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Are Company Retreats Still Important? 6 Reasons We Say “YES!”*

David M. Brown

Co-Founder + Partner
September 22, 2021

These have been strange times as we continue to meander through the trials and tribulations of COVID-19, and without question the business world of today looks a lot different from the world of 2019. For all the talk of working from home and the technological challenges of videoconferencing, one often overlooked legacy of the pandemic is the impact on the company retreat*.

Ascent recently celebrated our one-year anniversary (Ascent is one-year old!), and with that we hosted our team at a retreat in the mountains north of Chilliwack, BC. Here are the 6 reasons Ascent feels that retreats are more important than ever:

1.      Face-to-face team building

2.      Boost morale

3.      Anchor your values

4.      Reflect on the future

5.      Identify hidden talents

6.      A mini-vacation for everyone

Team Building

Ascent is largely a virtual company, meaning that our team works from home, in individually rented offices, or in a café with decent Wi-Fi. We have adapted well to this new working arrangement, but it also means that face-to-face encounters are rare and precious. In fact, through our first 12 months of business, we never had our entire team together in the same room (virtual rooms don’t count!).

Our retreat provided a very rare and valuable opportunity to sit together around a big table and break bread. We ate great food, drank wine, played board games and bonded in ways we never could at our weekly virtual drinks.

Boost Morale

Team building and morale go hand-in-hand, but we also recognize that the last year has been hard on people, not only with COVID, but also with wildfires, heat domes and political instability. Our retreat was an opportunity to laugh, connect and to lead a bit of a pep rally in support of what we are creating and why we are excited for the future. Today, staff want more than a paycheque. They want to contribute to something larger than themselves, and providing them a voice in the company plan can be hugely validating.

Anchor Company Values

Ascent is a values-forward organization, and our core principles permeate everything we do. While we try to never lose sight of our fundamentals, it is easy to gloss over values in the hustle of business. Our retreat allowed for plenty of discussion about our value set, and how they are reflected in the targets we are setting for ourselves in the coming months and years.

Reflect on the Future

This item should be obvious to any forward-thinking company. Lasting success requires active planning and reflection, and the company retreat presents the perfect opportunity. Over three days of hard work, we discussed:

·         Our niche and ideal client

·         Our 10-year vision (or what does the company look like when it is mature)

·         The 3-year picture (what do we need to accomplish in 3 years to be on track for 10)

·         The 1-year plan (what do we need to accomplish in 1 year to be on track for 3)

·         Our quarterly Rocks (what activities, broken down by quarter, do we need to accomplish to be on track for the 1-year plan)

Our reflections were not solely focused on number of clients, revenue and profit margin. We had engaging, challenging conversations on topics such as carbon-neutrality, truth and reconciliation, diversity and inclusion. These real life issues, and many others, are front and center in our long-term planning, and many of them were brought forward from our support staff and associate lawyers.

Identify Hidden Talents

Ascent is privileged to have a talented and energetic team, but our retreat allowed us to unearth skills that we don’t see every day. It was inspiring to see people step forward and volunteer in sometimes surprising ways. For instance, our office administrator, who has previous experience in advocating for women’s issues, is leading the charge on our sexual harassment policy and training. Our newest associate is passionate about accessibility and inclusion, and will be leading our diversity initiatives. Another associate cares greatly about access to justice, and will be spearheading our pro bono and volunteer efforts.

A Mini-Vacation

We worked hard at our retreat, but there was also plenty of time for socializing and relaxing. In this sense, a retreat can do double-duty by getting important work done but also rewarding the efforts of the team over the previous year.

Our accommodations were beautiful, the food was top-cut, and we had a lovely meal out. It was an opportunity for Ascent to say “thank you” and reward our team for exceptional work. By the end of the weekend, everyone felt energized and invigorated to move forward in advancing our firm. Whatever the financial cost, a well-executed retreat will pay for itself many times over and should be something the team looks forward to.

Do you use any novel team-building processes? We want to hear about them!


*When we discuss retreats and in-person gatherings, we are assuming all individuals are fully vaccinated and all safety protocols are being followed!