As inherently social creatures, most of us yearn for a return to normal office interactions, including events such as staff retreats. While not quite as satisfying as their physical alternatives, virtual retreats are still an effective way to bond with your team outside rigid workplace barriers. While the very idea of hosting a virtual staff retreat might sound a little overwhelming and hard to imagine, here are some tips to help plan and execute a virtual staff retreat.

Schedule. There are two elements to scheduling: giving the team adequate notice and allocating the right amount of time. If you intend for the staff retreat to take the place of a regular planned meeting, simply provide weekly reminders as it approaches. A shared virtual calendar or message board is ideal for this purpose. In terms of duration, a couple of hours is ideal.

Logistics. In today’s environment, the usual logistical challenges of booking venues, catering, and transportation no longer apply. The new challenge when there is no physical location is ensuring that everyone logs on at the right time, with the right equipment to participate, and the knowledge of how to use it. Make sure you provide step-by-step instructions for all participants.

Agenda. Without the interaction cues of in-person conversations, it is imperative to abide by an agenda to maintain a comfortable yet efficient flow. Here is how you can break your retreat agenda down into bite-sized markers:

  • Recap – Revisit and reassess the successes and failures since the previous retreat.
  • Relate – Team building through the sharing of personal anecdotes and hobbies, etc.
  • Engage – Activity or activities, possibly chosen as a team, that form the core of the retreat.
  • Wrap-up – Closing activity, sharing lessons learned, and basic plan for the next retreat

Managing an Online Retreat. Great hosting skills will always be in demand, whether it is a physical or virtual meet. Follow these basics for a successful virtual meet, aligning them with the points made under “Agenda” above:

  • “Arrive” ten minutes early – Set up the chat, greet people as they join and encourage interaction with questions as you wait for full attendance.
  • Introduction – This should take no more than five minutes. Reiterate the purpose and objectives.
  • Ice-breaker – A simple activity designed to elicit responses from everyone.
  • Main activity – Allocate about an hour for the core retreat activity. Schedule a midway break if it won’t be too disruptive. Otherwise, have the break after this block. Look out for reticent participants and engage them directly to elicit contributions.

By certain criteria, a virtual staff retreat can’t be as effective as a physical one. However, they can still be effective, provided the event is managed and executed properly using the steps outlined above. Please contact me if you have any further questions.