The team retreat – 5 ways to make it time well spent


It’s never been more important to get away from it all. Our recent all-team retreat gave some good lessons in how to do it well.

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It’s exhausting, all this living. We are exhausted. All of us. I am. Aren’t you?

Strung out. Maxx’ed. Kaput. Knackered.

And with good reason. We are currently travelling at 67,000 miles per hour, frothing our way through the universe as we orbit an enormous ball of super-heated gas. That is a busy day.

Home and work both present us with complex problems to solve, and it’s easy to take on too much in our effort to keep on top of it all. We’re paralysed by updates. We can’t move for action meetings. Your boss has asked you to squeeze in another stakeholder management meeting and Sharon from yoga has added you to a birthday Whatsapp group with 75 members — 74 of whom you don’t know.

We find solace in simple things. The Netflix show ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ — a show about tidying up — has become a network smash precisely because thousands of burnt-out adults arrive home each night in a state of high anxiety, place their meals-for-two-for-one in the microwave before sinking to their knees and screaming at their television sets ‘PLEASE JUST LET ME JUST WATCH SOMEONE CLEAN OUT A RUDDY CUPBOARD FOR FORTY FIVE MINUTES’.

Breathe. Breeeeathe. Phones to airplane mode. Just for a bit.

If we’re to survive these edgy times, we need to take time to reflect together on what’s important and what’s not. We need to work out how we can help each other, to celebrate what’s going well and get real about how we need to adapt to survive in this exciting, terrifying, completely unpredictable world we’re renting.

We make space to do that at &us. We regularly gather our team together for much-needed time away. This summer we headed to the far north (Elstree), and spent the night camped out in the countryside. Here are five ways we made this the best retreat yet:

1. Prep like a good ‘un

We planned and resourced our retreat as thoroughly as we would a client project — committing a band of brilliant people from across the business to work collaboratively. Welcoming diverse opinions and approaches led to creative ideas about the content and how our time together should look and feel. Small but successful touches like designing an amazing handbook helped set the tone for the trip and prepared people for our time together.

2. Get back to basics

In the manner of our ancestors long-since passed (and, begrudgingly, Bear Grylls), we decided to sleep under the stars and go camping. We chopped wood together, lit a fire together, shared food together, set the world to rights together, played music and laughed and made plans. No one went hungry. No one got lost. No one played an acoustic guitar. No one drank their own urine. Perfect night.

3. Go slow

Make sure it’s slow time. Don’t get fixated on results. Make space for new connections — unexpected discoveries and apparent dead-ends can lead to new ideas and possibilities. Connecting beyond the work is essential for any group of humans that come together to get stuff done. It strengthens the bonds of friendship that will see us through the inevitable ups and downs of the journey ahead. We built in plenty of free time for going on walks, climbing trees, eating together and chatting around the campfire.

4. Look back

We’re so busy keeping pace, it’s easy to forget how much we’ve achieved together. In preparation for our retreat we asked everyone to share favourite photos and memories from the last eighteen months, building this into a visual timeline that reminds us of the steps we’ve taken along the way, and the people that helped us.

5. Look forward

We’re a growing business. There are challenges ahead. We need to improve and adapt and iterate if we’re to achieve what we want to do. Taking time to set out this vision and agree milestones together was a powerful moment, and helped us align on where and how to get going. The conversations we began together have already led to changes in the way we recruit, the way we tell our story to the world and the way we approach our work. There is a sense of momentum here and we can see how the threads are coming together.

So there you have it. We are &us. We went on a retreat to get away from it all and it was a delight.

If you’re looking for your next challenge— we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line!

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