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And what to do about it.

We have run, hosted and organised hundreds of retreats. Something we have heard from many of our clients, and even from our own team members, is the worry about being able to include everyone at this time, at this place.

TLTR: You probably won't be able to do that. And that's ok. As long as you follow a respectful protocol.

You might be excited about your next team retreat, but what if not everyone is?

The bigger and more remote the team is, the harder it is to find a date that works for everyone.

But beyond the perfect date, there are other reasons that might make some of your employees feel negatively about joining a team retreat.

1. Family Obligations/Prior Commitments

That's the most common one of course. Retreats of several days including travel days disturb the well oiled routine of the every day life.

  • Responsibilities include caring for children, elderly family members, or other dependents.

  • Existing personal plans or appointments that cannot be rescheduled.

a mom trying to work and care for her children from home

2. Personal Privacy

Preference for maintaining a clear boundary between work and personal life, including personal space and time. Some people are very private and find peace in being very strict with their work/life boundaries. Consequently, the idea of spending a lot of time outside of working hours with colleagues may bring anxiety.

3. Social Anxiety or Introversion


Discomfort with group activities, social interactions, or being away from familiar environments. Not everyone is comfortable with large group gatherings, new spaces and a break of routines. Maybe you've noticed some of your team members thrived during covid...maybe being at home is some people's happy / productivity place.

4. Health Concerns


Medical conditions, disabilities, or general health issues can challenge travel or participation. Those can be from allergies to physical disabilities and need to be taken into account when planning and communicating around the retreat.

5. Costs Incurred/ Travel distance

Concerns about potential out-of-pocket expenses not covered by the company.

Reluctance to travel long distances, especially if it involves international travel or complex logistics.

While retreat costs are covered by the company going away for several days can imply extra costs such as children care, traveling to the airport...

6. Workload and Deadlines

High workload or approaching deadlines making it difficult to take time away from regular duties.

Retreat dates conflicting with important personal events or peak work periods.

Retreats are an intricate mix of work and fun and it can sometimes be seen as an added stress when the workload is already high.

piles of files at the office

7. Lack of Trust in Management


Feeling that the retreat is not a genuine effort to improve team dynamics but rather a box-ticking exercise.

Where is the idea of the retreat coming from? Does it make sense in the current situation or is it an attempt to save appearances? If that's the issue that comes up, you're in for a bit more trouble than just gathering people for a few days. You might want to dive deeper into your Company culture. Thankfully, team retreats can help with that ;-)

8. Skepticism About Effectiveness/Previous Negative Experiences


Doubts about the retreat’s value or effectiveness in achieving its stated goals. If you are not clear about why you are gathering your team will sense that.

team building rugby game

9. They've never been on a Campfire Retreat before.

That we can easily fix!

fire show at a team retreat


First of all, put them out in the open. Most people will feel awkward giving the above mentioned (or other) reasons. Be the first to acknowledge retreat settings can be challenging for some people and that you aim to make it as easy and comfortable for everyone as possible.

To do so, make sure to:

- Clearly and genuinely communicate the retreat’s objectives and benefits.

- Involve team members in the planning process.

- Ensure inclusivity and accessibility.

- Provide flexibility and support for personal commitments.

- Address financial concerns transparently.

- Create a balanced agenda that includes both work-related and leisure activities. 

Understanding and addressing these concerns, will increase the likelihood of higher participation and a more successful team retreat.

Don't over think it though. It is always a challenge to get out of the comfort zone but it is also very rewarding afterwards. Maybe they just need you to push them over the edge (gently). And remember, it is impossible to please everyone and it is ok for some people to sit that one out. There is always next time.

volleyball team building game

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