The Slice

What Are Virtual Retreats? Ideas, Planning, and Tips 

November 11, 2022

It's no easy feat to create a cohesive sense of identity when your team has never been together in the same room. One of the best ways to overcome this challenge is to host regularly scheduled virtual retreats. What are virtual retreats, exactly, and how do you plan one? Stick with us to go through the basics of virtual retreats and how to plan an effective and memorable event for your team.

It's no easy feat to create a cohesive sense of identity when your team has never been together in the same room. One of the best ways to overcome this challenge is to host regularly scheduled virtual retreats.

What are virtual retreats, exactly, and how do you plan one?

You can frame your retreat as an opportunity for business development or a chance for everyone to rejuvenate and take a break. Either way, you'll want to make sure you incorporate some fun, team-building activities that help create a sense of cohesion no matter the geographic distance between your employees.

Stick with us to go through the basics of virtual retreats and how to plan an effective and memorable event for your team.

What Are Virtual Retreats?

Virtual retreats are company and team gatherings that occur online in the virtual world rather than in a physical location. You can use a variety of online platforms to make this happen, including Slack, Zoom, Webex, and more.

There are a lot of different types of events that can occur during these retreats, including:

  • Workshop sessions

  • Teleconferences

  • Online games

  • Company updates

  • Team health checks

  • Virtual tasting events

  • Team building activities

  • And so much more!

Hosting a virtual retreat for your team can help boost morale, create stronger interpersonal relationships, promote team collaboration, and improve virtual communication skills.

How to Plan a Virtual Retreat

What are the steps to throwing a virtual retreat that benefits your employees and your organization?

Whether you're planning a mini-retreat or a multi-day event, you'll want to make sure you have a stated goal, a balanced agenda, and a focus on the logistical considerations.

Build an Event Team

Depending on the size of your organization and team, you might be an event team of one, or you might be able to enlist many different people to help plan your retreat.

Even if you are taking on the full burden of throwing the event, it's a good idea to connect with some tech support gurus to ensure that everything will go off without a logistical hitch.

Set a Goal For the Retreat

The first step to planning a killer virtual retreat for your team is to outline the purpose of the event. Some virtual retreats might be more focused on disseminating new information about the organization, while others might have a central goal of giving your team the opportunity to recharge and take a break. Before you start planning out your itinerary for the retreat, think about the mission of the retreat, whether it's to boost morale, improve team cooperation, build new skills, or something else entirely.

Once you know what your goal is, you can start thinking about what you want to call your retreat and how it will be themed. Some companies choose to center all of the activities around one central idea, while others might want to keep the speakers, sessions, and activities a bit broader.

Set Your Budget and Retreat Length

Now that you have your goal in place, it's time to start asking some specific questions.

Are you planning on having a quick little afternoon retreat or a multi-day event? Will you give each day its own theme within the broader retreat theme? How many people will be attending?

On top of that, what type of budget are you working with? If you're working with a limited budget, what are the activities you want to prioritize?

Once you have answers to these and other related questions, you can choose your topics and fill out your agenda.

Choose Your Main Topics

Not all virtual retreats will have information presentations, but if this fits your purpose, it's time to select your main topics. You can incorporate feedback from your team while making this decision by sending out surveys and asking each person questions about the opportunities and challenges of the company.

Once you've collected this info, you can build an agenda focusing on the points most commonly cropped up in the survey.

Select Your Business Objectives

If your virtual retreat is going to be part-business part-party, you'll want to think about which business objectives you will focus on.

Be careful not to overdo it with the work-related info, though– make sure your team has plenty of time to spend (virtual) time together, recharge, and have fun, so the retreat doesn't feel too stodgy and exhausting.

Incorporate Team Building and Bonding

No matter your primary goal for your virtual retreat, you'll want to think about how you can encourage team building and bonding during the event. After all, there's a good chance that most of your team is spending a good chunk of their working hours alone in their workspace without the chance to socialize with and grow closer to their coworkers.

A virtual retreat is a perfect opportunity to improve team cohesion, so consider incorporating team-building activities even if your retreat is largely focused on sharing new business-related information about your company.

Don't Forget the Logistics

Virtual retreats are great because you don't have to make many reservations in the physical world. However, you do need to be concerned with the technical logistics of your retreat and make sure you prepare and troubleshoot for any issues that could arise.

Before your retreat begins, having your team members test their connections and software is a good idea. It's also important that your software can support the number of connections you will make simultaneously.

Spread the Word

Once you have created a stellar agenda for your virtual retreat, it's time to send out invites. You'll want to give everyone plenty of notice before the retreat begins, and you can even send out surveys to your team, giving them options about different potential time slots.

If you have a team that is sprinkled all across the globe in different time zones, you'll want to do your best to find a time that overlaps for everyone. In this scenario, some people might attend in the morning while others attend at night, but no one should get up at 3 am to participate.

Ideas for Virtual Retreats

Are you drawing a blank now that it's time to fill your agenda with fun, team-building activities? Don't worry– we've got your back.

Let's look at some of the best virtual retreat activities that will leave your employees warmly reminiscing for months to come.

