Team retreats offer a great opportunity for departments or senior executives in your company to come together to set goals, foster innovation, and boost team morale. For some companies – especially those who work remotely – it’s a priority to bring not just a portion, but the whole company on a retreat. Company-wide retreats with more than 50 people are growing in popularity as more employees are now fully remote.
There are unique challenges to planning a retreat with more than 50 people. Large company retreats mean that the whole company meets in the same place at the same time. All departments come together to focus on company culture or results. These gatherings can be annual or quarterly all-hands meetings to present company results and keep everyone up-to-date.
Surf Office has hosted dozens of retreats for large groups. We’ve arranged retreats for multiple large groups with up to 220 people – and we can definitely handle even larger groups. Our experts have learned a lot of insights from the planning and logistics process. Small companies can also take advantage of these lessons learned from big groups. Here’s what firsthand experience has taught us about planning company retreats.
There are a number of good reasons why your company might come together for a retreat. A team retreat can accomplish:
- Team alignment on goals and mission
- Boosting morale across the company
- Building relationships between departments and teams
- Generating new ideas and innovation
- Sharing company results
Surf Office retreats for large groups or entire companies are usually shorter. Many of our retreats are three to five days. For full-team retreats, many companies choose to limit their offsite to two to three days. It really depends on your goal for the retreat and how much you wish to accomplish.
The retreat agenda, of course, depends on your specific goals. For large groups, we recommend limiting your time to two to three days of action-packed adventure. Here’s an example of what a retreat agenda might look like for a larger group:
Day 1: Arrive and give your employees a chance to settle in.
Day 2: Welcome presentation, motivational speaker, and kick-off event.
Day 3: Productive sessions (hackathon, team-building, or presentations).
Day 4: Either more productive sessions, team bonding, and a farewell dinner.
Day 5: Everyone departs.
For more inspiration, read our detailed retreat schedule for large companies. A lot can happen with a large group – delayed flights, missed connections, or weather issues can derail a schedule quickly. Have some flexibility built into your agenda for worst-case scenarios.
Looking for inspiration on how to keep your company busy on the retreat?
Here are some activities that Surf Office has hosted in the past:
Workday, a people analytics company, hosted its company retreat in Barcelona. The team spent at the beach with activities like stand up paddle, swimming, and a surfing lesson. A beach trip is good for big groups because everyone can do what they want. Some can swim, some can play beach volleyball, and some can veg in the sun.
Break up your larger group in small teams and take a walk through the historic streets of Lisbon, for instance. See famous monuments, hidden gems, and learn about the culture of the city on a scavenger hunt. Get to know the city and each other in a fun way.
Weather not cooperating? If you’re stuck inside, host a game night. Divide into smaller groups to get competitive over Monopoly, trivia, or Charades. Make a tournament out of it to bring the whole group together at the end of the evening to cheer on the finalists.
Karaoke night is another fun team bonding activity great for bigger groups. Those who aren’t afraid of the spotlight can step right up and belt out a song. The rest of the group can dance, laugh, and cheer them on.
Invite a local expert to speak about something out-of-the-box. Or, have your employees volunteer to give informal Ted Talk-style presentations about something they’re passionate about. “Lean into your internal resources and enable them to lead a training or lesson on their interest. Doing so not only uplifts them and their hobbies, it demonstrates that you as the employer, prioritize hobbies and skills that don’t necessarily connect with their desk job,” writes Zenefits.
EVBox is a company focused on providing charging solutions for electric vehicles. Their group of 200 people joined Surf Office for a company retreat. In the process, we hosted a special dining experience in Lisbon with traditional dishes and drinks. Organizing meals can be a challenge for large groups: read what we’ve learned about making restaurant reservations.
If you want to keep your team bonding business-focused, host a hackathon. Divide the large group up into small teams and work on a project. A traditional hackathon focuses on creative problem-solving – emphasis on “creative.” Don’t be afraid to make the hackathon open-ended to foster innovation.
While it is not too difficult to organize activities for groups of 15 people, the activities for 50+ are a challenge. Generally speaking, there are two approaches to organizing activities for large groups. First, you can divide the big group into smaller teams. Alternately, you can loosely organize an activity – like an afternoon at the beach – and let people decide how to spend their time. Read more about each approach in our guide to planning big group activities.
