Business Travel

The Off-Site Retreat Is More Important Now Than Pre-Pandemic

Sasha Hoffman

In the post-pandemic world, everyone is on Zoom. So how do you reap the benefits of in-person interactions when people no longer need to travel? By planning engaging off-site excursions that are the best part of an employee’s job.

It’s a known fact that face-to-face interactions are beneficial. In-person interactions build “social capital,” which helps support a thriving workplace. It improves the spread of knowledge, fuels new ideas, and promotes collaboration. In the long run, it also leads to lower absenteeism, decreased turnover, and better employee productivity.

Unfortunately, it’s harder to reap these benefits in the world of remote work. Everyone is constantly on Zoom, and 37% of companies no longer have an office. If you want employees to meet and connect in person, you’ll have to make them travel.

But when everything could theoretically be done over Zoom, how do you facilitate excitement? By making people want to branch out. Here’s how you can make an off-site experience worth their time:

  1. Set aside a large chunk of time for relationship-building.
    It’s possible that employees haven’t met in person before, so spend about 40% of the time you have helping people get to know each other. Try seating five to six people together at meals to facilitate small group conversations or scheduling unique and memorable experiences that reflect the area you’re in. By creating a relaxed, fun, and memorable atmosphere, you can improve team functioning and repair any strained relationships. Connecting with people virtually just isn’t the same as being in a room with a group that shares your passion and goals.
  2. Acknowledge that the setting matters.
    You need to get employees out of the weeds and into a space where they can flourish. It’s important to find a location that fosters creativity, inspires reflection, and isn’t too familiar. Whether it’s a beachside hotel, forest retreat, or mountainside chalet, the venue you choose for the off-site should feel exciting and new.
  3. Integrate wellness activities into the schedule.
    Productivity at work is tied to physical and mental health. Schedule a wellness activity every day — such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, a cacao ceremony, and so forth — so people have the option to join in. When employees are stressed, they won’t be able to focus on work. So, give them opportunities and chances to reclaim their health and feel their best while at the off-site.
  4. Provide a ‘COVID-19 concierge.’
    These days, seamless business travel means acknowledging the realities of a post-pandemic world. Depending on when and where you’re traveling to, requirements might change frequently. Designate a person that employees can go to who can help arrange tests, inform them of protocols, and keep everyone organized. This makes it much easier for employees to focus on what really matters: the experience.
  5. Add perks.
    Before the pandemic, employees loved getting the benefits associated with business travel. Think about ways to make employees’ experiences better at your off-sites, such as room upgrades, free days, or companion passes. You could also offer travel bonuses or give employees perks such as rate codes, free airline upgrade certificates, or point buys. The goal is to ensure employees remember the trips as positive experiences.
  6. Bring your support infrastructure with you.
    When in the office, it’s easy for your employees to swing by the IT desk for technology trouble or visit the learning and development department for coaching. It’s harder for people to take advantage of this infrastructure when working remotely. So when on an off-site, create stations where employees can take care of things they’ve put off, such as getting new electronics or taking a training session.
  7. Make the retreat longer and more flexible.
    Before COVID-19, off-sites were generally one to three days long and filled to the brim with scheduled activities. Often, folks would come back to piles of work after being offline for a few days. It was exhausting. Now, you should consider planning four- to five-day off-sites. Give people more time to respond to emails and get work done as well as take care of their day-to-day needs. This additional flexibility will help people feel more energized during and after the trip.
  8. Build an optimal team.
    Want to improve employee productivity and job satisfaction? Bring in coaches to host a series of modules on the brain, nutrition, sleep, and personal productivity. Specific topics to cover include:# Brain levers to help you live in the moment.
    # Nutrition strategies that can boost your cognitive abilities and regulate your energy levels.
    # Productivity tips to increase clarity and declutter your brain.
    # Optimization tactics for sleep and physical activity to fuel your overall performance and well-being.
  9. Be proactive about childcare.
    COVID-19 puts tremendous strain on working parents. It’s important to understand what they’re going through and proactively offer support to enable employees to attend off-sites. You could consider providing free upgrades to larger rooms so people can bring their families or providing on-site babysitting. Overall, think about how you can help working parents fully enjoy the experience.

The future of business travel depends on enticement and engagement. By following these tips, you can plan off-site excursions that employees look forward to and value.


Written by Sasha Hoffman.
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Sasha Hoffman
Sasha Hoffman is a travel expert, business strategist, investor, and entrepreneur who’s worked for companies such as Uber, Piaggio Group, and Goldman Sachs and curates luxury, purpose-driven trips for professional women.


Sasha Hoffman is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website.