Virtual Staff Retreats Made Easy

by Wendy Soon on May 12, 2016

Dollarphotoclub_66649673_telecommutebannerThere are numerous benefits associated with well-planned and engaging staff retreats. Staff retreats give employees a chance to connect or re-connect with the missions and goals of the organization. Retreating also gives staff an opportunity to connect with each other and company leadership. There are some real benefits and challenges of working remotely, but hosting a virtual staff retreat may help tackle some of those challenges while highlighting the many benefits of working from home.


Planning a staff retreat in a virtual work environment can be a big challenge due to lack of resources or ideas. How does one plan a staff retreat for remote workers, then? The key is to think out of the box and put the employees’ need to feel connected at the forefront while you explore how to make staff retreats for at-home businesses work.




  • Budget – What can your company afford? The budget will affect almost every area of the planning phase. Your team may want to host the meeting with a more expensive platform, but if the budget does not allow it, then you may have to use a free service. Also, consider if participation is paid and at what rate.
  • How many staff members are participating? This will be a determining factor as well. Some video platforms will not support more than 15 people. More expensive platforms can support up to 100 people. Purchasing “door gifts” such as gift cards for a lunch of 15 people versus 50 people is a huge difference.
  • Goals and Objectives – This is probably the most important piece to consider. There are certainly ways to get around the budget for accommodating a large or small staff, but the retreat will not be useful if goals are not intentionally outlined. Is this retreat primarily focused on team building? Is the goal to do some strategic planning by getting the input of staff members? Is there a staff appreciation component to the retreat? Will there be a portion of the retreat dedicated to skill building or certification? These are all things that should be considered.


10 Steps to Planning a Virtual Staff Retreat


  1. Set a firm budget – Figure out how much your company can afford to spend. Retreats can be extremely expensive, but there are ways around costly retreats. If your business can not afford to throw an elaborate function, be prepared to get creative.
  2. Build a committee – Select individuals for a committee that represents the make-up of the company. If your company has an IT department and a customer service area, be sure to include representatives from each side of the enterprise. Share the budget with the committee if leadership is not serving on the committee – It is important that lines of communication are wide open between the committee and company leadership.
  3. Set goals – This is crucial. Outline the goals of the retreat. Make sure the goals are clear, obtainable, and measurable. Be prepared to share these with participants. Have your committee build an agenda based on those aims.
  4. Set a date and time – Remember to set a date and time that is mutually beneficial for your staff. Consider adjusting work schedules during the week the retreat will be held. Take note of weekends, public holidays and off hours in different time zones if your virtual team is scattered across the globe in different countries.
  5. Find a web-based conference platform that works for your team’s needs – Technology gives us an excellent opportunity to meet virtually. Because you are meeting remotely, finding a web-based discussion platform that fits your goals and budget is critical. There are many options such as Skype, Google Hangout, Scribblar, Team Viewer, Webex. The costs of these platforms vary from free to over $500, depending on how many people you need to host and if file sharing is required. Remember to have the committee do a test run well before the actual retreat. If you run into hang-ups, be sure to share those with the staff logging-in remotely.
  6. Plan unique team building exercises – Team building can be a good way to re-energize your staff. It can be a challenge to engage staff virtually, so creating appealing incentives can assist with active participation. Social media contests, online assessments that share results, and polling staff during the retreat can help remote staff feel more connected to the group. Learn more about how to incorporate team building into your virtual retreat here.
  7. Send out save the dates – Incorporate not only the date and time but also the necessary information about the web-based platform used to facilitate the retreat. This is especially important if it has not been traditionally used during meetings. This may also be a good time to introduce any social media competitions or engaging activities.
  8. Send necessary items in the mail – If you want to send your staff a retreat t-shirt or lunch voucher, be sure to post that ahead of time. Sending thank you gifts is a good way to get staff excited about the retreat. Be sure to send incentives that are cost-effective and serve a purpose.
  9. Plan lunch or lunch-related activities – This is a huge challenge. It’s nice to treat the staff to lunch during retreats. That’s a challenge if there is not a central space for staff to meet. If your company has a cluster of officials in central areas, you could plan a joint lunch for groups of staff and flip the bill. If that’s not the case, you may be able to send gift cards to staff ahead of time. If money is small, you may be able to work with companies and have them donate these to your business. Another way to tackle this would be to incorporate employee wellness into a lunch time. Host a healthy lunch competition. Employees are given the guidelines ahead of time, and the worker with the most creative, low-calorie meals that incorporates all of the food groups wins a prize. It’s engaging and cost-effective. It also allows staff to get some face-time and time to get to know each other.
  10. Keep the Ball Rolling – After the retreat is over, it doesn’t end there. Be sure to continue to engage staff in team building activities throughout the year. If strategic planning or training was incorporated into the retreat, keep those conversations going as well. Check out com/blog to learn other ways to engage your virtual staff.




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