COVID-19 has forced us to rethink in-person events for the better part of the last year, and we’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to virtual gatherings.
But a pandemic isn’t the only reason we might opt to meet and work remotely. In fact, many of the lessons we’ve learned will be applicable far into the future, when budgets, commutes, or even inclement weather conditions make getting together in person tricky to pull off.
After a year of “Zoom fatigue,” how do we host virtual staff retreats that actually engage our staff?
Spend enough time planning your virtual staff retreat.
When you think about your best in-person retreats and meetings, what stands out? What can you do to ensure people are just as excited about this virtual experience as they were face-to-face?
Clearly defining your goal is critical for a virtual staff retreat. Be honest with yourself about the unique value-add of any remote event; are you creating a virtual environment that will engage everyone on staff? If you don’t understand the “why” of your event, your staff won’t, either.
Similarly, a theme can help tie all of your sessions and fun activities together under one umbrella. Whether you’re looking to rekindle social bonds amongst your team members or work on centering equity in your organization, your theme should help guide the creation of your agenda.
To get a better sense of what’s top-of-mind for your team here, you’ll need to ask. Give them plenty of opportunities to brainstorm, provide feedback, and even volunteer to lead workshops or icebreakers.
Plan for shorter blocks of time – no one will stay engaged for an eight-hour virtual meeting! But choosing the right platform can help make shorter blocks of time more interesting; consider screen-sharing and breakout room capabilities.
If your virtual retreat isn’t special, then it’s just a long staff meeting.
Take care to incorporate plenty of fun, creative activities that also accomplish something in relation to your goal and theme.
Some ideas might include:
- A virtual “job shadow” session, where two employees can use screen-share capabilities to introduce their “day in the life” to a coworker. Maybe this is an opportunity for staff that work on different parts of the same projects to help each other streamline and strengthen their processes.
- Content creation sessions, like blog writing or employee interviews that result in new written pieces for the organization’s website or social media profiles.
- Watch parties that take place during lunch or dinner. Staff can watch relevant documentaries, webinars, or virtual panels together; these can serve as a basis for discussion later on.
For a virtual staff retreat, the details count.
Virtual staff retreats are great opportunities both for staff connection and accomplishing important tasks. But if you aren’t excited about it, then your employees won’t be, either.
Being intentional about the details can go a long way toward creating a richer experience for everyone. Think about things like background music during breaks, celebratory moments for birthdays or staff anniversaries, and even getting a graphic designer to add some pizzazz to your on-screen materials.
A successful virtual staff retreat will require intentionality on your part – and plenty of advanced planning. But it will also garner great results when your staff is engaged and participating fully with one another.
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