Work retreats, also known as staff retreats, focus on achieving a business result. While many team retreats are meant to boost morale and for team-building, work retreats are more strategic. The goal of a work retreat is to spend time brainstorming, working on a project, or coming up with a company roadmap.

The design of your work retreat depends on the type of business you have and your goals:

  • Start-up companies often organize hackathons.
  • Virtual teams and remote companies work on projects for which they need to be in the same room.
  • Established, traditional companies present the year’s results, vision, strategy, or work to improve the company culture.


Teamwork-focused retreats are often organized by teams of 30-50 people for up to two weeks. Even when the goal is to improve the company culture, Surf Office can assist in hosting productive offsite retreats that get results.

We’ve gathered tips and ideas from our experience hosting teams of all types and sizes for companies seeking to host a work retreat. Here’s what you need to know to plan an effective work retreat.

Why organize a work retreat?

The activities on a work retreat can range from team bonding to business-oriented goal-setting and presentations. There are many benefits to hosting a retreat, including:

  • Take time to look at the big picture
  • Make important, company-wide decisions
  • Show appreciation for your employees and colleagues
  • Team members get to know each other better
  • Motivate employees and boost morale
  • Do some creative and innovative thinking

Looking for a little inspiration? Surf Office has hosted work retreats for a number of different companies. Here are what four companies did on their work retreats.

Organize your next team retreat with Surf Office

Sample work retreat agenda

Clearly, there are a lot of ways to use your team retreat effectively. What’s the best way to make the most of your limited time away?

The agenda you set for your team will depend largely on your goals. Work with our team to learn how to make the most of your offsite. We’ve hosted dozens of retreats, like one for Elbstack, a German software engineering and design company.

Elbstack’s retreat took place over two weeks in the heart of Lisbon. Their objectives were:

  • Dedicate a time toward collectively working on new product ideas
  • Work together on holistic company culture and strategy
  • Spend quality time together as a team


To achieve these goals, kick-off with an intense brainstorming session or hackathon. Develop the ideas that come from that session over the next few days. Take the time to pivot or start larger projects. And, most importantly, live like a local! Explore the beauty of Lisbon’s charming streets.

Elbstack schedule some fun team activities in between work sessions. Some of the activities they signed up for included surfing lessons, a sunset sailing tour, and a city tour with a fantastic local Portuguese tour company, We Hate Tourism Tours. The team also enjoyed the best Lisbon had to offer in terms of gastronomy.

Lennart Brandt, a product designer at Elbstack, had this to say about the retreat:
“We had two beautiful weeks exploring the fantastic city of Lisbon. With no disruptions, we could truly dedicate our time toward developing our products and our company without getting distracted by client work or managing the logistics of the company retreat itself. Not only was the working environment on this retreat better than our previous retreats, but a less stressful situation also allowed us to have a lot of fun together as well.”

Tips for a great work offsite

There are a few ways to make sure your work offsite is a success.

First, it’s a good idea to take your team to a remote location.
Head to the countryside to decrease the distractions of city life. Surf Office runs work retreats int he charming, remote fishing village of Ericeira. We also recommend the Catskill Mountains, Zion national park, and Gran Canaria, or one of our remote villas close to Barcelona or Valencia. Click here to see all our locations.

After you have your location, work on the agenda ahead of time.
Ask your team members what problems they would like to solve. Brainstorm which areas of the business you would like to improve. Then, organize a hackathon or design sprint to work on your project in groups.

We’ve also found it’s important to balance work and play.
Leave some free time every day for your team; otherwise, people are going to be exhausted.

Prioritize which ideas you want to work on.
Don’t try to do too much in one retreat! Focus on brainstorming ideas, creating quick concepts/prototypes, and feedbacking them. You can test your concepts in the real world once you are back from the retreat.

Not sure where to focus?
Before the retreat, ask your team what projects they would work on with a budget of US$10,000, and what projects they would choose with a budget of US$1 million. We did this exercise during our Surf Office retreat in Prague. Then we brainstormed and worked on the best ideas. You might realize that many “one million dollar ideas” you can actually develop with a much lower budget.

Lastly, make sure you’re equipped with the right environment and tools.
Book an office or workspace and make sure it has enough whiteboards or presentation tools.

Organize your next team retreat with Surf Office

Work retreat team-building activities

Many work retreats focus exclusively on a business problem. But, leave some time for team bonding. Plan activities that give team members the opportunity yo get to know colleagues on a personal level. When team building is done right, it can increase employee engagement. Data shows that companies with engaged employees have 2.5 times higher revenues compared to those competitors with lower employee engagement.

