After returning from our annual Marrakech offsite in May, Lola Carter and Francesca O’Connor explore how to turn the dreaded company away-day into something that’s valued and valuable. Buckle up and prepare for take-off with the offsite essentials checklist.
You’re standing at the offsite departure desk. One gate leads to David Brent and his guitar. The other is a place where people cram creativity in their carry-on, top-up their togetherness and sip on heady cocktails of strategy and socialising. The choice of destination really is ours.
Fresh off the plane from our Marrakech offsite, we’ve fine-dined, adrenalin-adventured and come up with some truly left-field ideas to drive the agency. It’s a significant investment, but returns are priceless. These five essentials will help to upgrade your offsite from no-frills Economy to something that’s truly Business Class.
1. Pre-flight checks
An offsite can be a powerful asset – but only if it’s carefully planned. Nothing kills the mood faster than realising sessions are there to fill an agenda, not the agency’s creative tank. If we see real issues that really matter to us, we’re more likely to plunge into the offsite pool.
Start planning well in advance: ours begins the moment we get back from the last. Canvas ideas, think about their presentation and how to stimulate lively debate.
You also need to give your people space, so manage workloads and client expectations in the run-up. We want everyone to be thinking “inspiration”– not “inbox”.
2. All inclusive
This is work – but not as we know it. If you want genuinely fresh thinking, leave stale conventions back in the office. Give more junior teammates leadership roles to bring different perspectives that shake up assumptions. You’ll be nurturing the next generation of agency leadership too.
It’s also been an isolating two years – particularly tough on new and younger members of the team. An offsite helps us to flex those long dormant social muscles and build camaraderie, culture and connection.
Taking a step back to reflect on our work, if only for a few days, brings authentic and transparent conversations which make us all feel like we belong. One team, one goal, one agency.
3. Work, rest and play
Give some thought to the offsite mix. All work and no play and we’ll be exhausted rather than energised. If it’s just fun, fun, fun the business will generate little more than a hangover. Nor should we forget to schedule in personal time – these can be intense experiences, so we all need the chance to rest and recharge.
Get this zen-like balance right and our offsites become productive, enjoyable and conducive to team wellbeing.
4. Dream destinations
An offsite to somewhere as exotic as Marrakech isn’t always practical but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the environments inspiring. Eight hours spent in a windowless room under flickering strip lights is enough to elicit dread in even the most upbeat teamies.
Try to find somewhere different; somewhere that raises eyebrows rather than sinks hearts. We’ve held strategy sessions in the pool – not around it, but actually in it – and important sessions too. That pool could work in Macclesfield as well as it does in Marrakech.
A creative venue is more likely to inspire creative engagement. It also shows us that we’re valued: with the agency taking the time to re-route from an anonymous conference centre off the M4 to our personal Club Tropicana offsite.
5. Treasured memories – because you’re worth it
All good things must come to an end…or do they? The offsite itself is just one component of offsite value and we need to treasure what we’ve learned – both professionally and personally.
Schedule time to debrief. Capture and share photos and video. Carry forward what was discussed and decided. Reinforce those offsite bonds. Ultimately, demonstrate the actions and impact that follow on from the offsite – so we all see that our emotional and professional investment is worth it.