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Jess Porec
Jess Porec

How To Throw An Awesome Virtual Retreat

 

Quite often, in the world of centralized and remote tech startups, retreats have been used to nurture a company’s culture, build team relatedness and affinity, blow off steam, and travel to cool places.

Team retreat logistics for remote companies has always been challenging but has been workable. Now, in the face of a global pandemic, it’s a whole new game. Most companies have gone remote, and it’s not particularly feasible to gather teams in close quarters for the type of work retreats we have grown to know and love.

Despite the current circumstances, it is still beneficial and necessary to create a way for team members to learn more about each other, foster greater team cohesiveness, and have fun together.

At Workform, we took on the challenge of creating a virtual team retreat this month, and it turned out to be a SMASHING SUCCESS! In fact, we are planning to adopt some of the virtual retreat aspects into more frequent team activities.

If you’re tasked with creating a virtual retreat for your company or team, below is our guide to creating a kick-ass virtual team retreat that will have your team begging for more.

  • Find out what resonates – What does your team want or like to do? For the Workfrom team, we identified the goal of our retreat as wanting to get to know one another beyond our weekly check-ins. We were mindful of this as we structured our activities.
  • Scheduling – Find a time that could work for your teammates across the globe. Also, take into consideration the type of activity. Happy hour at 9am isn’t the best idea! For example, our team meal was scheduled at time that was only 30 minutes before noon for some, slightly late lunch for others and a dinner for another. Everyone ate near a time they would normally eat!
  • Teamwork – Take time to team build. Fostering trust is critical to a distributed team and team building is an excellent way to do this. Consider an activity like a Virtual Escape Room (fosters skill and friendship building), hosted trivia, or a lunch & learn (hosted or not hosted!).
  • Fun & Friendly competition – Remember to have fun! While fostering connection and team building is important, the point of a Virtual Retreat is also to have fun! “Fun” could mean different things to different teams but at Workfrom we played the game Fibbage which is by Jackbox.tv. Whatever your team finds fun, don’t forget to pencil it in.
  • Beverage O’clock – Having a happy hour is one of the easiest ways to get your team together to connect. Just set up and communicate the time. It’s that easy. Then when it’s time, it’s BYOB (bring your own beverage!)
  • Keep it manageable – Some team or life schedules don’t permit for being at a retreat for long hours at a time. At Workfrom, we broke our Virtual Retreat up over a week. We had one event a day, no longer than an hour and included one asynchronous day. On this day we included activities that could be done whenever our team had time. Each team member recorded a video tour of the space they worked in. Videos were shared in a team channel in slack to be viewed whenever everyone had the time. Also included in our async day was a remote scavenger hunt.
  • Create opportunities for group discovery – We used our async day as the opportunity to have a remote scavenger hunt to learn more about our team members. Each team member took the day to gather 5 items, which were then presented and talked about the next day during our team Lunch & Learn. The 5 items we included:
    1. One thing in your space that has sentimental value
    2. One thing that reminds you of your family
    3. One thing you can’t leave home without [can’t be your cell phone]
    4. One thing that reminds you of a travel story
    5. One thing that makes you laugh
  • Meals make a difference – If you were hosting an in-person retreat you’d likely offer some food and drink, right? Consider paying for a meal, or two, based on your budget for your employees to order some food, snacks and/or refreshments. You know what they say, the quickest way to a person’s heart is through their stomach.

One last piece of advice, be sure to get a team photo! There’s nothing better than looking back at smiling faces and remembering all the good times had.

 

Workfrom Virtual Retreat Team Photo

 

Be sure to check below for resources and additional retreat ideas. We’ve also included the schedule we used, just if you’d like to replicate our amazing virtual retreat.

Happy retreating!

Epic Virtual Retreat Resources:

Other awesome ideas we didn’t include:

Our Retreat Schedule

Monday – 1 hour

  • Opening ceremony – 10 minutes
    • Intro
    • Team check-in
  • Jackbox games: Fibbage – 45 minutes

Tuesday – 1 hour

  • Team activity – Virtual Escape Room – 1 hour

https://theescapegame.com/remote-adventures/#booking ($30 pp)

Wednesday – Asynchronous

  • Async scavenger hunt:
    1. One thing in your space that has sentimental value
    2. One thing that reminds you of your family
    3. One thing you can’t leave home without [can’t be your cell phone]
    4. One thing that reminds you of a travel story
    5. One thing that makes you laugh
  • Show us your space! Take a video tour of your space and post it in #life-shares.

Thursday – 1 hour

  • Team lunch & learn [lunch paid for by Workfrom] – 1 hour
    • Share your async scavenger hunt items

Friday – 1 hour

  • Happy hour, grab your favorite drink – 40 minutes
  • Team Photos, wear your Workfrom Shirts! – 10 mins
  • Wrap-up – 10 mins



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