Pro Tips for Organizing a Successful Team Offsite

By Jessica Larkin

Word on the street is that employees don’t want to go back to the office full time. And don’t just take our word for it, according to a recent Prudential survey of 2,000 adults who’ve been able to work from home during the pandemic, an overwhelming 87% want the ability to continue doing so after the risks of the virus subside.

However, maintaining a remote-first environment has some considerations when it comes to team dynamics. It is probably safe to assume that since the shift to largely remote, the make-up of your workforce has changed in some capacity. New employees have onboarded, a few employees may have left, and others may have switched departments or been promoted. Unlike the pre-pandemic business world, your team may not be in the office to collaborate, strategize, and build rapport. This can take a toll on not only business goals, but company culture.

So how are organizations connecting their employees, enabling collaboration, and maintaining their corporate culture? The answer is employee offsites and in-person company-wide meetings.

Fortunately, business travel is trending up and corporate gatherings are on the rise. If you are thinking about setting up a gathering for all or some of your employees, this post is for you. We’ll focus on planning considerations, how to communicate travel and expense policies, and putting together an agenda that meets all the goals of the event—as well as building in a bit of fun.

Location, Location, Location

As we’ve mentioned previously, “Companies equipped to manage a remote workforce may gain the advantage of a geographically diverse team. Expanding the field of people you work with can offer new perspectives and insights you may not capture as easily with one local pool.”

However, when you’re thinking about a location for your team gathering, you may want to consider where your employees are concentrated, not only to reduce travel costs, but also to make it easier for folks to arrive early and visit your headquarters.

For example, TravelBank’s offsites are typically within an hour or so of San Francisco. This minimizes the number of employees that have to travel a long way. Out-of-town employees are encouraged to arrive a day before and work from the San Francisco office to enjoy the collaborative environment and immerse themselves in the culture of the company.

Travel & Expense Policy Considerations

When it comes to defining your travel & expense policy for your team offsite, make the parameters as clear as possible. For instance, you should define which days the team should arrive by, flight timing to get to the airport after the sessions wrap (rather than leaving early and missing crucial information), details on when group transportation will be provided, and more.

If your team is global, you may want to define when overseas travelers may arrive to allow for time to adjust to the time difference. For instance, you probably don’t want members of the APAC team flying in the day before the sessions begin—a two-day grace period would be advisable to shake the jet lag.

It is also important to provide clarity around what may or may not be expensed. For example, it isn’t uncommon to only allow meals only to be expensed on travel days for this type of corporate meeting, because otherwise they are catered or provided throughout the event. Flights are expensable; but booked through the TravelBank platform, which provides the right level of flexibility as well as policy compliance parameters. Hotels are typically booked through group blocks not only to provide rate savings, but also to ensure duty of care requirements are met.

Pro tip: If this feels like a lot to juggle, know you don’t have to manage it alone. TravelBank customers have access to a team of expert travel agents well versed in group travel planning. Tap into their expertise to make sure travel is booked within policy at the best rates, utilizing any unused ticket funds your business may hold from trips cancelled during the pandemic.

Communication is Key

Once you have confirmed your dates and location, we recommend sending out a calendar hold to all stakeholders you would like in attendance. Employees need time to line-up child or pet care, coordinate schedules with their significant other, and mentally prepare for an in-person event after such a long time at home.

In addition to sending a save the date, it is crucial to disperse travel and expense policy guidance. This trip is different from your average business travel itinerary that a road warrior may have been used to in the past—you are likely providing meals and have designated check-in/check-out dates based on the agenda.

Pro Tip: To alleviate any concerns and remove any ambiguity, consider hosting a “Know Before You Go” virtual meeting to discuss the particulars of the team meeting, answer questions, and get the team jazzed for time together in person.

Creating Memorable Team Building Experiences

No one wants to travel in for a team meeting or all hands and spend three days in a hotel conference room or ballroom being read to from a slide deck. Part of the goal of hosting your team is to provide education, collaboration, and an immersive experience into the culture of your company.

Content

From a content perspective, use visuals, keep the amount of copy brief, and make sure the speakers are dynamic. We suggest having not only keynotes from leaders, but also breakout sessions for teams to work together in their areas of focus. For more tips on how to wow the audience check out our tips on how to create a presentation your audience will love.

Cross Functional Fun & Educational Gain

Variety is the spice of life—and crucial to corporate offsites. To avoid a yawn-fest, we recommend having work sessions that are interspersed with interactive, cross functional activities, followed by social team building activities in the afternoon.

Pro Tip: We’ve had clients bring in experts to talk about the industry or provide educational sessions, such as Design Thinking seminars. We’ve also seen local chefs brought in to do cooking demonstrations and hands-on activities, like salsa making at an event in the Southwest.

Everyone Needs to Eat

From a meal perspective, make things fun and social. Between sessions, have snack and beverage stations available and for main meals, include a good variety of staple items and themed local dishes.

Pro Tip: You could book a private room or plan an interactive private meal at a local restaurant followed by a team activity such as bowling or Top Golf. In part of your communication plan, be sure to include a note to the team asking for any dietary restrictions or allergies.

Getting the Band Back Together

Business travel is back, baby! And the TravelBank team couldn’t be happier. If your team is anything like ours, we’ve missed seeing each other in person.

The benefits of an in-person employee gathering, with crucial meetings interspersed with fun team activities is invaluable for the culture of your organization and employee morale.

Our team would love to help you coordinate an in-person team offsite or company all hands. We can help you determine destinations, book room blocks, define a T&E policy for the event, and ensure your plan is mindful of health policies to keep your employees safe.

Click here to schedule time with our team to get things rolling. Safe travels!

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