Virtual Scavenger Hunts

A fun game to play with everyone in their own remote workspace, you can include a scavenger hunt in your virtual retreat.

Come up with a list of clues for items that people will likely have in their homes to help your team get up and move around with a sense of competition and energy.

Virtual Live Trivia

It can be hard to develop events that promote teamwork, provide some stress relief, and simultaneously offer a good time.

If you're looking to bring everyone together through the power of competitive games, virtual live trivia is one of the best options on the table.

Workshop Sessions

There are tons of great workshop sessions out there that you can add to your virtual retreat to help your employees learn and bond.

Whether it's a business-focused workshop teaching new relevant skills or a fun opportunity for everyone to learn something new outside of work, this is a wonderful way to foster team collaboration through the power of shared knowledge.

Stand Up Comedian

If your team seems to be taking the fast lane to burn-out-city, consider providing them with the best medicine for stress: laughter.

By adding a virtual stand-up comedy event to your retreat, everyone can ROFL and bond at the same time.

Swag Bags

Just because you're not meeting in person doesn't mean your team can't leave the retreat with some goodies. Consider coming up with swag bags to give to each employee that you can mail out ahead of time so they arrive in time for the retreat.

You can even have everyone unpack their gift box together at the start or end of the event.

Wellness Sessions

When you think of the word "retreat," you probably think of heading off to Sedona for some sauna time and meditation. You can recreate the relaxing and rejuvenating aspects of retreats virtually by hosting employee wellness sessions.

Whether you host mindfulness and meditation sessions, yoga classes, tai-chi lessons, or a team workout session, this is a great way to bring everyone together and show that you value employee wellness at the same time.

Live DJ

One of the best ways to bring people together is through the power of music. Putting together a playlist for your event can become a painstaking task, so why not hire a live DJ to add a musical environment to your remote event?

Whether you want to take a dance break, provide tunes for a virtual happy hour, or contribute some liveliness to a presentation, a live DJ is a perfect addition to your virtual retreat.

Virtual Happy Hour

Virtual happy hours became an instant classic of remote work as many organizations around the world switched to a work-from-home model.

You can go all out and send your team a box of happy hour goodies, or you can throw a low-key event that is BYOB.

Virtual Escape Room

If you're looking for an activity that promotes team bonding and collaboration that is also fun, consider locking your employees in a virtual escape room.

By simulating an exhilarating situation where your team has to gather clues and items to free themselves from the room, your team will have a blast and improve their ability to work together.

Coffee Break With the CEO

Is your team just one small puzzle piece of a much larger organization? Consider scheduling an event where the hierarchical ladder is laid horizontally for half an hour.

Invite the CEO to take a coffee break with your team, allowing your employees to ask questions and pick the brain of the leader of your company.

Games, Games, and More Games

You can play many fun games during your virtual retreat, from short little icebreakers to more involved adventures.

Here are just a few of the games you might consider incorporating:

  • Never have I ever

  • Two truths and a lie

  • The desert island scenario

  • 20 questions

  • Bucket list challenge

  • Murder mystery

  • Virtual Jeopardy

  • Virtual video games

We could go on and on. There's no shortage of games that can add some levity to your virtual retreat, even if it is largely a business-development event for your employees.

Feed the People

What's the perfect thing to accompany any of the events on this list? Delicious food and drinks delivered right to their door.

Heck, you could even scrap all the bells and whistles and have a wholesome, old-fashioned pizza party.

Bonus Tips For Planning the Best Virtual Retreat

Looking for some additional tips and tricks for creating the best possible virtual retreat for your team?

Here are some more things to consider as you're planning your event:

  • Come up with a theme to tie everything together.

  • Brainstorm with your team ahead of time to create an event everyone benefits from.

  • Consider the flow of the event– for example, have a light-hearted and fun activity after a meatier business objectives meeting.

  • Delegate roles to boost engagement and spread out responsibility.

  • Create a budget ahead of time and stick to it.

  • Allow ample break time.

  • Incorporate activities that promote movement and exercise.

  • Send out a follow-up survey afterward to collect feedback to use when planning your next retreat.

  • For large teams, consider running simultaneous activities that people can choose from.

  • Set the tone for each day of your retreat with uplifting music during your welcome session.

  • Consider inviting cohabitants to one of your events (i.e., people's partners, pets, friends, and family members).

Finally, don't be afraid to experiment when it comes to your virtual retreat! If you are willing to think outside the box, you might just find that you are able to create a truly unique virtual experience for your entire team. 

What's Everyone Eating?

Even if your virtual retreat is jam-packed with fun activities that help everyone get their mind off of work for a while, that doesn't mean they won't need to refuel. Don't let your virtual retreat lose steam as your team goes from happy to hangry– provide them with some sustenance along the way.

You've got a lot on your plate, and calling local pizzerias in every town where your team members are located probably doesn't fit into your schedule. Don't worry; we've got you covered!

If you want to make sure your virtual retreat is productive, exciting, and nourishing, we'd love to send your entire team pizza.

The Pizzatime Blog

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