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Company retreats and team-building meetings have been a staple in the corporate world for years. While they are seen as a means to foster collaboration, they can also be a source of discomfort for some employees. The challenge lies in striking a balance that caters to the diverse personalities and preferences within a team.

Even before the remote work trend, company retreats were quite popular. The ideas behind these retreats are noble: to foster collaboration, reward hardworking employees, and boost morale. CEOs often view these retreats as beneficial for low retention as well. However, the reality is not entirely rosy.

The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.
~Babe Ruth

Not everyone finds these events comfortable. They can blur the lines between professional and personal boundaries. The extended nature of retreats, as opposed to shorter team-building meetings, can amplify this discomfort. It’s not just an introvert’s problem; many employees find the idea of spending extended periods in a social setting with colleagues (and boss!) daunting.

Companies are becoming more aware of the potential pitfalls of team-building. Many are focusing on structured activities and making participation optional. This approach respects individual preferences while still offering the benefits related to team bonding. Some employees, however, remain sceptical. They prefer even simpler bonding activities, like long lunches, which don’t require overnight stays or travel, and sometimes – even extra time after working hours.

In industries dominated by introverts (like mine, hehe), the dynamics of such events are not at all straightforward. For instance, in a department where most colleagues know each other’s preferences and have worked together for years, team-building meetings can be a joy rather than a chore. (At the same time, we have never been on a team-building trip together before…)

Below, I present a few tips regarding the organization of retreats and team-building meetings:

  1. Understand the personalities and preferences within your team. Not everyone is comfortable with extended social interactions.
  2. Allow employees to choose whether they want to participate. This ensures no one feels forced, and it positively affects the dynamics of the meeting/retreat.
  3. Plan activities that have clear objectives and timelines. This can help reduce anxiety and uncertainty.
  4. Offer a range of activities that cater to different interests and comfort levels.
  5. If most of your team is based in one city, consider local events to reduce the need for travel and overnight stays.
  6. Make sure that during the meeting boundaries are maintained – it’s relaxed, but still in good taste.
  7. After the event, gather feedback. This will help in refining future retreats and meetings.

One more bonus tip: If you are the boss, consider whether it might be better for the meeting’s objective if you leave a bit earlier. I practice this myself and see that people are more open and relaxed when their manager is not watching. (Apparently, this is not a proof that I am a boss everyone is afraid of.)

While company retreats and team-building meetings offer numerous benefits, it’s essential to approach them with sensitivity and understanding. By considering the diverse needs of employees, companies can create events that truly foster collaboration and boost morale. So… have fun!

I plan other posts related to team-building events and people management in general, so consider subscribing to my newsletter.