Here are some popular team building activities in our Surf Office locations:

  • Lisbon: surfing, e-biking, food tours and more
  • Ericeira: surfing, hiking, stand-up paddle and more
  • Gran Canaria: surfing, stand-up paddle, tapas night and more
  • Valencia: walking tour, bike tour, treasure hunt and more
  • Barcelona: architecture tour, escape room, sea kayaking and more
  • Prague: brewery tour, cooking class, leather workshop and more
  • Santa Cruz: surfing, beach yoga, mountain biking and more
  • Catskills: tubing, hiking, yoga and more

Ready to start planning your team retreat? Get in touch with Surf Office for help with your next company retreat.

Case studies

Avocode’s retreat as a mini startup accelerator

Avocode is a tool that helps designers and developers collaborate on one seamless platform. For their work retreat, the team spent 10 days with Surf Office Lisbon working as a mini-startup accelerator.

The group of 20 divided into small teams on day one, and then spent the time working on specific projects. The last day of the retreat was dedicated to presenting each team’s results with the rest of the group. As a result, Avocode’s work retreat drove innovation. Their result is a great example of how to make the most of limited time to do some creative thinking.

Avocode work retreat in Lisbon

Mynd team retreat in Barcelona

Mynd retreat resulted in 12 new products features

Mynd is a property management company based in California. For their work retreat, Mynd’s team of 32 people relocated for 10 days to Surf Office Barcelona. Like Avocode, they spent the first three days running a hackathon. The team developed 12 new product features in a quick sprint of innovation.

Mynd’s approach to their work retreat was to prepare beforehand; key design elements were already in place when they arrive in Spain. As a result, the team could move quickly and work without designers. Consider what you need to do to prepare before arriving onsite for your work retreat.

Mattermost’s innovative design retreat

Mattermost is a communication software company that makes a Slack-alternative messaging platform. Their team retreat in Lisbon combined innovation and team-building in five days.

Mattermost spent their work retreat building a product roadmap, discussing their core values, team-building, and hosting a hackathon. Check out more in this video from their CTO, Corey Hulen.

Mattermost work retreat in Lisbon

Invision work retreat in Ericeira

Invision’s team comes together for beach meetings

Finally, InVision is a product design tool and 100% remote company. The team met in Ericeira for a work retreat with Surf Office.

They split their time between team bonding – stand-up paddle, surfing, and eating incredible seafood – and a hackathon. During their one-day hackathon, InVision built new product features and internal communication tools.

Organize your next team retreat with Surf Office

What is included in our team retreat packages?

1. Workspace & Meeting Space

Are you planning a strategy meeting, design sprint, hackathon, kickoff meeting of a new project or “just” regular work time?

Whatever it is, we’ve got your back.

Expect a professional working environment with:

  • Desks and chairs
  • Meeting room
  • Whiteboard
  • Projector with all the fancy adapters
  • Post-its, markers, pencils, stickers & pens

And of course, very fast internet.


2. Accommodation

Each team has a bit of a different expectation when it comes to their retreat experience and that’s why you have the flexibility to choose different types of accommodation ranging from premium ensuite rooms to shared accommodation.

All of our accommodation options are located in central areas within walking distance from the restaurants and grocery stores. You don’t need to rent a car or use public transportation to move around. We want to make your stay as easy as possible.

You have 100% security that your booking won’t be canceled (anyone with experience of last-minute group booking cancellation can relate).

We understand that your team might be growing and you might need to add additional rooms over time, you’ll have this flexibility too.

Surf Office Lisbon - Community Dinner

Accommodation in Surf Office Ericeira, Portugal


3. Team Retreat Planning & Facilitation

We’ve built a system that makes retreat planning easy and fast.

We’ll plan every detail of your retreat from start to finish, so that you don’t have to. This includes:

  • Reservation of activities, transport & restaurants
  • Tips for local places to visit and activities
  • Crafting of unique experiences
  • Troubleshooting

You will get a personalized schedule and online dashboard with all of your retreat information before your retreat starts. Our onsite support will show you everything you need to know upon your arrival and make sure everything goes smoothly for you and your team.

 

Organize your next team retreat with Surf Office

“Thanks for a great offsite venue @surfoffice – we had a blast!”

James Allgrove, Head of Growth at Stripe UK

Next steps after requesting a quote

1. Confirm Details

You will confirm with us the number of people, location (we can also recommend the best location based on where your team is located and prices of flights), dates and your desired setup for accommodation.

2. Invoice & Payment

After confirming details, we will send you an invoice. You can pay by wire transfer, credit/debit card or PayPal.

3. Team Retreat Planning

This process is super easy. With our playbook you will quickly create a personalized schedule. We’ll make sure you get all the information well before your retreat time and you will have our support person available throughout the whole process.

4. Retreat Time

Expect an introductory tour after your arrival. Our onsite support is available in case you need anything. We will give you local tips and remind you about your planned activities throughout the retreat.

How does Surf Office work?

Choose your location

Choose one of our 16 locations in Europe and USA.