Effective Team Building: Your 6 Step Guide to Planning a Team Retreat

‍You may be wondering, what's all the hype about team-building retreats?

Hosting this kind of retreat can create many positive changes throughout your entire organization.

Team building retreats will: 

✅ Increase employee engagement

✅ Enhance company culture

✅ Encourage team collaboration

✅ Boost employee/team performance

✅ Build greater team cohesion

✅ Improve overall business productivity

If you want to go even more in-depth about the benefits and purpose of hosting a team retreat (maybe to convince your boss to invest in this great tool), check out my article 10 Ways a Team Building Retreat Will Help Your Company.

In this article, I walk you through what kind of team retreats are available to you and provide a complete guide with some simple steps to follow when planning a team retreat.

What's the purpose of a team-building retreat?

High-performing teams are critical to a startup's success and, as a result, are one of the most important and beneficial investments a startup CEO will make.

‍The biggest motivator to host a team-building offsite retreat is if you see the need to strengthen your team's bonds.

‍Team building retreats are a great way to enhance company culture, improve overall team performance, and increase employee productivity and engagement. It also gives space for employees to undergo leadership development and increase their confidence. 

The interactive and community-based approach of team-building retreats helps improve leadership capacity for employees and managers alike.

This makes team-building retreats the most effective way to create a long-lasting impact on team dynamics and leadership skills, which are at the foundation of any high-performing team.

By developing stronger team dynamics and leadership skills across the entire team, you aid in developing meaningful relationships among team members that make them excited to come to work again.

You also increase team collaboration which helps develop solutions to problems that executives can't solve alone. Employees become motivated to take action in their role at your startup, which reignites their passion for work and will create long-lasting results on their maximum productivity output.

Retreats are an essential piece of remote company culture. 

Types of Team Retreats

Corporate retreats are team bonding opportunities that balance work and play.

Your team's goals will determine what kind of retreat will work best for your startup. Is your retreat's goal to change your team's pace of productivity? Re-energize and inspire your employees? Enhance your team's connection to one another?

Managers face challenges all the time that team retreats can help solve. The most important thing to remember is that not all corporate retreats are made equal. 

There are two different foundations you can pick between for any corporate retreat to elevate your business and employees. The options are a team-building retreat or a strategic planning retreat. They each help your team reach different goals. 

Below, you'll find the differences between the three types of retreats your team can choose between to help you decide which one will best suit your startup's needs.

Team building sessions are an essential part of any team retreat. 

A. Remote Team Retreat  

The future of work is remote, and more and more companies are continuing to make the permanent switch to an online office. 

Remote work is great, but one of the things those with remote employees must be aware of is how easy it is for a disconnect to form between remote employees and their teams. 

In the example of remote team retreats, the retreat is extra special as you spend little or no time around the employees on your team in real life. Creating the foundation of human connection by getting everyone face-to-face in person is crucial for the longevity of your remote team. 

While team members don't need to meet face-to-face for everyday tasks, big projects may require your entire team to meet up in person from time to time. This means hosting a team retreat with your remote team could also be a good opportunity for you to tackle a big problem together. 

Remote teams meet in person to:

  • Focus on work that is difficult to do remotely, such as project design/building
  • Create an opportunity for coworkers to connect on a personal level
  • Understand common values and get to know one another better as remote companies tend to be more diverse.

 Retreats are an essential piece of remote company culture. 

B. Leadership Retreat

A leadership retreat, also known as a strategic planning retreat, gives your company's team(s) the chance to get together and talk about the future and direction of the company.

The opportunity to sit down and objectively analyze your company's performance face-to-face is so vital to the company's growth and success.

This kind of offsite retreat is often hosted in a hotel, with an event space, for two to three days. By putting top managers in this type of comfortable and new environment, you clear their minds and spark greater creative and critical thinking, boosting productivity when combined.

Leadership retreats are essential to get a clear picture of how the company is growing and what strategic steps need to be made for its future development. Throughout the retreat, your team will develop an outline of a strategic roadmap for the next calendar year and build their leadership skills through immersive leadership training exercises and team-building activities.

 Leadership retreats are essential for business development success. 

C. Team Building Retreat

Team Building = Business Building

Team building retreats focus on connecting team members on a personal level. They're a great way to strike a perfect balance between working toward common company goals while still being able to bond together as a team.

A team-building retreat's primary goal is to strengthen the relationships within a corporate team. This can be as simple as getting to know each other better to resolving the tensions of office politics. A team-building retreat usually takes the whole company offsite to a fun location. The activity schedule balances bonding time and collectively working on a company goal.

Various activities, such as games, ice breakers, workshops, and exercises, can be planned. Tailoring activities to your employees' interests is key to a team-building event's success. If your team likes to be outside, plan a hike, bike trip, or time at the beach between work sessions.

