderful additions to the present totes we gave everybody. They’re all not solely nice items, however really profit the staff and their well being, particularly within the first few days as they’re adjusting to the local weather and terrain.

An In-Particular person Retreat Is a Lot of Work—However It’s Price It

As you may think about, a visit like it is a lot of labor to plan and pull off.

It’s additionally undoubtedly a big financial expense. I used to be conservative in my budgeting and gave additional buffer to issues like meals, which paid off since we got here in underneath funds (which had by no means occurred earlier than!). And fortunately the payoff, which is measured principally qualitatively, has at all times been value it.

Additionally, realizing how a lot to plan is a balancing act. I attempted to plan for as many issues as felt applicable, whereas additionally leaving time for chaos as staff members’ private preferences (like after-dinner actions and non-team meals). If you happen to plan each single element, the entire occasion can really feel constrained and rigid, which isn’t enjoyable, so I attempt to solely plan what I must.

As for unexpected hurdles, there actually weren’t many, which was just a little stunning. One which involves thoughts is one of our team members joining virtually. It labored principally effectively, with hiccups from a typically poor web connection, and it was onerous for her to listen to teammates speaking within the convention room. Past that, although, all the things ran extremely easily.

I hope this publish was fascinating and useful if you happen to’re enthusiastic about planning your subsequent—or first—in-person staff retreat. I would go into extra element on learn how to plan and efficiently pull off a staff occasion in a future publish, so keep tuned!



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