Since 2015, Camp Bonfire has organized summer camp-style company offsites for some great tech companies on the East Coast. Along the way we’ve learned a few things about how to make your company retreat adventure a memorable, unifying, and energizing experience.
1) Make it fun!
Fun is co-created. Get people playing games (at Camp Bonfire we like capture the flag with foam swords), dancing under the stars, and performing on stage together. When we’re playful together we form bonds that get us through the hard parts of work.
2) Speaking of work…Forbid work.
Vacation can boost your productivity, creativity, and be good for your health. This is a unique opportunity to turbo charge the entire company at once. Your team is probably full of hard-working, ambitious people. If given the option to work, they may take it and soon everyone is on their laptops. Give staff plenty of notice that they are expected not to work at the retreat so that they can plan accordingly.
3) If you’re going to ask people to work…Schedule work that is best done face-to-face.
This is a great time to do visioning sessions, have an investor come speak to the team, or have coworkers give TED-style talks about a part of their work they’re passionate about.
4) Whether you have work at your retreat or not, don’t hold the retreat on the weekend.
Even though your team will have a fantastic time at your offsite, it’s still a work event. Honor your team’s personal time and show them that the retreat is a company priority. End your offsite on a Friday so people can recover from the fun (and sleeping in a bed that’s not their own) and still have their weekend to recharge.
5) Go away and stay overnight.
If you’re too close, the siren sound of work may call people back. Stay overnight so that your staff becomes fully immersed in the retreat experience. Overnight retreats allow for more “between times.” Between each activity co-workers can enjoy a walk together, linger at the lunch table after a meal, and have late night conversations around the bonfire.
6) Go to nature.
A change of scenery shifts perspectives. Trees, lakes, rivers and bonfires are incredibly good at clearing our heads.
7) If alcohol is a part of your event, make it an enhancement, not the focus.
A few drinks at the talent show can add to the fun. If the only activity is drinking, those who don’t drink will be left out and the chances of something inappropriate happening during your retreat increase.
8) Get buy-in from (all kinds of) leaders.
It goes without saying that those at the top of the company will set the tone. If your CEO is front and center during the lip sync battle, good times will follow. Is there someone in your office that always makes people laugh (looking at you, Jackie in accounting); who on the company kickball team always convinces people to hang out afterwards? Make sure your planning team engages informal leaders as well.
9) Schedule organized activities.
How else will the founder of your company and the most recent hire end up as finalists in an epic “Rock Paper Scissors” tournament?
10) Schedule free time.
Hammocks. And that book you’ve been meaning to read.
11) Hire someone else to run your retreat.
More and more companies have amazing event planners on staff. They need a break and a chance to connect with their peers, too.
Camp Bonfire organizes summer camps for adults and summer camp company retreats.
Our company retreats have a unique way of bringing people together, slowing down time, and creating lasting memories. The lodging, activities, meals, and free time are all designed to encourage meaningful connections between campers. We will infuse the values and goals of your company into the summer camp experience.
We have relationships with dozens of amazing summer camps near New York and Philadelphia. Our relationship with these camps allow for complete customization of our company retreats. We handle all vendor contracts, registration, scheduling, supplies and insurance. All your employees have to do is show up and enjoy.