The employee community is the core of a business which makes it essential that the employee dynamic is energetic and productive.

Team building retreats are the perfect opportunity to align employees on company culture and values while giving them an overall boost in morale and performance that leads to a strong team and successful business.

 Team building retreats are the perfect balance of fun and work.

Now that you know about the different team retreat options available, let's get into the actual retreat planning process to see what we need to keep in mind throughout the planning process. 👇

Your guide to planning a team retreat

1. Decide what you want to get out of the team retreat

Like anything you want to get results out of, you need to go into a team retreat with a specific outcome in mind.

To get the most out of your team retreat, understand what you want to come away with after hosting it.

Do you want to reignite employee passion, nip office politics in the bud, improve overall team dynamics, or come away with some innovative, new business strategies?

By evaluating current team struggles, you can identify areas where your team can improve; ideally, your retreat will help remedy those issues or gaps.

What you want from the retreat will dictate the rest of your planning process, from how much time you need to spend at an offsite retreat to where you will host the retreat and what activities you'll pick.

2. Pick a time frame.

To get the most out of your next team retreat, we recommend that its length is at least three to five days (depending on the size of your team). 

If that isn't realistic for your startup, a minimum of two days, with at least one day spent offsite, will definitely be a morale booster. Any retreat, no matter how short, is better than no retreat.

The recommended retreat length varies based on the size of your team and the retreat's purpose.

If you want to build in-depth connections and innovate collaboratively, three days is the retreat length minimum. The more time you spend in the retreat zone, the easier it'll be for employees to open up and share ideas and experiences. 

3. Set a budget for your team retreat.

There are lots of costs to consider when planning a team retreat.

You have to take everything from transportation, accommodations, meals, and team activities into account.

One example budget to follow is Buffer. They set their annual retreat cost at $5,000 per person for a larger retreat, while their mini-retreat budget is $1,400 per person. 

Now, yours doesn't have to be as expensive (or you could make it even more pricey - you do you). Check your budget and allocated spending first to prevent you from breaking the bank.

To make the most out of your team retreat with your available budget, check out this retreat budget tool.

4. Pick a team retreat location.

Deciding on the right team retreat location is not a decision that should be taken lightly. In fact, it's one of the most important decisions you'll make during your team retreat planning process, as it directly impacts the team retreat costs and satisfaction.

The retreat venue can be almost anywhere your team wants — within reason. You can do anything from renting out a huge conference space in a large resort to a cabin in the mountains or a day at a local, national park.

There are 5 key things you have to consider when picking a retreat venue:

  • What type of location would your team enjoy?
  • How big is your team?
  • What works within your budget?
  • What space works well with the purpose of the retreat?
  • Does your group require accessibility features at the venue?

If you're unsure about what accommodations your staff members need, you can send out an anonymous survey — dietary restrictions, deadly nature allergies, accessible features, etc.

You can either book lodging at the same location as the retreat activity space or separately. If you're choosing to stay at a different place, pick somewhere close enough to make it easy for your staff to go back and forth. When booking, contact the hotel or resort directly as it's often possible to negotiate a discount for booking multiple rooms at once.‍

You can also host a retreat where lodging won't be needed, such as a location near the office or around their housing area so employees can sleep in their own homes.

For the best advice on where to take your team on your next offsite retreat, checkout 21 Best Corporate Retreat Venues Near Toronto and Ottawa. This guide will help you discover amazing yet affordable (and many unique) offsite retreat locations that your entire team will enjoy.

If your team is too far from Toronto or Ottawa for any of these venues to be helpful, we'd be happy to help you find a venue close to where you're located (no matter where you want to go). We have the experience necessary to deem a venue retreat worthy.

The Hollows Camp is an amazing team retreat location just 27 minutes outside of Barrie, Ontario.

5. Create the structure of your retreat.

The best team retreats are a combination of working and team building. It's essential that there is a happy balance between completing work tasks and cutting loose.

Some teams choose to work from the office in the morning and then go off for team activities and meals during the day.

Our team retreats include team-building activities such as leadership development, personality discovery, communication workshops, strategic planning, and more. To see a more detailed outline of what our team retreats have to offer you, check out the Retreats page on our website.

6. Involve everyone as much as possible.

The unfortunate reality of business is that not all team members will be able to participate in an offsite retreat 100% of the time.

For example, employees in customer service may have to spend at least some time during the retreat on their daily tasks due to the nature of their job. 

Take the time to understand what work tasks team members have to get done in a day and do your best to plan fun team-building activities around that. This can be as simple as planning late afternoon and evening activities to accommodate team members who have to finish work tasks in the morning. 