Lastly, we’ve learned through trial and error that it’s difficult to make restaurant bookings for large groups. The approach is different from making a reservation for a pair or family-sized group. Start your research by ticking the “good for large groups” option on Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Google. Learn more in our article, “5 common mistakes to avoid when booking restaurants for a large group”.
Avocode is a tool that helps designers and developers collaborate on one seamless platform. For their work retreat, the team spent 10 days with Surf Office Lisbon working as a mini-startup accelerator.
The group of 20 divided into small teams on day one, and then spent the time working on specific projects. The last day of the retreat was dedicated to presenting each team’s results with the rest of the group. As a result, Avocode’s work retreat drove innovation. Their result is a great example of how to make the most of limited time to do some creative thinking.
Mynd is a property management company based in California. For their work retreat, Mynd’s team of 32 people relocated for 10 days to Surf Office Barcelona. Like Avocode, they spent the first three days running a hackathon. The team developed 12 new product features in a quick sprint of innovation.
Mynd’s approach to their work retreat was to prepare beforehand; key design elements were already in place when they arrive in Spain. As a result, the team could move quickly and work without designers. Consider what you need to do to prepare before arriving onsite for your work retreat.
Mattermost is a communication software company that makes a Slack-alternative messaging platform. Their team retreat in Lisbon combined innovation and team-building in five days.
Mattermost spent their work retreat building a product roadmap, discussing their core values, team-building, and hosting a hackathon. Check out more in this video from their CTO, Corey Hulen.
Finally, InVision is a product design tool and 100% remote company. The team met in Ericeira for a work retreat with Surf Office.
They split their time between team bonding – stand-up paddle, surfing, and eating incredible seafood – and a hackathon. During their one-day hackathon, InVision built new product features and internal communication tools.
Whatever it is, we’ve got your back.
Expect a professional working environment with:
And of course, very fast internet.
Each team has a bit of a different expectation when it comes to their retreat experience and that’s why you have the flexibility to choose different types of accommodation ranging from premium ensuite rooms to shared accommodation.
All of our accommodation options are located in central areas within walking distance from the restaurants and grocery stores. You don’t need to rent a car or use public transportation to move around. We want to make your stay as easy as possible.
You have 100% security that your booking won’t be canceled (anyone with experience of last-minute group booking cancellation can relate).
We understand that your team might be growing and you might need to add additional rooms over time, you’ll have this flexibility too.
We’ve built a system that makes retreat planning easy and fast.
We’ll plan every detail of your retreat from start to finish, so that you don’t have to. This includes:
You will get a personalized schedule and online dashboard with all of your retreat information before your retreat starts. Our onsite support will show you everything you need to know upon your arrival and make sure everything goes smoothly for you and your team.
“I just wanted to say a thousand thanks to you for all of your hardwork and help in the organising of our team summit. It was a huge success and we couldn’t have done it without you!”
Emma Louise Bowen, People & Operations Manager in Workday
1. Tell us more about your plans
We would like to hear more about your plans and how we can make your next company summit a success.
Do you have an office in one location or is your team distributed? Can employees bring their partners? Is the retreat going to be more about work or fun?
2. Planning with your dedicated project manager
Even finding and booking one single restaurant for the dinner can be a painful project. Is the food going to be good? Is the price fair? How many of our team members have diet restrictions?
Each retreat is a combination of multiple smaller projects and with a large group the complexity might be scary.
But no worries, we mastered this process and made it fun and easy.
Our experienced project manager dedicated to you will help you with a whole organisation from searching for flights to crafting unique surprise activities for your team.
We will be your one-stop-shop for all of the logistics of your retreat. The Retreat Planner assigned to your group will work with you to book and coordinate everything from A-Z, providing you with peace-of-mind and a guarantee of quality and reliability from our local partners at the best possible prices.
According to our repeat clients and our first-time clients who have previous experience in organizing retreats in-house, this is the greatest value that we bring we bring to them.
3. Detailed plan and schedule of your company retreat
At the end of the planning process you will end up with the bullet-proof schedule. There is no room for improvisation with a large group.
Everything must work perfectly, all the activities and transfers must be just-on-time.
Sounds like a dream end, right? That’s how we work.
You are ready for your epic company retreat.
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