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Future of Work

How to Mix Strategy Sessions With Karaoke at a Modern Company Retreat

Staff getaways are becoming more popular in the remote-work era, and doing them right requires rigorous planning.

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Illustration: Xavier Lalanne-Tauzia for Bloomberg Businessweek

A small fleet of Fiat 500s zips around Tuscany’s narrow, winding roads. There was a robbery, and a squad of sleuths is racing to catch the culprits and rescue two innocent captives. While it sounds like a movie scene, it was part of an elaborate team-building exercise for video streaming company Plex Inc. Indeed, the activity was inspired by The Italian Job, and was the centerpiece of Plex’s five-day staff event in central Italy.

Welcome to the modern company retreat. The events are becoming more popular in the remote-work era, as organizations look for ways to foster camaraderie and reinforce corporate culture among workers who don’t get to connect regularly at the office. Gone are the staid speeches, hotel ballrooms, and enormous conference centers that once featured prominently at retreats. Itineraries now typically involve lots of unstructured time with colleagues in unusual locales with activities such as scavenger hunts and dragon boat races. “Every single CEO that I talk to tells me that there’s an afterglow after the retreat,” says Sean Hoff, founder of Toronto-based corporate event planning firm Moniker Partners. Hoff says he’s seen inquiries for these trips increase fivefold from before the pandemic.