"Time is of the essence", what an elegant phrasing to say we should hurry.
Most things nowadays seem to have a sense of urgency to them.
If there is one thing that should not be rushed is setting up for genuine human connections.
When organising a team retreat, between where and when, there is always "for how long should we go away?"
Of course a lot comes into consideration here: the purpose of the retreat, the destination as well as how many times a year you plan on meeting this way.
But there seems to be a consensus on a magic number, or at least a sweet spot.
NOT ENOUGH HOUR IN A DAY
A day cannot really count as a retreat but closer to a field trip. of course it can be very good for your team moral and inspiration to jump on a bus together and spend the eight hours out of the office but there is something about going back to your individual homes at the end of the day that leaves team members craving for more.
24/7 IS A LOT
On the other hand, as lovely as they are, even Kevin from accounting, the idea of being with your colleague for more than a week can feel a bit overwhelming. It also demands much more adjustment logistically for anyone with partners, kids, pets, plants and other social engagements.
THE MAGIC NUMBER
Something around 6 days appears to be some kind of magic number: not too long to create anxiety, not too short so to allow for real content and bonding.
When planning for your retreat you need to keep in mind most places have specific check in and check out times which means the "arrival" and "departure" days will mostly be used for travelling to/from the location, check in and out and settling in.
Then you need half a day for opening and addressing goals and rules of the event and at least a few hours at the end for closing and celebration. In between is the time for the deep work, the outdoor fun & the bonding. It is also, and it is very important, for eating together, unplanned conversations and for some personal time for people to recharge batteries, call their families, integrate and rest.
If you can't do 6, 4 is our minimum stay recommendation.
Indeed, it is usually around that 4th day that the all the "good stuff" start to kick in: people are now truly relaxed and comfortable in their new environment, ready to open up and take it all in.
THE 100 HOURS FRIENDSHIP
Research has shown in the past that it takes around 100h of time spent together for casual friends to become good friends. Even more interesting, the same study shows that time spent together matters less if it is at school or at work, places people do not interact by choice. Which supports our theory that we need to plan time for unplanned encounters and unformal chats in 'off work schedule' settings. Of course the goal of a retreat is not for everyone to become best friends (that apparently takes at least 200h), But it is for everyone to connect on a different level than at the office (or on Zoom), and for that, 150 h (about 6 days) feels like a good start.
GIVE IT TIME
To conclude: Make sure to think it all through. Look at your purpose, look at your destination and at your program.
Think about what is the most important outcome of the retreat and also assume people will take more time than is planned to go to one location to another, to finish lunch or to board the bus.