How To Run A Virtual Staff Retreat

*Forwarded from Feedly*

How To Run A Virtual Staff Retreat

Written by: Christopher Littlefield, Contributor

People engaged in a Virtual Team Retreat


As return to work dates get pushed further and further back, it is important that leaders create opportunities for their teams to take a break from their work and reflect on how they are working together. Whether in person, or virtually, busy leaders will often fall into the trap of avoiding scheduling retreats because they don’t feel they have the time or bandwidth to prepare. As a result, months go by, frustration builds, the team burns out and, when they finally do schedule something, the leader’s actions appear reactive instead of proactive. Here is a roadmap for organizing an engaging virtual retreat in under an hour.

Put it on the Calendar

With no need for a venue, catering, or transportation, scheduling a retreat is as simple as putting it on the calendar.  If the team has a standing weekly meeting, inform them that next week will be used for a virtual team retreat, or schedule a new meeting for a few weeks out. When it comes to duration, it is best to block out two hours, as discussion may run over and it is better to end early than ask people to stay late.  

Planning the Retreat

With the event scheduled, now it is time to outline the program. It is recommended that leaders block out 45 minutes to an hour to plan their event. They can design the program on their own, or invite team members to plan it with them. Either way, it is great to ask people ahead of time if there are any specific topics they would like to discuss or activities they would like to try.

Person handwriting out the agenda for their virtual staff retreat


Set the Intention

At the heart of any great retreat is a clear intention and a well thought out agenda. The first step in designing the agenda is to set the intention or goal in which the event will be built around.  For example, “The intention for this retreat is to have fun, reflect on how things have been going, and plan for months ahead.” With the intention set, it is time to start outlining the agenda.

Outlining the Agenda

The best retreats have a good mix of fun and discussion. For a two-hour program, leaders will want to include the following seven components:

Warm Welcome (Ten Minutes Prior)

In customer service, they often talk about the importance of “The Warm Welcome” to set the stage for a positive experience. The same is true for our virtual retreats. Start the retreat on the right foot by joining ten minutes prior, and greeting people as they connect. After a few people have joined in, post a welcome question up on the screen or in the chat box to get people sharing. Leaders can pick their own questions or try one from the suggestions below:

“What is one thing you used to take for granted but really appreciate now?”

“What is something you have been watching/reading recently that you love?”

“If you could click a button and take one thing off your to do list, what would it be?”

“What is the best thing you have cooked in the last few weeks?”

Introduction & Context (5 Minutes)

Once everyone is connected, the leader should start the program by sharing the intention they created for the session. It is also important to put people at ease by acknowledging the circumstances, and that background noise, a messy house, or kids interrupting is ok. After the introduction, the leader will review the agenda and jump in.

Icebreaker (5-10 Minutes)

Now that the context is set, run a quick game or a fun activity to put people at ease. You can find several ideas to choose from here. It is a good practice to identify at least two games for the event:  one to play at the beginning of the session, and one to have ready if the group needs a laugh at some point during the session.

Core Discussion (1 Hour)

According to Mark Goulston, a psychiatrist and author of the book, Just Listen, “It is less important what we say to others, than what we empower others to say to us.”    

Based on the intention of the retreat, leaders might want to select 3 to 5 questions as the basis of the core discussion. Selected questions should give team members an opportunity to reflect and openly share about their experiences and ideas. 

Question Ideas

·     What are we doing really well as a team?

·     What is not working as well as we would like?

·     What three things could we do to take our performance as a team to the next level over the next month?

Before starting your core discussion, it is advised to set some basic ground rules such as 1) Length of share (1-2 minutes), 2) Give other people a chance to speak before speaking again, and 3) Always speak from personal experience.

Once the ground rules are set, the leader can introduce the first question and invite people to share their thoughts.  

Break (5 Minutes)

Just like with normal meetings, people can only pay attention for a limited time and need breaks. After about an hour, give people 5 to 10 minutes to stretch, go to the bathroom, and get a drink. After the break is a great time to use the second ice breaker.

Reflection and Follow Up (10 Minutes)

Make time for reflection and gratitude in your virtual team retreats


Fifteen minutes before the end of the meeting, leaders will want to shift from the core discussion to a reflection and follow up. Depending on the discussion, this is a good time to ask people what they learned and start brainstorming about next steps. If the discussion needs more time, this is the time to schedule a follow up session.   

Gratitude before Goodbye (5 Minutes)

Before wrapping up any retreat, it is important to leave time for people to express gratitude and appreciation.  This can be done by asking a question like “Before we close today, does anyone want to thank anyone or share something they are proud of the team for?” After people share, the leader can thank everyone for their time and participation and say goodbye. 

Although organizing a virtual retreat might seem daunting, if leaders follow this simple road map, they can organize an engaging and meaningful event in under an hour.

via Forbes – Leadership “”

July 31, 2020 at 05:29AM

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Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman