He tossed his backpack down on the bed of his rustic cabin as an overwhelming feeling of panic filled his chest. Despite the charming accommodation and the stunning surroundings of the Santa Cruz mountains, Chris felt incredibly tense.
Chris had come for a two-day retreat in the Santa Cruz wilderness with his Silicon Valley colleagues. The purpose of the retreat, their boss had told them, was to disconnect from technology and detox from social media in order to connect with themselves and their colleagues in a meaningful and authentic way.
As his colleagues arrived, Chris could tell that everyone was experiencing just as much anxiety as he was. It was strange to think that a weekend meant for relaxation was already having the opposite effect.
Unplugging from technology is no easy feat—especially for those whose livelihood depends on a high-speed internet connection, a smartphone, and laptop. But an increasing number of tech companies are understanding that disconnecting is integral to the mental health of their employees and of their company at large.
Santa Cruz mountain retreats offer a wonderful escape from the fast-paced, technology-driven world of Silicon Valley. Breathing in the fresh air, enjoying the natural surroundings, and engaging in team-building activities can really do wonders for the body, mind, and soul.
Mindfulness Activities to Ease Social Media and Technology Withdrawal
We are constantly plugged in and perpetually connected. Even when our work day is finished and we step away from our computers, we inevitably reach for our phones and scroll through social media almost by reflex. We’ve become so overstimulated by technology that many of us have forgotten what it feels like to be alone with our thoughts—and for many of us, that is really scary.
In order to help your team let go of that fearful feeling that bubbles up inside, it’s important to emphasize connection rather than disconnection right from the beginning of your retreat. A deeper connection with oneself, something that so many of us lack nowadays, is something that can be achieved through a variety of mindfulness activities peppered throughout the weekend. While talk of mindfulness is sometimes met with skepticism, science is showing its incredible effectiveness at helping to reduce stress and increase productivity and focus in the workplace.
Lead your team through the beautiful Santa Cruz mountain trails for a wilderness hike and encourage them, with every step they take, to stay present and mindful. Point out unique birds, draw their attention to the graceful trees, and instruct them to turn their minds to their breath whenever a longing for their smartphones creeps up. Then, watch as their stress begins to melt away, little by little.
For some diversity, consider mindfulness activities such as yoga or Tai Chi. Mindfulness meditation is also a wonderful habit to introduce your team to, and leading them through a guided meditation can be an incredibly powerful experience.
Each of these activities will help promote a deeper connection to oneself and cultivate a feeling of inner calm that so many of us never experience in our chaotic world. For lasting results, it’s important that these practices don’t just stop when your retreat ends. It’s crucial that you incorporate these mindfulness activities into your office culture when the weekend is over and it’s back to business. While it may not seem practical for a Silicon Valley tech team to have a team yoga class once a week or to engage in a few minutes of mindfulness meditation every morning, it could have a profoundly positive effect on your team.
Santa Cruz Mountain Retreat Activities for Team Building
As important as it is to reconnect with ourselves, learning how to meaningfully connect with our colleagues without the use of technology is critical for the health of a company. According to the Harvard Business Review, employees report being much happier at their jobs when they have friendships with their coworkers.
While making friends at work was once a given, our reliance on technology in the workplace has led to a sense of disengagement for many. A walk to the water cooler is no longer a social affair when we’ve got our headphones in our ears, and lunch breaks are no longer a chance to connect when we mindlessly eat in front of our screens.
To help engage your colleagues and strengthen your company’s culture, plan a handful of fun group activities focused on team building and strengthening interpersonal relationships. For instance, at the beginning of the retreat, you could serve up coffee, healthy snacks, and conversation prompts (not work-related, of course) to facilitate a more personal type of dialogue between colleagues that just doesn’t happen enough at work. You’ll be amazed at how people can truly connect when they aren’t constantly checking their phones.
Some other effective team-building activities that will facilitate the forging of deeper connections among your colleagues include:
- An interactive ropes course: Navigating a challenging ropes course with your colleagues depends on teamwork, emotional support, and trust. The intensity of the experience can really solidify friendships and connections.
- Communal meals: Sharing food has an incredible bonding effect. At your retreat, make sure that everyone gathers together for wholesome, flavorful meals that spark conversation.
- Nightly bonfires: There’s nothing like an open fire and some marshmallows to encourage conversation, storytelling, and authentic sharing. Let discussion flow freely but gently discourage shop talk!
- Team sports: Just like the ropes course, sports are a great way to create camaraderie among employees. Be sure to switch up teams so that everyone has a chance to bond with one another.
Of course, it is also important to keep up these activities when you return to work. Start a company soccer team, have weekly catered lunches together, or throw a monthly office happy hour. Any activity that allows your employees to step away from the computers, set down their phones, and connect with one another will have an impact on the health, happiness, and productivity of your employees. While technology and social media have their place, a workplace without real human connection and face-to-face communication will never reach its full potential.
Kennolyn provides a gorgeous, all-inclusive Santa Cruz mountain venue perfect for a rejuvenating office social media and technology detox. To learn more about our offerings and how we can help you and your employees reconnect with themselves and each other, contact us today.
Image source: Unsplash user Papaioannou Kostas