How to Organize a Company Retreat

Jun 10 2019

At XWiki, we are strong believers in flexibility, so we trust our team to choose when and where they can do their best work. Consequently, our team is distributed across multiple countries, with people working both from our offices and remotely.

A downside is that we need to make a conscious effort if we want to get everybody together in the same place. We regularly have colleagues traveling to our two offices, but the way we get everyone in the same spot is by organizing a team retreat once a year.

As we’re working on our 11th global get-together we thought it would be nice to share how we go about planning it and how we use tools to stay organized and on track.

The prep

Our retreat usually lasts about a week, with two days dedicated to travel. Starting January we create a detailed plan and budget for our retreat. We also like to build our own app to make sure it fits our specific needs. Once the groundwork is done, we start looking for the perfect time and setting.

Finding the perfect location

We begin every new year by scouting for the perfect location, get in touch with hotels and resorts that we think might be a good fit. In parallel, we run a poll on our intranet checking our team’s availability. Once we save the date and come up with the locations shortlist, we create a new poll and ask our team to vote for their favorite place.

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Transportation arrangements

As soon as we sign the contract with the location we start making the transportation arrangements. We try to have the team travel together as much as possible, but we also accommodate colleagues who travel from other locations or who wish to stay longer or less. Everyone receives their ticket by email and we have a page on our intranet where we put all the travel information. We always try to pick locations that are reasonably easy to get to.

Preparing the sessions

With most of the logistics taken care of, two months prior to the event, we start prepping the sessions and other on-site activities. Anyone at XWiki can use the dedicated Seminar app to propose talks they’d like to organize or participate in.
By now you’ve guessed we are big fans of polls at XWiki. We love using them to make decisions as a team. Whenever we have too many proposals, we launch a vote to pick the most interesting sessions.
Once we have the final schedule, we feature it on our intranet calendar and sync it with Google Calendar. We also export the schedule as a PDF, so people may use it offline should they wish.

Food, trip, and other fun activities

A large extent of our efforts goes towards planning the day trip, party, and team building activities. Much of the time on site though is spent hanging out, playing games and getting to know each other better.
One of the highlights of the retreat is the hackathon. It provides the perfect opportunity for all of us to work together in person. Anyone can suggest topics and the remaining colleagues will join one of the proposed ideas. Hackathon teams work on their projects throughout the day and get to present the results in the afternoon.
In terms of catering, we try to select a buffet menu that is diverse and satisfies varied tastes and dietary restrictions. Once we have collected team feedback and agreed on the final menu with the location, we share it with everyone.

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Goodies

No company retreat is complete without geeky T-Shirts and goodies. We come up with a custom logo for each retreat. Everyone can send a proposal. The most voted logo is then proudly worn on our t-shirts.

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Less fun, but equally important: keeping track of finances

All through the event prep, we make sure to regularly update our budget and expenses. To stay organized we upload all contracts, invoices, and tickets to our wiki and use livetables to filter and sort documents.

Feedback

At XWiki, we love giving and receiving feedback. As we aim to make retreats better every year, after each event we run an internal survey to see what went well and what could be improved.

That’s about it! Organizing a team retreat is no easy feat for our HR team, but it’s always worth it. As we’re writing this post, we’re in the last stages of planning our next seminar, which takes place in exactly one month from now. We’ll be starting out in Paris, then traveling to the Loire Valley. Looking forward to another good one and we’ll make sure to come back with updates!

Silvia Macovei, Head of Cloud Business