- May 26, 2021
- Posted by: James Haggerty
- Category: Human Resources
Corporate wellness retreats—the very term can stir up conflicting images in the minds of many employees. After all, the term “retreat” means to withdraw, or to take a period of seclusion away from everyday stressors. Meanwhile, the word “corporate” indicates anything but a relaxing time away from it all. However, as we’ve seen from numerous studies and surveys in recent years, employees are spending more time at work than ever before—and increasingly expecting their employers to help them cope.
In fact, in 2014, Gallup Poll respondents indicated that the average American worker spent 47 hours—almost an entire extra day—at work. With more than 77% of workers reporting at least some level of burnout and diminished work-life balance, it’s clear why a retreat from the everyday grind of the workplace is appealing. Couple the benefits of the health and wellness options most employers are already providing with a serene location, vacation-style accommodations, and team-building exercises that feel more like recreation, and you have an elegant solution to a very modern problem.
However, for you and your employees to achieve success in the areas of relaxation, team-building, and work-life balance, you’ll need to plan your retreat carefully.
Avoid the Typical Pitfalls of the Corporate Retreat
Watch any work-centered television show, and you’ll probably notice the mild distaste the characters apply to any mention of a corporate retreat. It’s a symptom of what can happen in real life when the retreat centers its focus on the everyday work of the corporation in question—continued employee burnout. As a result, some employees go into a retreat resenting the need to take time out of their personal lives for work, and then leave the retreat wondering what was in it for them. That’s because there are three different parties that can benefit from a corporate wellness retreat: the employee, the team as a unit, and the company at large.
Not every corporate retreat is tailored to benefit all three parties. That’s why you don’t want to book just any retreat for your team-building exercises. Instead, look for a corporate wellness retreat, as opposed to a corporate retreat, which places just as much (if not more) emphasis on employee wellness and interpersonal relationships as it does on your business.
What Is a Wellness Retreat?
If you’ve worked in the corporate world, you’ve most likely incorporated more than a few team-building exercises into your workplace events. They are a common ice breaking technique and can be a way to help employees get to know one another, strengthening working relationships and improving the overall productivity of the team. While team building exercises certainly have their place in the normal workplace environment, they simply aren’t enough—even when combined with a corporate wellness program—to truly combat burnout and facilitate strong, lasting relationships.
Instead, many leaders opt for a corporate wellness retreat. These programs are designed to get employees away from the hustle and bustle of office life and promote the benefits of caring for employee health and well-being.
Typically, corporate wellness retreats offer professional guidance via a full slate of events and activities to help attendees learn tips for managing stress and maintaining work/life balance. In addition, most retreats also incorporate team-building exercises to help employees develop trust, empathy and generally work well together. These activities tend to fall within two distinct categories:
Educational Courses and Sessions
- Some typical courses and sessions you can expect to see at a company retreat focus on educating the attendees on topics that can improve their mental and physical well-being as well as improve overall company culture.
- Mental Health Discussions. These sessions can range from mental health and self-help sessions to guided discussions on stress, grief, and other things affecting attendees.
- Problem Solving, Decision-Making and Communication Sessions. These sessions focus on skills that are important for both personal wellness and within the workplace setting.
- Yoga and Mindfulness Sessions. For many people, the words “yoga” and “retreat” are almost inextricably linked. This is because many retreats are centered completely around yoga and other mindfulness techniques like Ayurveda (a holistic practice that promotes internal wellness and lifestyle improvement through Eastern medicine).
- Health and Wellbeing Sessions. A variety of courses and sessions address an employee’s overall health and wellbeing, often incorporating fitness, nutrition, and more.
- Workplace Refreshers.
Another common part of corporate wellness retreats are activities that engage employees physically. They are designed to improve employees’ ability to work together as a team. While some physical activities focus on releasing natural endorphins through exercise and competitions, others focus on serenity and accomplishment through shared work.
- Sports and Games. Group sports like softball and dodgeball are popular wellness retreat activities. Other games can include board games, trivia competitions, and anything else your workforce enjoys.
- Animal Interactions. Many wellness retreats take place in rural or secluded areas and can offer various animal activities. For example, a corporate wellness retreat venue in New Jersey, boasts a fully-fledged farm, complete with animal care experiences, egg collecting, and other farm life.
- Horse Riding. Though technically an animal interaction, horse riding therapy deserves discussion in its own right. Long considered a positive activity with many benefits, equine therapy can promote both physical and mental wellbeing.
- Wilderness Hikes/Excursions. Retreats located in scenic places often offer wilderness hikes or other excursions into nature. Some activities can even be more adventurous, like kayaking or rock climbing.
- Ropes or Obstacle Courses. A quite common hallmark of workplace retreats is having a ropes course or some other type of obstacle course. While certain employees may not be physically able to do the course (and others may sit out due to a fear of heights), these courses are a time-tested way to get people working together to get through a challenging task.
- Nature Activities. Other natural activities can allow the peace and serenity of the natural world to intermingle with the rewards of hard work. Harmony Hollow offers fishing, gardening, and even bee preservation through planting and honey making for a custom, natural retreat.
- Creative Activities. Individual or group-based artistic endeavors can boost creativity, focus, and even promote employee satisfaction. Sign-making, painting, and other creative activities are common wellness activities.
How to Plan an Effective Corporate Wellness Retreat?
If you’ve been struggling to come up with creative company retreat ideas that actually engage all present parties, from independent contributors to CEO and all the roles in between, you don’t have to sweat it. With the sheer variety of options offered by venues like Harmony Hollow, there’s bound to be something for everyone to enjoy—a perfect solution you can tailor carefully to the set of unique individuals in your workforce. Some things to consider while making your choice:
- Weekday or Weekend?
