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How to Plan a Successful Virtual Retreat for Your Remote Team

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With more and more organizations making work from home permanent or at least pushing return to office dates further and further back, it’s essential to foster a healthy remote culture by creating more opportunities for your team members to take a break and enjoy a virtual retreat.

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Corporate retreats have become very popular in recent years because they are an ideal solution for fostering team building. However, the events of 2020 brought lots of challenges for companies, with the most significant of all being the rise of the remote team.

The good news is that virtual retreats are perfect replacements for traditional corporate retreats. You can actually replace the atmosphere of such a retreat virtually and plan an event that’s valuable for everyone involved.

Here’s how to plan a successful virtual retreat for a remote team.

1. Decide what type of retreat you want to organise

Start by deciding what kind of retreat would work best for your team. Moving to a virtual message you have to ask yourself questions about what you hope to achieve. Take some time to reflect and define your goals for the event clearly. By doing so from the beginning, you can structure your event strategically and then select relevant content for your team.

For example, the Sitka team organized a virtual retreat with five principles in mind: inclusivity and adaptability, drumbeats instead of lightning bolts, presence and spontaneity, infusing a sense of play and wonder and creating an opportunity for inspired work.

2. Prepare for the virtual retreat

Once you have decided the goals for the virtual retreat, it’s time to start the preparation. With many themes being distributed to various different time zones, it’s important to start by calculating how much time you could practically overlap with each other.

If you want your global dental gang together at the same time, you might only be able to plan events for larger retreat during a four- or six-hour period each day.

The team at Parabol, for example, decided to limit video conferencing to just four hours a day not only because of time zone differences but also to avoid “Zoom fatigue.”

Zoom fatigue is actually a real thing, and it has been proven that people who spend hours in Zoom meetings aren’t in the mood to hang out or brainstorm with their teammates and there are also less engaged.

Make sure the virtual retreat is valuable to each individual. This means that you need to plan it in a way that allows everyone to be engaged during the time they spend online.

3. Brainstorm ideas and don’t forget to delegate

It’s always a good idea to invite collaborators into the process in order to give everyone a shared responsibility for the outcome of the virtual retreat. Invite everyone to brainstorm the activities they would like to see and experience in a virtual retreat.

Create a shared document with sections for suggestions and ask for your teams input on activities of different sizes. For example, you can have a selection of companywide activities as well as activities created for groups of 4 to 6 people. It’s also important to schedule five-minute break ideas as well.

4. Focus on multiple engaging activities that work well for small groups

It has been shown time and again that people connect better in small group, particularly when they’re paired with random individuals. Here are some ideas that have been tried successfully by various remote teams:

  • Every member of the group records the tour of their working house to share with everyone else.
  • Virtual escape games are another excellent option that can provide the entire group with hours of fun.
  • Try mystery gift exchanges with a price limit. Each member of the group will be assigned someone to buy a mystery gift for. The gifts should be small enough to be sent via international post for remote workers.
  • Invite outside speakers either related to your business or just motivational ones so the team can join via videoconference and listen to something inspirational.

5. Host a fun awards show

Some of the most iconic episodes from “The Office” are those about the Dundies, a hilarious awards ceremony that celebrated all things Dunder Mifflin. You don’t have to step right in the shoes of Michael Scott, but virtual retreats are an excellent time to celebrate your team members.

By hosting a fun virtual awards show, you can recognize the contribution of each of your team members and celebrate success together. You can make the awards as goofy as you’d like and present the team with personalized, unconventional gifts.

Prepare a slideshow of the winners and share your screen with the rest of the team so everyone can see when you shout out the nominees. Invite everyone to react with clap emojis and allow winners 30-second thank-you speeches.

6. Host a virtual trivia night

Virtual trivia is one of the most fun activities for virtual retreats. It’s also very easy to organize via video call, but it’s important to remember that the most important aspect is to have great questions. Everyone can have a lot of fun while learning various tidbits of information, so it’s easy to make a memorable night out of it.

Following the tips above can help you elevate your virtual retreat experience and allow you to build a remote culture everyone enjoys. Remember that the best virtual retreats are all about finding new ways to create and foster connections and they thrive on spontaneity.

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