Managing a Team

Navigating In-person Retreats for Remote Teams

For remote employees, work retreats can provide valuable face time with colleagues. Learn how to make the most out of team-building events for remote teams.

Blog Author - Keertana Anandraj
Keertana Anandraj
May 3, 20234 minutes
Blog Author - Keertana Anandraj
Keertana Anandraj

Keertana Anandraj is a part-time freelance writer and full-time sustainability analyst. Before Justworks, she began her freelance career writing for The Financial Diet and Career Contessa. She currently resides in New York City.

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For many young professionals, commuting to the office might sound like the stuff of legends. After all, remote-only jobs have risen in popularity over the last few years, offering greater flexibility for employees and cutting down on costs for employers. But an aspect of the former workplace that hasn’t fully disappeared — and might even be making a resurgence — is the work retreat.


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In 2022, 88% of companies were focused on planning in-person retreats, and 44% of all corporate travel was undertaken for development activities like training or networking. If you’re an employee who’s only met your colleagues via Zoom, and you have an in-person retreat coming up, you might be feeling a mix of excitement and nerves.

Don’t worry — with a bit of preparation, you can make the most out of this opportunity to connect with your colleagues in person and build stronger relationships with your team.

Know Before You Go

First things first — what can you expect from a work retreat? While the exact details will depend on your company and the nature of the retreat, here are a few tips to get you started.

Check out the itinerary

If there are training sessions scheduled, plan to bring your laptop, notebook, pens, and other tools you use to learn. If you’re presenting at a meeting, are there any materials you need to prepare in advance? For any team-building exercises planned, make sure you bring workout clothes or leisurewear. If there are any formal dinners or happy hours on the schedule, make sure to pack some business casual or business formal attire.

Review the location

If you’ll need to fly or arrange for transportation to the location of the retreat, verify with your employer how you should book this. Once you know the location, determine if you’ll need to rent a car, or if Uber or Lyft will be available. Verify the accommodations, and check with your employer if you need to book them in advance.

Consider the budget

Confirm the budget for transportation, as well as any deadlines for booking. It’s also a good idea to ask if there’s a daily budget for food, transportation, and other spending. You can also ask if the food budget includes alcohol. Don’t forget to verify when to submit expenses (by the hour, day, or week). It’s also important to know if you need to save receipts in order to expense your meals or transit.

Personal & Professional Goals

Now that you have a bit more information about the retreat, take some time to think through your own personal and professional goals for this retreat. What are you hoping to achieve?

It might be tough to pinpoint this when in-person retreats are a foreign concept and most of your work interactions occur via the internet. But the truth is, in-person interactions can help cement your position on the team and further develop your relationships with new colleagues much easier than an awkward coffee chat over Zoom can.

To identify your own goals for the retreat, ask yourself:

  • Who would it be helpful for me to get to know better? Can I set up some one-on-one time to speak to them, either about current projects or future goals?

  • Are there any new skills I’m hoping to learn and develop?

  • Are there any assumptions I’ve formed about my colleagues as a result of only interacting with them over Zoom? If so, how can I use this in-person time to challenge those assumptions and get to know them better?

  • Is there an opportunity for me to advance my career at this retreat by leading a session or presenting at a meeting?

At the Retreat

After all the prep, you’ve reached your final destination — the retreat! And while you’ve got the itinerary, the budget, the right packing list, and even your own goals, being physically present and surrounded by your work colleagues can be a busy and exhausting new experience. But don’t worry, we’ve got a few tips to help you maintain some balance over the next few days.

Take breaks

Like college orientation, work retreats can often be over-planned so that employees can make the most of in-person time together. That being said, remember to take frequent breaks from long meetings or strategy discussions. Feel free to excuse yourself early from a late-night happy hour if you’re tired. After all, your health and wellbeing are always the top priorities.

Challenge assumptions

As mentioned before, it’s easy to develop assumptions about remote coworkers based on online-only interactions. Go into this retreat with an open mind and give people a chance as you get to know them, both personally and professionally. After all, developing stronger relationships can translate into improved professional communication!

Find opportunities for improvements

An in-person retreat can often expose gaps in processes. If there’s a system that doesn’t work as well, or workloads are overwhelming, take advantage of in-person collaboration. Work with your colleagues to find solutions and improvements — you can prove yourself an invaluable member of the team by identifying and filling these gaps.

Be present and attentive

It can be so easy to call your mom in the middle of the work day, or duck out to the gym at 4pm. But at the retreat, do your best to be present and attentive. While it can be exhausting to be “on” and in “work mode” for more than eight hours a day, it’s only for a short time, and the long-term benefits will be worth it.

Consider how much to indulge

One thing that’s good to decide ahead of time is how much you’re comfortable drinking in front of your colleagues. Every company’s culture is different, but it’s a good rule of thumb to approach in-person gatherings that include alcohol with a bit more caution.

All these tips aside, a work retreat is supposed to be fun! After all, it does have “treat” in the name. In all seriousness, the most important thing for you to do when attending a work retreat is to leave feeling proud of your team and excited about the great things you’ll accomplish together.

With a little in-person interaction facilitated by your company, you can build stronger relationships with your remote colleagues, and, hopefully, look forward to seeing them at the next in-person retreat!

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.
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Written By
Blog Author - Keertana Anandraj
Keertana Anandraj
May 3, 20234 minutes

Keertana Anandraj is a part-time freelance writer and full-time sustainability analyst. Before Justworks, she began her freelance career writing for The Financial Diet and Career Contessa. She currently resides in New York City.

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