Remember when you could walk down the hall and bump into your coworkers? Having impromptu run-ins allowed people to have quick conversations about a project or catch up about life. As more companies maintain hybrid and remote workplaces, those moments can get lost to highly scheduled video meetings and longer working hours that can lead to loneliness and anxiety. This is why we need company offsites now more than ever.
Many coworkers haven’t seen each other in two years or have never met in person, so having an offsite meeting can be an impactful solution to bring people together. It’s not about brainstorming new action items or planning next year’s budget – enough of that kind of collaboration is already happening over Slack, email, and in meetings. Offsite meetings, which are taking place more regularly, should instead prioritize team building and allow people to see colleagues as human beings.
“We need to redefine why we gather, how we gather, and what we gather for,” said Jen Fisher, chief well-being officer for Deloitte US. “If we are gathering simply to sit in a room and do work, that’s a no go.”
We exist to connect with other human beings, Fisher added. Getting together in person is more about that connection, in some ways, than it is about work.
To that end, Salesforce began hosting employees at its newly opened Trailblazer Ranch, a 75-acre retreat nestled in the redwoods of Scotts Valley, Calif. Guests can participate in nature walks, restorative yoga, and meditation, among other activities.
We need to redefine why we gather, how we gather, and what we gather for.Jen Fisher, Chief Well-Being officer, Deloitte US
“Think of offsites as the new place to build those fundamental layers of empathy and understanding that are essential to collaboration,” said Ariel Hunsberger, senior manager of people leadership development at Salesforce. “You get to reconnect with who you are, how you want to work, and what inspires you to work.”
You don’t need to be a big company, have your own site, or even necessarily travel very far to connect your teams in the same way. But there are some keys to pulling off a successful offsite. Here are a few ways experts say you can get the most out of it.
Put thought into planning your company offsites
Before you do an offsite, set clear objectives on why you’re bringing people together. Is it to boost morale? Allow for in-person camaraderie? Spark creativity and deepen relationships? Whatever the reason, spend time planning out the schedule.
“A great offsite is meticulously planned,” said Kevin Conroy Smith, CEO and founder of The Number Project, an event and experiential production company. “You can have more effective meetings. You can get a range of things done in a short time. Teams become more focused.”
Conroy Smith added that however and wherever you hold your event, make sure it stays true to your brand — especially since many employees aren’t regularly going into offices.
“It speaks for your culture now,” Conroy Smith said. “Offsites are becoming different things for different brands. Some may be half-intense work and half-intense play. It’s connecting through hanging out and through thoughtful brand experiences.”
That said, you don’t need a $1 million budget to host a successful offsite. Sure, having big money behind it allows you to hold your company offsite at a larger facility or tropical destination, but even a small, thoughtful gathering, like a picnic in the park, for a small business or smaller team, can have an impact.
“There’s something magical about just creating space to let people get to know each other in their own way,” Fisher said. “So it can be loosely structured.”
Don’t overstructure meetings and plan for downtime
While you want to ensure your event is well planned and has structure, you also need space to allow for things to happen naturally. Overplanning can add undue stress and make things feel forced when this time really is about regrouping and reconnecting.
Allow for quiet time.Ariel Hunsberger, senior manager of people leadership development at Salesforce
“Allowing people organic time to connect and to work on problems together, you build loose structure,” Hunsberger said. “Give folks prompts, give them opportunity to move [around], and give them space to work together.”
Hunsberger added that sitting in back-to-back meetings all day is counterproductive to how an offsite should be structured. She said to allow people to enjoy the space, get outside to walk and talk with each other, sit over a coffee, and if a session starts a few minutes late, let that happen. Having too much structured time can be exhausting and draining for people who aren’t used to in-person interaction.
“Allow for quiet time,” Hunsberger said. “Allow for thinking time, processing time, individual reflection time with the group experience. Otherwise people will burn out really fast because it’s something most of us have not done in years.”
Remind employees why they work for your company
People have rediscovered the things they value in their lives and want to hold onto that.Jen Fisher, Deloitte US
At a time when more people are leaving their jobs for better prospects, use your company offsite to remind people why they initially joined your company. Remaining connected on a human level in a virtual world can sometimes be difficult, so having in-person time allows for building deeper connections and strengthening your company culture and values.
“People have rediscovered the things they value in their lives and want to hold onto that,” Fisher said. “What’s the value we’re placing on these things?”
Bringing people together can help reaffirm why those values and culture are what attracted people to your company in the first place. People often enjoy doing their work because of the people they get to work with. Being together in an offsite setting can help solidify those relationships and help you retain your best employees.
“It’s the best possible investment we can be making right now in helping people feel connected to their teams,” Hunsberger said. “They’re going to go back to their screen and you need to put a lot into that bank in order to draw on it constantly all day, every day.”