One of the difficulties organizations have in conducting a corporate retreat, is that many executives are uncomfortable traveling to an exotic location without their spouse or partner. Connect relationships from work to home by bringing your spouse! It is possible to organize a retreat to accommodate the spouses. To do so, there are several things to consider…
- Create an environment where the spouses feel welcome
- Have activities to keep the spouses occupied & engaged during your working hours
- Limit those working sessions to four hours
- Create after session activities that include spouses
Create an environment where the spouse feels welcome
It is important to create an environment where the spouses feel welcome. Start off by facilitating an opening session where everybody is included. If the host is married, their spouse should not only be present, but a central figure in the opening session. This session can be as simple as a happy hour gathering. The gathering is to allow all the participants to mingle and get to know each other. Follow happy hour with a nice and relaxing dinner where everybody is invited.
Have activities to keep the spouses occupied & engaged during your working hours
Activities that keep the spouses engaged during your working hours is tricky but vital. The activities can be as simple as providing a space for a yoga session, or could include a short tour of a museum or other attraction. The key here, for the success of your working session, is that your staff is fully present and not worrying about their spouse. You want your staff’s full undivided attention during the working session.
Limit the working sessions to four hours
Keeping your working sessions down to four hours will allow the group to have time to focus on your issues and not too much time away from their spouse. Remember the spouse is in unfamiliar territory with unfamiliar people. We host many retreats where there is a maximum of four hours a day devoted to the work at hand. This is usually plenty of time to accomplish the goals of the retreat.
Create after session activities that include spouses
The after-session activities are usually a great time to continue the work the group had done in the morning. The presence of the spouses potentially could curtail further off hour discussions, but not necessarily. Activities that include everybody from the retreat, can include many of the same adrenaline filled activities a typical retreat provides. Zip-lining is always a crowd favorite, Jeep tours, bike rides, even hiking expeditions provide a great time. You may notice that the spouses often stick together with the other spouses they have met on the retreat. This allows for the staff to continue to discuss the work they started in the morning.
Overall there it is a risk and there are benefits to bringing spouses. The retreat must be carefully orchestrated. It must make everybody feel welcome. It must provide activities that all will enjoy and participate in. If you are able to accomplish all of that, your organization will enjoy many long-term benefits.