Typically for our LGND retreat, our staff would fly to Washington, DC, from all around the country (California, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Massachusetts — just to name a few), for a week of collaboration and team bonding. However, with COVID-19 and quarantine, our retreat this year looked a little different. With our staff working remotely since March, we knew we wanted to recreate the experience virtually to allow the LGND staff to bond and relax, as well as build our connections with each other.
For us, LGND’s second annual company retreat was an opportunity for everyone to come together and put all our focus into building relationships between team members. We believe getting to know each other outside of work, being friends, and building trust will help us create even better client-facing work.
Planned by Alana, the Head of Employee Success; Brendan, the Chief of Staff; and myself, a Strategy Intern, our virtual retreat was comprised of activities that would build upon our core values as a company, allow us to share our passions outside of work, and instill the belief that every single person on our team is creative, albeit in different ways.
Read more about our virtual retreat below, held on May 29, to get some tips on organizing your own:
Leading up to the Virtual Retreat, the planning team created a dedicated Slack channel in which we would send information to everyone leading up to the retreat to make sure everyone was prepared for the activities. One of the ideas generated by staff in the channel—for everyone to share a few minutes of a hobby, talent, or skill—became one of the most memorable bonding experiences for the company.
Next, I sent a quick note out to everyone letting them know our day would start with some time to eat breakfast, chat, and say hello to each other’s families and partners. I told people to come to the virtual retreat prepared with:
The day before our virtual retreat, our entire staff was divided into four teams. They were tasked with selecting a team name, as well as a team leader to coordinate during activities that would occur during the retreat. With the teams announced, the playful rivalries began via Slack. People argued over which team was the best, shared their team names, and even created custom images to introduce their teams. The team names consisted of the following: RADS, a combination of the team members’ initials; 2Busy, a name we can all relate to; D33P CODE, an inside joke, but also a nod to LGND’s stellar coding abilities; and … don’t even ask.
First on the agenda: breakfast. With mugs of coffee in hand, our day began. The breakfast delivery drivers we sent all around the country to deliver pancakes to everyone must have gotten lost….
The hat Jeff crafted, featuring various generations of LGND stickers. Shoutout to Jeff for being the only one who actually followed directions and made a hat – even I, who sent out the directions, didn’t follow them!
Alana sent out an agenda for the day, and began explaining our first activity: the illustration of core values. Each team was given one of LGND’s core values, with the task of creating a custom illustration to represent it. Some teams used photoshop, while others chose to illustrate by hand. You can find a list of our core values and what they mean to us here.
Illustration of the LGND Core Value “Trust Wins” by Michelle Silva, Design Intern
Our next activity was a virtual version of a game called Mafia over Zoom. The game involves some team members secretly being members of the “mafia,” trying to take out as many townspeople as possible before the townspeople discover their true identities. Though the game is usually played in person with a group of 10-20 people, it was easy to adapt to playing over Zoom by utilizing the features which allow you to toggle your camera and microphone on and off. For a more in depth explanation of how to facilitate this activity for your company, we recommend this guide by Anjuan Simmons.
A graphic created by Ryan showing who was taken out by the mafia, plus the last two townspeople left standing after they finally deleted the mafia.
To get us off our computer screens and our behinds, our next activity was a scavenger hunt of “quarantine items” that could be found around the house. The rules were simple: everyone must collect at least one item, and the first team back to the Zoom call with all the items wins. Some favorite items from our list included hot sauce, a Floppy Disk, and “a picture of you storytelling,” which a few people made up on the spot.
Patrick Hunt’s dogs, riveted by his storytelling abilities.
During this section of the virtual retreat, we left time open to anyone who wanted to share a talent, hobby, or skill with the team. The goal of this activity was to get a window into each others’ lives, and see interests that we might not normally see in a work environment. One team member shared his personal blog and sketches he completes every day to be able to look back on and remember what he did that day. Another walked over to his bookshelf, pulled a few random books, and shared why they’re important to him. I ended this section with a few remote Tarot Card readings, which predicted great things for my colleagues.
Last but certainly not least, TikTok. A few months prior to our virtual retreat, a couple of LGND-ers had joked around on an All Hands call that they didn’t fully understand the appeal of TikTok, or how one is supposed to use it. I decided to challenge each team to create their own, unique TikTok, and boy was I shocked and impressed with the results. One team made their own version of the Spill the Drink challenge, one team pulled weird objects out of their refrigerators, my team made a self-roasting voice over each other’s faces, and the last team made a wacky, dramatic TikTok protesting being forced to make a TikTok, to the tune of The Star Spangled Banner. While they were hilarious to make, they were even more entertaining to share, and we were all impressed by each other’s creativity, ingenuity, and humor.
A screenshot from team 2Busy’s TikTok
At the end of the day, we did our best to get everyone to look and smile at the same time so we could take a screenshot. Though a few people were not able to make it (we missed them dearly!), we are so grateful we had the opportunity to spend time together virtually, get to know each other a little better, and develop friendships that will enable us to work even better together as the LGND team.
To read more about our virtual retreat, check out this blog written by Jeff recounting his experience as a participant.
Preparing a virtual retreat for your own team? Let us know what’s on deck!