Are employee retreats a good idea?

Retreats may seem like a good way to build teamwork, but they aren’t for everyone. Here’s how to determine if taking one is right for your team.

Are company retreats a good idea?

Ask yourself: Does it make sense to pack up your staff, ship them off to a hotel somewhere nice, and spend a few days developing a long-term vision, cranking out a new product, or getting to know each other better without outside distractions?

Or, would it make more sense to save your money, spend a little more on the perks you know your team enjoys, and focus on building a stable, scalable, in-it-for-the-long-haul company culture?

Let’s take a look at both sides of the issue.

Company retreats improve HR metrics

The logic behind company retreats is compelling. If your business requires teamwork to succeed—and most businesses do—a company retreat is a great way to build and solidify important relationships among employees.

The regular workday is full of distractions. If it’s not dentist appointments and traffic jams, it’s employee onboarding and overflowing inboxes. It can feel almost impossible to block out a few hours to work together as a group, never mind a few days.

A company retreat cuts out distractions and lets your team focus on getting the job done.

Better still, when you eliminate the distractions and force your team to join together, the relationships and teamwork skills they develop will carry on in the workplace far into the future.

Aside from performance improvements, an all-expenses-paid trip is a compelling perk for many workers, which helps with retention and employee engagement.

Retreats cause more problems than they’re worth

Packing a bunch of adults into a confined space for a prolonged period isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The costs of transportation, food, lodging and entertainment for several days can be steep. But the emotional toll can end up having the highest price.

Not everyone can connect several days end-to-end to dedicate exclusively to work—especially if they’re part-time employees or sole care providers. And even if they can, not everyone will be able to do so at the same time. Those who are excluded will feel left out, while those who attend may actually resent the absentees.

Worse yet, the little personality quirks that make your team interesting can cause employees’ tempers to flare when they can’t get away at the end of the day. Distractions help cut tension and relieve stress. Without them, peoples’ boiling points tend to get a lot lower.

Choose your battles

So, are company retreats a good idea? That depends on your circumstances, but it’s usually a great thing to at least consider.

If cash is flowing, your team is receptive, or you want to integrate a group of new employees, go for it! If money’s tight, team members have busy lives, or the stress level is already too high, plan your retreat very carefully.

Before you organize a company retreat, think about who really needs to be there. While the accounting department and programming interns might get along fantastically, the benefits of their collaboration are limited no matter how much time they spend together.

Most important, don’t make this a one-time event. Repeat it as often as possible, and follow up with regular team lunches or drinks out on the town.

Bonding time is important, even in small doses.

Joseph Fung is co-founder and CEO of TribeHR. Connect with him at joseph@tribehr.com. A version of this article originally appeared on TLNT.com.

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