Is it a Retreat or a Work Session?


This past week, Black River had the opportunity to spend some time in Alaska working with two different clients. Angie led a multi-day board of directors retreat for one client at an off-site location. The retreat included team building, capacity building, and strategy work. It also included structured time outside work for adventure, reflection, and connecting with others. Retreats, in their essence, are purposefully designed off-site activities that permit participants to step away from their day-to-day grind and environment.

Earlier in the week, she led a single-day, in-house work session to build self and leader capacity. This all-day session was held at the headquarters. It was a fantastic session. It created time for connection and for people to pause and reflect, but it didn’t offer adventure or scheduled downtime where participants could leave work to reflect and have fun in a new environment.

Why raise this question? Over the years, our team has led many retreats domestically and abroad and even more work sessions. However, and perhaps we are mincing words here, many work sessions have been branded as “retreats.” However, they aren’t. Participants at work sessions typically go home in the evening, feel it is permissible to respond to office demands during the session, and lack an overall flow and continuity that cultivates deeper connections. The typical outcome is productivity first and connection if time (and structure) permits.

Regardless of what you do or believe, it is essential to label your event correctly to help participants manage their expectations going into the event. Studies on expectations demonstrate the significant relationship between expectation mindset and quality of outcome and experience.

If you need help planning your next retreat (domestic or abroad) or work session and are looking for authentic, compassionate, lighthearted, and fun facilitators, don’t hesitate to contact Black River. We would love to help you accomplish your goals and ambitions, whether you plan to host a work, retreat, or strategy session.

Photo: Alyeska Resort, Alaska