Alternatively, you can see if employees are interested in the possibility of planning the retreat on a weekend.

How to choose the right retreat for your team

Team building retreats are the most effective way to create a lasting impact on team dynamics. There are so many ways to plan an offsite corporate or team leadership retreat that it can get overwhelming quickly. Creating and maintaining high-performing teams are critical to any company's success.

Corporate retreats are opportunities for team activities that balance work and play.

The three most important things to develop in a team retreat are:

  1. Strong Sense of Purpose: The team understands their purpose in reaching the company's vision.
  2. High-Quality Interactions: The team has trust, open communication, and a willingness to embrace conflict.
  3. Culture of Safety: The team operates in a culture where risk and innovation are celebrated.

What your team needs to focus on most will determine what kind of retreat will work best.

Team-Building Retreat
  • Focus on connecting team members on a personal level
  • Strike a balance between working toward common company goals while bonding as a team
  • The goal can be as simple as getting to know each other better to resolving tension caused by office politics
  • Align employees on company culture and values 
  • Boost employee morale and performance
  • The perfect balance of fun and work


Leadership Retreat
  • Allow management to discuss the company's future
  • Opportunity to sit down and objectively analyze the company's performance 
  • Putting managers in a new environment clears their minds and sparks greater creative and critical thinking
  • Boost productivity
  • Get a clear picture of how the company is growing
  • Determine what strategic steps need to be made for the company's future development
  • Vital for business development success

Now that you have a clear idea of the different retreat options available, let's get into how you'll know the retreat was successful and the impact it had on your team. 👇

How will I see the impact and ROI?

Team building retreats are the perfect balance of fun and work.

Although it seems counter-intuitive at first, team-building retreats are a great investment to boost the performance of your startup team.

Engaging in activities together establishes trust and understanding between individuals translating into rapport and frictionless collaboration. 

The easiest way to enhance corporate culture is by investing in relationships with those who work within that culture. This way of fostering a sense of belonging in the workplace is critical for a productive and connected team.

To be well meshed, teams need to regularly participate in activities that allow them to collaborate actively. This increases effectiveness and creates an overall positive work environment. 

The logic is that if an employee feels like they're all on the same team and working towards the same goals, everyone will be more productive in the workplace and increase the likelihood of job satisfaction which adds to the sentiment of happiness in the workplace. 

Corporate retreats are the best chance you can give your team to bond and create a sense of community at work. 

In the end, you'll see your return on investment through enhanced company culture, better team performance, and increased employee productivity, all of which will boost both your startup's employee retention rate and triple the bottom line. 

Essentially, every benefit listed for hosting a team retreat for your employees will be noticeable to some extent. You may not realize it for a while after the retreat, but simple observations such as an employee being more communicative and forthcoming with information or the office's atmosphere being more welcoming are telltale signs of an effective retreat. 

These small, simple occurrences are signs of a much deeper positive change when working with people to any extent.

Start planning your team retreat!

Team retreats are the most effective way to create a long-lasting impact on team dynamics and cohesion. They sound simple, but all the moving parts make it difficult to plan a successful team retreat - especially if you're on a tight timeline.

This is where Unicorn Labs comes in. We create customized corporate team retreats for your company within as few or many guidelines as you set out for us. 

We know firsthand how crucial it is to get out of the office with your employees to connect and create a more cohesive workplace. 

While you focus on building your Unicorn product, let us help you develop your Unicorn Leaders. Our leadership and team-building retreats are made for people passionate about improving leadership capacity within themselves, their company, and their teams.

We provide interactive learning experiences - you won't find thick binders and heavy workbooks at our retreats. Our strategy is to build interactive, community-based, and customized to your team's unique needs.

We tailor our programs by interviewing participants, co-creating plans, and following up with teams to ensure the retreat's results are sustainable and long-term. Teams receive resources and assets they can take back to the workplace and apply right away, which enriches the learning experience.

Working with us means you'll have a hassle-free learning experience that will directly impact your organization in a positive way.

Whether you prefer team bonding through healthy competition or allowing your team to freely network independently, strategizing in group outdoor activities or boardrooms, we'll develop the right retreat to reach your goals.

For more information on our startup retreats or to request a quote, check out our Retreats page or book a free consultation.

If you want to learn more about planning corporate retreats, check out these resources:

👉 The 21 Best Corporate Retreat Venues Near Ottawa and Toronto

👉 10 Steps To Organize A Successful Corporate Retreat

👉Your Guide To Discover The Best Activities For Your Next Corporate Retreat

👉 Planning A Team Retreat? Here Are 20 Ways To Make It Successful

Here's a tool we made to make retreat planning a little easier ⤵️

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