How to host a virtual team retreat

In a virtual and remote setting, it is important to leverage major company events, like retreats, as an opportunity to inspire and reinvigorate your teams. Employees are experiencing extraordinary burnout due to a lack of work-life balance, less paid time off taken, and overall stress from the COVID-19 pandemic. When the People Operations team came together to plan Poll Everywhere’s retreat, we found it imperative to hold reflection and connection as a core pillar of the experience. Here’s how we integrated those values into our three-day retreat experience!

Time to Reflect

We found it crucial to give our PollEvians the opportunity to engage in self-reflection and hone into our personal strengths, purpose, and motivations as it relates to our work at Poll Everywhere and our professional growth.

We collaborated with Innergem’s Priya Sodha to put on a workshop that focused on understanding your why. This interactive workshop utilized a Japanese tool called Ikigai to focus on self-discovery to tap into you why and discover the power of purpose. Through this dedicated reflection time, PollEvians were able to better understand why we do what we do at Poll Everywhereand how we can better collaborate with each other through a shared understanding of our whys.

Additionally, we wanted to engage everyone’s creative side and bolster our imagination as that will help us further innovate our work. We booked a virtual Airbnb experience with Ben Ponté titled Draw From Within which explores the way in which drawing enhances the relationship between inside and outside and allows us to see familiarity with renewed curiosity.

Building Connections

Using feedback from our previous retreats and what we know has been a difficulty amidst a virtual remote environment, we knew it was imperative that we integrate as many opportunities as possible for our PollEvians to connect and socialize. We wanted to provide a variety of social engagements to meet the wide ranging interests and preferences of our company.

Cross-team lunch

We provided food-delivery gift cards via DoorDash to everyone and intentionally paired teams together to come and engage in conversation and activity. We tapped team leads to curate that space to meet their team’s needs and interests. This was a seamless way to give folks some bonding time with teams that they work with closely, or provide some face time for teams who don’t always have the opportunity to work with each other. Some great virtual team building activities to play include:

Escape room

virtual escape room zoom

We partnered with The Escape Game to get into character as secret agents to track down an internationally infamous and elusive art thief. We love a good competition here at Poll Everywhere so it was thrilling to break into teams and work through some logic puzzles and try to be the first team to catch the art thief.

Dream music festival

We started off one of the retreat days with a popular subject at Poll Everywhere – music! In this session, we split up into groups and were tasked to come up with a no-holds-barred music festival of our dreams using Jamboard. Each group had a chance to learn about each other’s music sensibilities and create a virtual mood board of their dream music festival to share out with the larger group. For an added layer of intentionality and discussion, the groups were organized by Enneagram type, which is a tool we use to better understand our personality types, workstyles, and more. After we shared our mood boards, we engaged in discussion around how we felt our Enneagram type showed up in the process and final product.

Food and culture experiences

Never underestimate the power of food in bringing joy and connection to a team! Our PollEvians had the opportunity to learn how to make Mexican Street Tacos with Chef Graciela in Mexico City or traditional homemade pasta with Lucrezia in Italy (which included an authentic live opera performance). With ingredients in hand, we were able to make some truly delicious dishes, learn a bit about the Mexican and Italian cultures, and share a wonderful meal together.

taco airbnb cooking experience virtual

Company celebration

In the spirit of celebrating our cross-team collaborations and successes during the first half of the year (shout out to our new organization and navigation system), we had each team make a creative note of appreciation for another team. These messages came in the form of movie trailers, parody infomercials, dramatic live readings, original songs, and music videos. We compiled all of this content into an Academy Awards themed celebration.

fake infomercial

The Marketing Team’s end screen for their funny infomercial for our Business Analytics Engineering team.

It goes without saying that retreats are an important time for outlining the lessons we’ve learned as a company, the vision of where we’re headed, and the changes we are making to get there. However, retreats are also a critical opportunity to reignite a sense of purpose, direction, and growth for your employees. By integrating spaces for reflection and connection, you are setting your teams up to elevate and take things to the next level.