Have you ever been inspired by a new space you visited or felt a little more creative when you’ve worked from a trendy coffee shop in that cool neighborhood across town? Those feelings are exactly some of the reasons why you should consider encouraging your team to head off-site.
Whenever I need my team to think differently and collaborate in a genuine way without everyday distractions, I suggest we go off-site for a retreat. Being outside of the same environment allows people to start creating new thought paradigms and begin to feel stretched mentally. Here’s why you should consider packing up and heading off-site for that next big project kick off, quarterly debrief, or when things are getting a little stagnant:
You create a shift in thinking patterns
For one, being in a physically different space with its own new sights, sounds, smells, and amenities will have a bearing over how you’re feeling. That stimuli alone is enough to get people to start to shift their thinking. Going to the office every day and having the same set of experiences can condition you to approach things in a very expected way. If your team is about to take on a new and different type of challenge, why not help them break the cycle of the standard approach and unlock new ways of doing things by transporting them into new space?
Additionally, being somewhere outside of your home base and comfort zone allows you to focus on the task at hand and keep away from getting too cozy or falling victim to distractions, such as staring at your email inbox or hosting an office mate for a casual chat by the water cooler.
Urgency to act can be inspired
When deciding whether an off-site retreat is the thing you need, don't go overboard with a jam-packed agenda, but certainly do have one. If you are hosting a retreat, it is likely you are renting a space for a specific time frame. This allows you to tailor an agenda that you would like to accomplish by the time everyone leaves. How many times have you experienced “agenda slide” when in meetings at the office where you don’t quite accomplish everything on the agenda and the team can justify it by doing the remaining items tomorrow and tomorrow turns into next week?
Showing thoughtfulness about how you will spend your time with your co-workers is important, and they will want to buy-in for achieving them when they are realistic. Rather, exhausting them by putting them through an annoying barrage of team-building exercises is not likely going to lead to a positive outcome. Be more intentional with your time and how you inspire urgency when working on your business.
Everyone can participate and provide feedback
Do you have really awesome folks on your team who are sometimes timid when sharing their ideas in the conference room because the usual suspects are overly-generous in sharing thoughts? You can create opportunities for everyone to express themselves and their opinions in a structured way at a retreat that may seem slightly unconventional in a “normal” office meeting. Typical tools I personally use in these settings are post-its, large poster-boards, markers, and sticky dots. There are plenty of activities you can find online that will help elicit feedback from your group, and sometimes, bringing in a professional facilitator is the right answer, especially if you don't have a ton of mediation or moderation experience. Outside folks are often immune to bias and will want to hear from every voice in the room, giving those quiet yet mighty team members a chance.
Strong connections can be made
Don’t necessarily have an agenda to warrant a moderated retreat but desire to give your team an opportunity to connect on a deeper level through non-kitschy and meaningful activities? Try finding a venue where you can cook and enjoy a meal together or sign up for a spot to contribute to a volunteer effort in your local community (or do both by volunteering to cook a meal at The Ronald McDonald House!). Volunteering can sometimes be challenging and uncomfortable, which can cause your team to rally around one another in the moment. When coworkers only have a professional working relationship and no personal relationship, it's hard to expect collaboration and teamwork to flourish. You may start to see team members pitching in more regularly or offering a helping hand more often following an opportunity for personalized socialization outside of the office.
To me, the bottom line to getting different results requires stepping outside of the same old offices or conference rooms. Try your local co-working offices’ collaboration spaces, such as Versa’s ‘Fireside Lounge’. Allow your team the opportunity to grow. Treat your employees and team members with an opportunity to just be human and enjoy themselves. The experience will translate into so much more than "synergy" or "engagement" metrics your HR department may seek to collect, and you will be convinced that the investment of time, effort, and energy of going off-site is one with a great return.
Guest Blogger, Brent Osborn is the Director of Client Success at VectorOne. VectorOne is experienced development firm in Columbus, OH focusing on building business value to achieve faster ROI.