Could Off-Sites Be Your New “Office?”

A few weeks ago the Wall Street Journal ran a story titled, “The Off-Site is the New Return to the Office.” The author looked at ways that leaders at various businesses across many industries are re-thinking “off-site meetings” as a way to get people back to working together in-person. In other words, using the off-site as an “on-site” — a type of new office.

At Arden Coaching, we think this idea has tremendous potential.

Taking something we all know — the classic annual or quarterly off-site meeting — gives us all a common starting point. Most of us are familiar with the two- or three-day getaway where business strategy, review and discussion, and planning are mixed with team building, social time, and personal connections.

As a leader, reinventing the off-site meeting is a fantastic post-pandemic way for you to bring together and engage all the people in your organization — newly hired and old hands, as well as people working remotely and in the office.

This is especially relevant for organizations that have an increasing number of remote or hybrid employees (many who may have been recruited and hired recently specifically as a remote worker and may live hundreds, or thousands, of miles away from your office). It may also make sense for businesses that have down-sized their office spaces, or eliminated the traditional office entirely (or want to).

Re-inventing the off-site is a great way to get your team together to build camaraderie, combat the sense of isolation that can come from remote work, and strengthen organizational culture and values — but with purpose.

Engage in this brainstorming exercise and see if there might be a role for the new-and-improved off-site meeting in your organization.

What and Where?

First, any off-site gathering needs a purpose beyond getting together for the sake of getting together. Why are you meeting? WHAT are you meeting about?

  • Navigating your new hybrid (remote/in-office) environment — how will we do it?
  • Starting new projects
  • Creating new teams
  • Regular business updates, reviews, and problem-solving
  • Discussion and preparation for “next steps” in ongoing work
  • Training, teaching, and coaching (read more about Arden Coaching’s Leadership Academy)
  • Integrating and orienting new hires
  • Managing organizational change
  • Building a shared understanding of the organization’s vision, culture, or brand
  • Ideation and innovation
  • Regular leadership and senior team gatherings

What else can you add? What other purposes might be great reasons to convene your team off-site?

Second, what is the best location and format for your particular needs? WHERE will your meeting be held?

  • Your actual office! Your existing office is now a new, re-imagined setting for companies who are increasingly working from home
  • Urban or rural settings
  • Traditional conference centers or hotels
  • Rent a house, condo, or townhouse (e.g., on Airbnb)
  • Meeting spaces at state and county parks and resorts
  • Spaces available on college and university campuses
  • Rent or own a long-term “corporate apartment.” 

What is the structure and format of your meetings?

  • Who’s invited: company-wide, senior team, departmental, project teams?
  • Who drives the meeting? Who is the facilitator or convener? For more, read about facilitation from Arden Coaching.
  • Are the off-sites quarterly, every 6 weeks, monthly, as needed?
  • Are the gatherings one or two days, a week, longer?
  • How structured or formal is the agenda?

For more about organizing and facilitating an off-site, read “Essentials in Planning for Impactful Gatherings: A Facilitators Toolkit,” by Arden Coaching executive coach Sharon Krohn, and “Best Offsite Meeting Ever? Use an Expert Facilitator.”

What other formats and creative meeting places will help you engage your employees and lead your organization?

A Quick Word About Brainstorming

If you’re going to brainstorm with your team about new ways to use the off-site, here are two keys to experiencing a positive, productive brainstorming session:

1. Postpone judgment. Brainstorming is all about generating as many ideas as possible — not deciding whether they are useful or effective ideas. We are trained to assess and judge, so this aspect of brainstorming can be difficult. Give yourself 5-10 minutes to write down EVERY idea or possibility that comes into your head — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Focus on volume! It’s also interesting to note that research shows that very good ideas are often triggered by a bad or an impractical idea.

2. Speed. Notice that we said 5-10 minutes, not two hours or a day. Speed and focus help brainstorming sessions. Work quickly — write an idea down and move immediately on to the next thought. You’ll be amazed at how much you can come up with in a brief 10 minute period.

Would you like to share your ideas? We’d love to hear about how you are addressing the new realities of leading hybrid teams and remote work! Send them our way and tell us what you are doing!

To learn more about leveraging the “new off-site”, developing high performing teams, and facilitating effective meetings, contact the executive coaches at Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.