Did you go to summer camp when you were a kid? If so, you no doubt have fond memories of playing team sports, frolicking in the fresh air, and telling ghost stories around the campfire. All of these activities helped transform complete strangers into best friends in a matter of hours. At the end of every night you’d climb into your bunk utterly exhausted, but with a sense of deep contentment and excitement for the following day.
In our adult lives, we rarely have experiences that are as transformational, inspiring, and unifying as summer camp is—especially in Silicon Valley, where it’s often all work and no play. But what if you could, even just for a few days, escape the nine to five (okay, more like nine to nine in the Valley) and head to summer camp? Planning a corporate retreat inspired by summer camp customs, culture, and activities will make for a unique experience for your company—one that is sure to get your employees feeling like kids again. Here are some ways to infuse good old-fashioned fun into your next company getaway.
Team Sports: A New Way To Work Together
Do you remember how much fun sports were at summer camp? Even if you weren’t athletically inclined, they were a blast. This is likely because team sports in a camp setting seem to be more about camaraderie and teamwork than competition. Everybody plays, everybody wins.
When planning your camp-inspired retreat, team sports are a must, and emphasizing cooperation is key—leave the competitive spirit at the office. To truly “campify” the game and encourage a not-so-serious approach, try adding in a fun and slightly silly pre-game activity. Getting teams to design their own jerseys using white t-shirts, fabric markers, and scissors before they play is a great way to get off to a spirited start. Encourage employees to get really creative with their designs and to have fun choosing a team name. This is like a craft activity and sport all-in-one. Employees have the chance to use their hands in a creative way and connect with their teammates before they sweat it out on the field (or the court, depending on what sport you opt for).
You might also have each team come up with a team cheer. Set criteria for this to make it more of a challenge. Perhaps it has to rhyme and must include the name of your company and one unique hand gesture or dance move. The point is that your team learns to let go of competition and embrace a collaborative camp spirit for this activity. Encourage employees to have fun with it and remember, your enthusiasm is important in guiding your company through these tasks—especially since you aren’t in a structured office setting.
Unique Activities to Build Trust
Building trust is an integral part of the summer camp spirit. Did you ever play trust fall game? It’s a camp classic where you fall back and let your fellow campers catch you. If you’ve ever done it, you’ll remember how it felt to know that your group had your back. In the workplace, trust is sometimes hard to come by. Sometimes mistrust grows in competitive work environments, often to the detriment of the company.
For a classic summer camp trust-building activity with adult appeal, skip the trust fall and opt for something a little more intense and challenging, like a ropes course. Elevated about 20-30 feet off of the ground, think of these as grown-up play structures. An expert ropes guide will lead you and your team through a series of activities among the trees that will challenge you both physically and mentally, and encourage you to lean on your employees in times of need.
It’s activities like these that create instant connections with others and build trust quicker than you could imagine. And who knows, the benefits of this could extend well beyond your camp retreat to help build a positive office culture.
Decompressing, Storytime, and Bonfire Bonding
Who doesn’t love a good campfire? Roasting marshmallows over a crackling fire, telling scary stories, and laughing well into the night make for some of the best summer camp memories. In the office, there is often little, if any, time to just sit and converse with coworkers.
Plan a campfire and let your employees unwind and bond as they watch the flames flicker. Ideally, you’ll want conversation to flow naturally, and after a day of jersey-making, team sports, and ropes, it is likely to. If however, the group is rather quiet, give them a few prompts. For example, ask them each to talk about a moment in the day that made them feel like a kid. Go around the circle so that everyone has a chance to share. Or, ask everyone what their favorite summer camp memory was. Finally, ask how they think this experience will benefit them once they get back to the office.
Of course, once you are done reflecting on the events of the day, it’s time to tell scary stories. Camp wouldn’t be camp without getting a little spooked; there’s nothing like bonding over a good ghost story!
California is home to a plethora of venues that host corporate retreats, but if you want the to have the full camp experience, finding a venue that is secluded and surrounded by forest will be your best bet. Of course, you will also want to make sure that the venue has the amenities required for the camp activities you have planned, from team sports to ropes courses to campfires.
Giving your employees the gift of being kids again—if only for a little while—will undoubtedly reduce competition, build cooperation and trust, and strengthen bonds. And at the end of the retreat, after a few days of play, they will leave feeling inspired, refreshed, united, and excited for work.
Only a 45-minute drive from Silicon Valley, Kennolyn offers a fully immersive camp experience complete with, outdoor activities, a ropes course, fire pits, and delicious meals for you and your team. If you are interested in hearing more about our beautiful venue for your next camp-inspired corporate retreat, get in touch today.
Campfire image credit: Unsplash user Tegan Mierle