There’s a lot we can learn by looking at how other companies’ work. How to scale a business, how to hire and manage a team, how to come up with an original marketing strategy. You wouldn’t think you’d also be able to learn how to successfully plan a team building event or retreat by browsing through Buffer’s or WeWork’s blog, but guess what? They offer a lot of great insights. Let’s have a look!
For its 9th annual retreat, Buffer was leaning towards a resort, as the best location for optimal employee relaxation. From an initial list of 18 places, it was down to Scottsdale and Singapore, and for the first time, Buffer opened the final decision to a vote from the whole company. Singapore won, and off they went.
Involving all participants in the decision marked an important shift from the usual decision by the retreat planners. It made it so that the location was one that most people had never been to, making the experience much more exciting.
Buffer Team Retreat - Singapore
Buffer’s team stayed in Sentosa Island off the coast of Singapore, in a resort that offered everything they needed. They worked in the hotel’s ballroom, which eliminated any commute time and allowed for people to get all work done by 5 PM and enjoy the pool, several dining options and other activities.
For Buffer, whose 82 employees are scattered between 15 cities around the globe, the retreat’s are “designed[…]to be as much about team bonding as high-level company vision sessions, which left less time than usual for the team to focus on day-to-day tasks.”
Key learning: involve the team in the decision making process.
Think of Buffer’s 82 employees, now add two zeros at the end of that number and you get the number of attendees of WeWork’s last Summer Camp.
WeWork has offices across 123 cities worldwide, and will continue to increase its presence in all continents. The annual Summer Camp presents the unique opportunity for all WeWork employees to get to know each other.
Last year, the whole of WeWork’s team took to Eridge Park, 40 miles southeast of London, for a weekend that most resembled a festival. There was live music, lots of food, outdoor activities (yoga, roller blading, soccer) and several opportunities to improve their skills or learn new things. There was something for everyone, which made the whole community feel accepted and like they really belonged there.
WeWork Summer Camp
Lucas Costa, a community manager from São Paulo, looks back at the 2018 Summer Camp “the opportunity to bond with people from different cultures but who share the same mission and to see that our team is diverse in terms of gender, color, and sexual orientation.”
Key learning: encourage a spirit of community.
Zapier’s team works completely remote and most of its over 50 employees never interact with another teammate, except during the company’s semi-annual retreats.
For that reason, during these retreats, Zapier’s team likes to focus on fun activities and bonding time. Since this is the only time they spend together, Zapier’s retreats last for a week, which is filled with shared meals, one-on-one conversations, and lots of board games. It’s also an opportunity to work on projects side-by-side instead of via Zoom calls or Slack channels.
Did I mention board games? Yeah, Zapier employees are so big on board games they devoted an entire blog post to them. You can read it here and maybe get some ideas for your next team retreat.
Key learning: bonding time is best done in person.
At LinkedIn, there is an overall belief that employees need to take some time to invest on themselves. So each month, there is an entire day dedicated to just that. It’s appropriately called Investment Day.
Each Investment Day is themed - think giving back, relationships, learning, wellness and play, for example - and is celebrated across all LinkedIn locations. All over the globe, managers and their team members have the opportunity to connect, while at the same time work on building the company culture in which they want to work.
Some examples of activities planned on LinkedIn’s Investment Days are doing yoga as a team, offer specialized training sessions to members to help them find jobs, organize charitable actions or do volunteering.
Key learning: use a day to build and maintain company culture.
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