This year for EasyLlama’s second annual team retreat, the herd flew out to Scottsdale, Arizona for a few days of in-person collaboration, team-building activities, and fun in the sun! Especially for a fully remote team like ours, a corporate retreat provides an invaluable opportunity to come together and build relationships, strengthen communication, and brainstorm creative solutions. By stepping away from the day-to-day grind, teams are able to focus on the big picture, work on leadership development, and tackle challenges from a different perspective.
Retreats can also provide the chance for teams to create a stronger bond and better understand each other's working styles. According to TravelPerk, 34% of employees reported having their most creative ideas on team retreats, which can also improve collaboration skills and create a more positive company culture. Additionally, having the chance to unplug and relax can offer a much-needed break from the intensity of remote work, improving employee morale and allowing teams to return to their day-to-day tasks with renewed energy and focus.
Our 2023 Retreat Agenda
We started out the week with a welcome reception, where we enjoyed delicious food and handed out fun “superlative awards” that we had voted on before flying out. The hotel provided such a fun setting to hang out and officially meet each other, many of us for the first time ever!
The next two days were filled with brainstorming sessions and departmental workshops during the day…
And fun activities heading into the afternoon and evening, including an escape room style scavenger hunt across Old Town Scottsdale…
As well as a local hike with breathtaking views of the Arizona desert.
And each evening provided the opportunity for top-quality dining experiences at a selection of local Scottsdale eateries.
It was certainly a trip to remember, and we’ve already noticed the positive effects of our remote interactions across the team!
Tips for Planning Your Next Team Retreat from Pooja Samuel Murphy, EasyLlama People Ops Manager
How did you put together the agenda for the 2023 retreat? What was the biggest obstacle you faced?
I used last year’s agenda as guidance to create the 2023 team retreat agenda. The biggest challenge for me was ensuring that our retreat in Scottsdale didn’t feel too much like our retreat in Austin last year. I poured over the feedback our team had provided in our post-retreat survey from last year and tried to take that feedback into consideration when planning this year’s retreat. For example, we received feedback asking for more brainstorming sessions, as well as downtime to check in on work throughout the week. We also received feedback about which activities folks really enjoyed in Austin and tried to find similar team-building activities in Scottsdale.
How was this year’s retreat different from last year's?
This year, we had more workshops to brainstorm and collaborate on new ideas for the business; whereas last year, workshops were more focused on building connections, company values, and ideating on where EasyLlama would be in the future. Additionally, I was intentional about creating more opportunities for the team to socialize. EasyLlama’s team has almost doubled since our last retreat and there were so many new faces to meet in person! We added a welcome reception this year and didn’t overschedule our afternoons with activities, so folks could rest, mingle, and enjoy the Arizona sunshine after workshopping for most of the day.
What was the ultimate goal of this retreat trip?
Innovation and connection! I really wanted folks to have plenty of time to collaborate with their teams as well as cross-functionally to bring new and innovative ideas to EasyLlama. It was also deeply important for our fully remote team to meet each other face-to-face. Building connections and team relationships online through Slack and Zoom can be difficult and often times those interactions feel transactional. It was top of mind for me to leave free time open for socializing and getting to know each other better as human beings and not just employees, which can create a more positive company culture.
What feedback did you receive from the herd about the Scottsdale retreat?
I received such positive feedback about this year’s retreat from the herd! Folks enjoyed the hotel we chose for our retreat venue, the food at the restaurants we ate in, and the sunshine. The themes that arose this year included more even brainstorming workshops, more breaks in between sessions, and making the retreat longer.
What advice do you have for other remote teams planning an in-person retreat?
Allocate time to the planning process and start early! Survey your team as well. You can’t please everyone but you can act on themes you identify in pre- and post-retreat surveys.