Ask anyone what could be the reason behind an office retreat and you’ll get the answer: to strengthen your team. But in our quarterly company-wide office retreat this year, we achieved more than just that. It included integrating new staff members, reenergizing our current employees, having lots of fun, making a life-time’s memories and of course coming as a better and stronger team.
Why an outdoor outing?
The office environment is, well, an office environment. Sometimes, all it takes to break the ice and foster bonding among the team members is to physically move outside of the space that calls for a more professional attitude. Plus, have you heard of the saying, “sitting is the new smoking”? It’s no surprise that getting up and moving around dramatically improves one’s health, brain activity, and creative thinking.
Office retreats, going out for drinks or food after work and other spaces that allow for bonding outside of the office environment turns a team into a family. Creating this tight-knit environment strengthens inter-personal relationships, improves communication, and enhances trust and appreciation for one another. If all that goodness doesn’t tickle your interest just think; a happy team leads to increased productivity!
To make it work, don’t make it work
Part of what makes or breaks a retreat is its site and format.
So to choose a perfect locale for our office retreat, we went through a long list of suggestions from the team members and funneled them down to a couple of choices. Finally, we decided Daman as the venue for our office retreat. It is a beautiful hill station located approx. 80 km southwest of Kathmandu valley at the elevation of 2400 m. The fact that it is neither too close nor too far from home made this option very fascinating. The natural scenic beauty, marvelous panoramic view of the Himalayas (imagine roughly 400 km of Himalayan panorama) and the chilly weather only added to the charisma of the place.
After the site, we needed to decide on the format or the schedule of the retreat. We wanted it to be semi structured so that we could fulfill our objective of congealing the relationships yet set people free enough with leisure time so it would not feel like an interminable staff meeting. It was then when we adopted our ‘To make it work, don’t make it work’ philosophy.
For the team building activities, we chose a bunch of outdoor activities needing physical movement as well as indoor ones needing strategy and mental alertness. By dividing participants into groups and structuring (to some extent) their interactions, we were able to make them work together in different ways and form new relationships. Of course, nobody knew who their teammates were until the activity time (wink wink!).
Almost twenty of us packed our warmest winter gear, our ugliest Christmas sweaters, and lots of food (*ahem* and drinks too) to prepare for the long weekend ahead.
After almost 5 hours of drive from Kathmandu as we reached our destination, it was already midday. Lunch was served almost immediately. Then we were all set to start our team based activities like tug of war, hit the jar, relay races and other strategy and management games. Apart from being incredibly fun, these exercises that draw on the diverse strengths of all team members showed how different personalities can work together effectively. Everyone had different skills and styles, but people still had to find ways to work together, come to consensus and bring about productive outcomes.
The Next Day
Following day, watching the panoramic view of the sun-kissed Himalayas in the morning was quite an experience in itself. Personally having been born and raised in the country of Everest, witnessing the Himalayan view is not that new to me but still I have to admit that I had never seen something so ethereal yet so exhilarating.
‘‘It was amazing to see people coming together and enjoying as a team, outside the workplace. Good place, nice people and spectacular mountains. In short, great experience for me.’
– Suman Humagain (Director, Technology)
On our return trip to Kathmandu, we took a different route than the one we had taken the previous day. This gave us opportunity to spend our second day in famous Indra Sarovar that lies in the deep gorge between Markhu and Kulekhani Village. Though being a man-made reservoir for production of hydroelectricity, the unique location of the lake- it dips rolling hills into its water and then stretches in different directions- instead looks almost surreal, especially for an object of pure utility.
There the assortment of activities we could choose from included visiting sheep breeding center, touring around Kulekhani dam and boating. But we chose to simply bask in the sun and savor fresh fish from the lake cooked in local-style instead.
At around the end of the day, with our tired body and freshened up mind, we departed to Kathmandu.
Our office retreat: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The best part of the retreat was obviously Team Bonding. Team members interacted with others who they have never talked to before, even though they had been in the same office together for several months. People got to know each other outside of a work context and go through events together that become shared memories and inside jokes back at the office. It was all about sharing remarkable experiences that brought our team together like nothing else could.
Motivation was another useful byproduct. Once the retreat was over, we came back to the office energized and excited to tackle new challenges together.
Breaking the daily routine
Traveling helps to break the daily routine people become accustomed to and fosters creativity by giving them a fresh outlook.
‘‘Life was exhausting and boring coding from 9am – 6pm for past 3-4 months. I was in need of break from work and go somewhere in nature. And then, there was an office retreat program by Wolfmatrix to Daman. The place is not only naturally beautiful but cozy to stay too. Participating in the programme organized by the team was beyond fun. Apart from that, a special bonding created among Colleagues that will definitely make things easier in the workspace. If I have to summarize the Retreat Programme in one word, I would say it was Awesome!!!’’
– Krishna Chaudhary (Backend Developer)
Breaking you out of your comfort zone
If traveling to a different place that you’ve never been to before with a group of people that you usually only interact within a work setting doesn’t break you out of your comfort zone, we don’t know what does. Besides team bonding, the office retreat exposes coworkers’ hidden talents, allowing us to discover new things about each other. And sometimes even about ourselves.
While writing about all the positive things that the retreat brought, I almost forgot about the ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’ things that I mentioned earlier. Corny it may sound but after a long pausing and reflecting, the only bad thing my mind could conjure about the retreat was that it had to come to an end and we now have to wait for another several months before we can plan for the next one. Don’t believe me? See what Sunil has to say:
‘‘Thanks to all for a great time in Daman. I had an awesome experience over there. I loved playing games in group and working as a team member.
It was great to have a campfire with the BBQ. Singing in a group and talking about personnel experiences was so fun.
The morning panoramic view of the great Himalayas was so dope.
I specially loved the morning coffee with great view of Mother Nature.
Can’t wait for the next retreat’’
-Sunil Regmi (Intern)
In a nutshell, whether you’re running a company of five or 500, changing pace with retreats will re-energize your team. It also encourages cross-departmental collaboration and strengthen internal bonds. Even though going on a company-sponsored retreat means having to pause work and delay deadlines, we believe it’s totally worth it.
Want to join us on our next retreat?
If you think you would be a perfect fit for Wolfmatrix and our #WolfSquad, we would love to meet you! Just reach out to us here.
Passionate engineer who loves talking about Machine learning and ways to improve Software development practices. CEO and Director of Software Engineering of Wolfmatrix.