It may feel tempting to plan your company retreat over the weekend—no lost workdays, no postponed deadlines, freer schedules, and you may be able to find a better deal on less-booked dates—but remember that a lot of employees value a clear separation between their work and home life. If you are planning a weekend corporate retreat, it helps to be clear regarding how employees will be compensated for engaging in work activities on their off days, whether that’s with additional pay or the various wellness endeavors and amenities of the trip. Showing appreciation for your employees’ time and that you value their health and wellness can help put them in a better mindset about the time spent.
- R&R or Rise and Grind?
For any retreat planned, it is important to decide early what the exact goals of your retreat will be and make it clear to your team ahead of time. After all, there’s a significant difference between a relaxing escape strictly focused on physical and mental rejuvenation and one with an action-packed schedule meant to challenge them mentally and physically to build stronger teamwork skills. Of course, many employers strive to strike a balance between the two, but some still forget to prepare their employees for what to expect. No one wants to show up to a wellness retreat expecting all rest and relaxation only to find out they’ve packed incorrectly for the outdoor recreational activities.
- Spiritual or Secular?
While corporate workplace retreats should never impose a faith on the employees, many wellness-focused resorts offer a variety of activities that apply non-faith spiritual practices. There are executive wellness retreats focused on teaching effective leadership and communication skills that also offer corporate wellness activities which can be customized to include spirituality and mindfulness. When employees feel as if their employers are supplying tools to care for their internal wellbeing, they are more likely to engage in all areas of their lives, including the workplace. That said, when planning a retreat that offers spiritual practices, it’s best to make those activities “opt-in” rather than mandatory.
How to Maximize Employee Enjoyment
At the end of the day, you can spend all the time you want selecting the ideal retreat destination and coordinating the logistics to make it economical for your business and still wind up with dissatisfied employees. After all, it’s impossible to please everyone all the time. However, by taking the time to focus on your employees and choosing a retreat destination like Harmony Hollow that offers a wealth of customization options, you’ll achieve the maximum possible employee enjoyment.
If there’s one tool that is underutilized in employee engagement, it is feedback from employees themselves. Be sure to gather input on the front end about what employees would find most meaningful in a corporate wellness retreat.
This can be beneficial for several reasons:
- Employees will feel included, building anticipation about the coming retreat and helping them feel like their voices matter.
- You’re bound to hear some great ideas. The more people weigh in regarding their personal experiences, preferences, and interests, the more creative ideas they’ll generate.
- You can avoid past disasters. If this isn’t your first rodeo with corporate wellness retreats, gaining feedback on what went perfectly and what absolutely bombed will help you avoid repeating history.
Including employees in your decision-making processes, especially surrounding events and activities or other factors that will impact them directly, is a wonderful way to show you value their opinions and wellbeing, building trust between leadership and individual contributors. It’s important, however, not to turn around and break that trust so freshly built. In 2021, people are on their guard about inauthenticity, especially from leadership.
That makes it easy for the more discerning employee to realize when leadership is only asking for their feedback out of obligation—especially when the event rolls around and none of the workforce’s best ideas made the cut. Even worse is when commonly held complaints regarding previous retreats or employee engagement events are not addressed.
Remember that each one of your employees is different and never overlook:
- Accessibility. When you have an employee who is a cane or other mobility device-user, or in a wheelchair, it is not the best idea to book a retreat with inaccessible locations or too many events in which they will not be able to participate. Look for a venue with a wide variety of options to avoid this issue.
- Mental Preparedness – If any events or seminars are going to discuss difficult, potentially triggering topics, let employees know ahead of time. This gives them the opportunity to opt out without putting them in the difficult position of having to disclose personal information or publicly leave the room.
- Personal Interests – If there are activities on your schedule that are less productive and more recreational, it’s best to supply a variety of different options that allow everyone to engage in activities they find enjoyable or relaxing. If there’s an athletic competition, offer alternative activities for those employees who are less interested in watching or playing sports (art therapy, nature walks, or even just free time).
Return to the Workplace Refreshed
As we approach a post-COVID-19 world, 45% of workers report working longer hours than before, with nearly 70% of them putting in time on the weekends. As a result, the very idea of work-life balance is in danger. Worse, many employees are well out of practice with the basics of team-building and interpersonal relationships—even as they are craving human interaction lost during the pandemic.
Scheduling a wellness retreat before everyone comes back to the office is a fantastic way to ensure your team returns to the workplace well, refreshed, and with renewed vigor to achieve your corporate goals. At retreat resorts, you can build a custom, team experience with activities ranging from farm animal care and equine therapy to gardening, yoga, painting and more. Through it all, you’ll be able to develop better communication, teamwork, and leadership skills while the serene surroundings and the luxuries of the executive-level services address the mental health and wellness of your team.
Delivering the benefits of a wellness retreat have never been more important than they are right now. Build upon your employee wellness with a custom wellness retreat and receive the ultimate in corporate goals in return—a reliable group of leaders and employees you can count on who feel more engaged with their work than ever before.
Experienced Chief Executive Addiction Recovery and Mental Health Professional
Business professional in the Addiction Recovery and Mental Health industry for the past 26 years. Caring, compassionate and strongly motivated to make a difference in the organizations I am affiliated with and welfare of the population we serve. Currently focused on advocating, educating and developing projects leveraging evidence based, real time technology to support individuals in recovery.