Let us help organize your next team-building retreat.

Why organize a team-building retreat?

Team-building retreats find a balance between working toward company goals and bonding. This type of retreat typically brings part of the company or the whole group offsite, often to a rural location. Removing yourself from the hustle of the workday allows for greater bonding. There, the team can work together through a whole range of team-building activities, games, icebreakers, and exercises.

The goal of the team-building retreat can be as simple as getting to know others on the team with whom you work. Team-building retreats also develop communication inside the teams, as well as across teams in different departments. These retreats can be a good way to resolve any tension between team members. Take this opportunity to align employees on the company culture, or to motivate your teams to improve sales.

Typically, a team-building retreat involves the whole company. It’s organized twice a year and lasts for two to three days each time. Some companies go offsite for the whole week. It depends largely on your budget and work schedule. Other companies add in a half-day work session, during which the management team presents the strategic vision and results from the year.

What is the goal of the team-building retreat?

There are many things that can be accomplished over a team-building offsite retreat. Here are some areas where your company might focus on:

-  Team communication and collaboration
-  Innovation and optimization
-  Bonding within teams
-  Resolving tensions between team members
-  Identifying what’s not working in the company and fixing it

Danche, our in-house retreat planning expert, says the best-team building retreats start small. “You shouldn’t organize a big team-building activity as the first activity, especially for a remote team,” says Danche. How can you structure your team-building retreat to achieve one or more of these goals?

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Sample agenda for a team-building retreat

Before planning the agenda, you must select a team-building retreat location and the venue. This will give you some ideas about the activities that are available during the offsite. And, starting with the location will save you a lot of stress throughout the process. Read more in our step-by-step planning process.

Once you have your location, here’s what a three-day retreat might include.

Day 1: Arrive in the afternoon. Start with a fun ice breaker game. These games ease everyone into the retreat. It’s a good way to introduce everyone.

Day 2: Spend the morning on a half-day workshop solving a work-related problem. Or, spend the morning on a company culture/vision presentation. Other companies use this time to communicate company results. This day should be dedicated to the business. In the afternoon, have a team dinner. Smaller teams enjoy cooking together.

Day 3: On the third day, have fun! If you’re in a city, go on a scavenger hunt or explore on bikes. If you’re near a beach, go surfing or kayaking. Spend time bonding in your environment.

Day 4: Have breakfast together and depart.

What does this look like in practice?

Surf Office organized the team-building retreat. Their three-day weekend looked like this:

  • Arrive in Lisbon on Thursday evening
  • Friday work session at the office
  • Brainstorming and development of plans, topped off by a party in the evening
  • Saturday day trip to the beach, which includes surf lessons & a beach lunch
  • Drinks along the harbor while enjoying the sunset
  • Sunday morning brunch during work-related presentations, followed by departure

Of course, your team-building retreat can be customized depending on the number of people attending and where you are. Try some of these activities when you plan your offsite.

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Team-building retreat ideas

There are tons of non-cheesy retreat activities to bring your group together. Leave corporate trust falls back in the 90s. Here are a few better ideas your group can utilize depending on where you go:

Outdoor activities

  • Go for a hike to explore the city or immerse your team in nature
  • Host a scavenger hunt: teams can look for things around the city, or complete tasks like taking a selfie with a cute dog
  • The egg drop challenge: split up into teams. Give everyone an uncooked egg and some supplies. Then, the teams have 15 – 30 minutes to construct a device that doesn’t let the egg crack when dropped.
  • Surf/SUP lessons: Surf Office can set up SUP and surfing lessons for your group in multiple locations.
  • Food tours: Surf Office’s resident expert in Portugal can set up a tasting at one of the city’s best restaurants
  • Explore the city by bike: rent bikes for a few hours to see what the city has to offer
  • Whale watching: head to Madeira to see if you can spot dolphins and whales.

Indoor activities

  • Host a hackathon – work-related or otherwise – like the team from Mattermost.
  • Cook something together: Monica Zeng and the Aragon One team had a dumpling-making class.
  • Invite a guest speaker to motivate the team.
  • Try an exercise called the puzzle: split into groups with different jigsaw puzzles with the same difficulty level. See which group can complete their jigsaw puzzle the fastest.
  • Play “blind drawing”: two people sit back to back. One person has a pen and paper; the other has a picture. One person has to draw what the other person is describing. The person describing the picture has to do so without actually saying what it is.
  • Go to an escape room! Escape rooms are available in cities all over Europe. It’s a fun and challenging way to improve team communication.

Ice-breaker games

  • Play two truths and a lie: each person says three “facts” about themselves, one of which is a lie. The group has to guess which fact is the lie.
  • Pecha Kucha: if time allows, challenge your team to a Pecha Kucha presentation. They get 20 chosen images and 20 seconds to talk about each image. That’s 400 seconds to introduce themselves to the group.
  • The map game: have a map and some sewing pins. As people arrive, they add a pin to the place where they were born or raised. It’s a fun, visual way to see how diverse your team really is.
  • Play would you rather: this ice-breaker game is ideal for a large group and it’s pretty straightforward. Ask the group “would you rather…” and then ask people to go to one side or the other depending on their answer.
  • Do the marshmallow challenge: break into groups and give every group the same sticks of uncooked spaghetti, a roll of masking tape, string, and marshmallows. The task is to build a tower that stands on its own for five seconds.
  • 18 and under: go around the room and ask each person to share something they accomplished before they turned 18.
  • Have everyone write a fun fact about themselves on a slip of paper. The papers get thrown in a hat, mixed together, and read aloud one at a time. The group tries to guess whose fact is whose.

More team-building tips

These tips work best for teams of 15 people or less. What about if you have a bigger group? Check out our guide to team-building activities for large groups.

Remember, remote workers often don’t know each other before the retreat. Likewise, remote employees tend to be introverts. Keep this in mind as you design your approach to team-building activities for remote employees.

For more information and to get started planning your retreat, get in touch with Surf Office. We’re happy to help!

Case studies

Avocode’s retreat as a mini startup accelerator

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 retreat resulted in 12 new products features

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’s innovative design 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.

Invision’s team comes together for beach meetings

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.

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What is included in our team retreat packages?

1. Workspace & Meeting Space

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:

  • Desks and chairs
  • Meeting room
  • Whiteboard
  • Projector with all the fancy adapters
  • Post-its, markers, pencils, stickers & pens

And of course, very fast internet.

2. Accommodation

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.

3. Team Retreat Planning & Facilitation

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:

  • Reservation of activities, transport & restaurants
  • Tips for local places to visit and activities
  • Crafting of unique experiences
  • Troubleshooting

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.

Organize your next company retreat with Surf Office

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“Thanks for a great offsite venue @surfoffice – we had a blast!”

James Allgrove, Head of Growth at Stripe UK

Next steps after requesting a quote

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.

How does Surf Office work?

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