Start with the purpose. There are many possible reasons why your team might be organizing a team offsite (check out some of our case studies here), including:
- Improving team communication and collaboration
- Innovation or organising a hackathon
- Bringing together your remote team for a bonding experience
- Solving tensions between team members
- Identifying what’s not working in the company and fixing it
Here are a few steps we’ve put together based on our experience with the teams we’ve had the pleasure of working with here at Surf Office.
1. Decide how many days your retreat should take.
For a retreat to be successful, it needs to take at least 2 days, as 1 day should be spent off-site. The ideal number is typically between 3 and 5 days – depending on the size of your distributed team and if you need to focus on larger tasks. Sometimes, we even have teams stay for 2-3 weeks.
2. Set the retreat budget
The retreat budget consists of transport costs, accommodation costs, meal allowance, and team activities. For instance, Buffer sets their budget for the annual retreat at $5,000 per person and the mini-retreats at $1,400 per person. You can read more on how to optimize the retreat budget here or contact us for more help and advice.
3. Pick the right location
Picking the right location is the single most important decision you make during the retreat planning process. It directly influences the costs and team satisfaction with the retreat. You may be drawn to more affordable locations like Prague or Lisbon. Many teams prefer sunny locations near the beach, such as Ericeira or Gran Canaria. Other teams prioritize fun activities in historical cities (Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin). To help make your decision easier, we divided locations into categories. Our tool called Location Finder can help you find the ideal location for your next retreat, if you have a distributed team.
4. Select the type of retreat venue for your team
Many teams put more emphasis on the retreat venue than the location. Imagine you have a team of 30 members and you want to have your team together all the time. A great way to do this is by making a full-buyout of a retreat villa (or small boutique hotel). The villa that suits the exact number of your team members can be hard to find. Therefore, finding the villa with the right capacity matters more than its location – it is less important if the villa is located near Barcelona, Valencia, or Lisbon.
5. Draft the structure of your retreat
The best retreats are a blend of working and team building. There needs to be a balance between getting busy with work tasks and having some fun. For example, teams in Lisbon like to start off their day working from the office in the morning. Then they go surfing after lunch and wrap it up with some more work in the afternoon – i.e. brainstorming sessions or presentations, leaving the evening for more bonding over dinners/drinks.
6. Keep everyone from the team in mind
Due to the nature of their job, some of your team members won’t be able to be there all the time. Those who work in sales or customer service will need to spend at least some time during the retreat on their daily tasks. Unless you have someone covering for them, remotely or in the headquarters of your company.
7. Plan the goal of the work sessions, meals, and team building activities
Do you plan to fix some company problems during your retreat? Or will you innovate through a hackathon, design sprint, or product roadmapping? The mornings are ideal for getting work done, and believe us, being off-site and out of your office can definitely help focus. There are also teams that choose to spend more time team bonding than working. After all, what will your coworkers remember the most? Fun team-building activities of course. PS: Don’t forget about your teams’ cuisine preference, and dietary restrictions when planning team meals!
Organizing a retreat means going offsite together and setting the balance between work and fun. Depending on which of these two is more important each company’s balance might look a little different, we differentiate 5 types of team retreats below.
The first type is a work retreat, a team gathering where priority is work and team activities are something extra. The second type is a team building retreat, where the focus is on connecting with coworkers on a personal level. Finally, we divide team retreats according to the participants. There are leadership retreats, startup retreats, and remote team retreats and each one of them has different requirements.
What do you aim to achieve with your team? Do you want to improve the performance of the team? Address interpersonal problems within the group? Or just have some fun and bond with your team after some hard work? There are different kinds of team building activities. You can choose between communication activities, problem solving, adaptability, or activities that focus on building trust.
Check out some of the team activities we offer by visiting the links down below.
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.
Are you planning a strategy meeting, design sprint, hackathon, kickoff meeting of a new project or “just” regular work time?
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.
“Thanks for a great offsite venue @surfoffice – we had a blast!”
James Allgrove, Head of Growth at Stripe UK
1. Confirm Details
You will confirm with us the number of people, location (we can also recommend the best location based on where your team is located and prices of flights), dates and your desired setup for accommodation.
2. Invoice & Payment
After confirming details, we will send you an invoice. You can pay by wire transfer, credit/debit card or PayPal.
3. Team Retreat Planning
This process is super easy. With our playbook you will quickly create a personalized schedule. We’ll make sure you get all the information well before your retreat time and you will have our support person available throughout the whole process.
4. Retreat Time
Expect an introductory tour after your arrival. Our onsite support is available in case you need anything. We will give you local tips and remind you about your planned activities throughout the retreat.
Choose one of our 110 locations in Europe and North America.