The Wednesday before last, the InterNations Team stepped off a coach at Munich’s Central Bus Station, slightly bleary-eared, but happy.
They’d just returned from a three-day company retreat in the Austrian Alps.
A corporate retreat? Isn’t that an unnecessary luxury at best? And even more so in times of uncertainty?
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many companies to watch their budgets. Moreover, with the war in Ukraine disrupting supply chains and increasing inflation, the next crisis may be looming on the horizon. And that would mean yet another reason for businesses to tighten their belts.
The last thing any company needs right now, you might think, is a corporate retreat. It costs quite a bit of money to send your employees on a trip. Not to mention the loss of productivity during the event.
Obviously, a corporate team-building trip is a considerable investment in terms of time and money. But, if done right, it will be worth it in the long run.
Read on for some reasons why every company should send their team on a corporate retreat. Especially now.
1: A corporate team-building trip strengthens your employer brand
A company retreat can — and should — be more than a nice perk. It’s not enough if you just regard it as a bonus to list in job ads. Team-bonding activities should never be used as a “band aid” to cover up underlying conflicts, either.
Instead, tie your team-building trip to a concrete goal. It could be all about celebrating a company milestone or thanking the employees for their contributions.
InterNations Co-Founder Malte explains what he had in mind for this year’s trip: “We wanted to strengthen our great team spirit and our corporate culture as a remote-first organization. We hadn’t been together as a team since before the pandemic. It was time for us to meet in person again. And we wanted to get to know the colleagues that have started in the past two years.”
Since going remote first, InterNations has been hiring employees who live outside commuting distance from our Munich office. Junior Community Engagement Specialist Szandra is one of our fully remote team members.
“There were several people, like me, who traveled to Munich on the day before the trip. About eight of us went out together for an unofficial InterNations dinner that night,” she says. “And during the retreat, I got to spend quite some time with other colleagues I didn’t know very well yet.”
2: Your team members will lay the foundation for a great working relationship
“More and more companies are going remote these days. So, it’s very important to have an occasion where everyone can come together,” Corporate Communications Manager Kalena underlines. “It’s more difficult to be invested in a company and its culture if you don’t know who you’re working with, other than a face on the screen. We need a personal connection.”
Generally speaking, all companies can benefit from spending some quality time together outside the office or beyond the computer screen. Bonding should not only happen within individual teams, but also across different departments and hierarchy levels.
For example, our Feel Good Manager Kirsten came up with the concept of a human Pokémon Go as an ice-breaker game to encourage socializing. It ended up being the perfect conversation starter throughout the trip.
“Our designer created these beautiful cards with weird and random facts about our team members,” Kirsten explains. “It was a lot of fun to watch everyone running around, trying to match each fact to a person.”
This isn’t merely just an entertaining gimmick. Spending time with your colleagues in a relaxed setting is an essential part of any corporate retreat. Interacting with co-workers you usually don’t talk to helps build trust. And trust lays the foundation for communicating effectively on work-related matters.
3: Getting a break from daily routines will reenergize your team
Leaving the routines of office life behind often improves creativity. Lively discussions don’t need to take place in a meeting room or in front of a webcam. Sometimes, you’ll get more input if they don’t.
An unfamiliar environment helps spark inspired brainstorming sessions. In a more casual atmosphere, introverted people or recent hires are more inclined to speak up. And putting team members with very different careers and fields of expertise together can lead to some serious out-of-the-box thinking.
Beyond attending an official workshop on fostering a strong team spirit during the recent retreat in Austria, some teams even used their bonding time for a little extra brainstorming.
“The Marketing & Communications Department discussed ideas for TikTok content. We’d like to use it as a new advertising channel for our brand,” Corporate Communications Intern Patricia explains. “I could bring some of my ideas to the table. Everyone listened to me and gave me feedback. It really made me feel part of the team, even though I’m still pretty new!”
4: It helps identify hidden strengths and natural leaders
Most team-building trips include a fun way of working towards a common goal. It could be an escape-the-room game or a scavenger hunt. Or something even more creative: we held our very own InterNations version of the Olympic Games this year.
Activities like this are more than just a perfect opportunity for sharing fun pictures in the company chat afterwards! Team members can learn more about each other’s strengths and may be pushed to leave their comfort zone in a fun environment.
They’re challenged to communicate effectively to solve tasks and can showcase their hidden talents. “I loved being a station captain for one of the competitions,” says Community Support Specialist Andrada after the trip to Austria. “Not only did I get to share in everyone’s excitement, but I also got to see some amazing teamwork and synergies.”
Don’t forget to keep an eye on those who volunteer to organize activities or are great at motivating their peers during the retreat! Some of them might be your company’s future leaders.
5: It’s a whole lot of fun
If “fun” doesn’t sound convincing enough, let’s rephrase: Goofing off with your co-workers and doing things you enjoy together, from archery to board games to yoga, boosts morale. Improving morale leads to increased employee satisfaction. High employee satisfaction is a key factor for employee retention. And employee retention is more important now than ever.
The “Great Resignation” — i.e., more and more workers quitting their jobs following the pandemic — has started spreading from North America. T3n, an online magazine for the digital sector, recently reported that Germany seems to be overtaking the US in this regard. Considering how much time and money it costs to recruit and train new employees, the expenses for a team-building trip pale in comparison.
“A corporate retreat is good for strengthening your team’s identification with the company,” Chief Marketing Officer Kathrin emphasizes. “If you see value in actively shaping your organizational culture and consider it important for the success of your business, it’s definitely worth the investment.”
Image credit: InterNations / iStockphoto / Pexels / Shutterstock