How NOT To Run A Staff Retreat (Laugh Link)

How NOT To Run A Staff Retreat

I have been on a couple of staff retreats in my life. None have usually gone well. For some reason it has only been the most dysfunctional places that want their cranky staff to live in even closer spaces for a day or three. So today I’m presenting my list of the 20 ways to NOT run a staff retreat, based on (painful) personal experiences.


How NOT To Run A Staff Retreat


  1. Don’t make such a focus on drinking that the retreat gets nicknamed “vomit bonding”.
  2. Make sure everyone has a 100% identical room to prevent picky staff throwing tantrums, storming down to reception & demanding an upgrade. Heaven forbid that one room have a different colour of paint and a slightly different sized TV.
  3. Ensure that the upgraded staff don’t fall asleep in their upgraded spa bath after a night of drinking.
  4. Don’t plan a retreat to a cold mountain in the middle of flu season.
  5. When you ask staff to be there on time, make sure you leave on time.
  6. If you’re the manager of the team, show up for the retreat.
  7. Don’t sit over the wheel of the bus going up a bouncy road.
  8. If you’re going to stay 2 minutes drive from a landmark, make it part of the retreat to visit said landmark.
  9. Have someone in charge so your staff know when things like lunch are.
  10. Have some rules about how early in the day you can start drinking. Maybe a rule about if you’re allowed to put alcohol in your coffee as soon as you get to the venue.
  11. Have some activities that don’t relate to drinking.
  12. If you’re the manager and unable to show up to most of the day, show up for dinner on time.
  13. If you’re the manager and show up late and then even later than you were supposed to, don’t make a rushed attempt at drinking just to “catch up”.
  15. Don’t let your staff scream outside colleagues’ doors at 4am.
  16. When it’s raining, cold and foggy, don’t have outdoor activities.
  17. If you have morning activities, make your staff get out of bed before 1pm.
  18. Don’t give a bow & arrows to annoyed, sleep deprived staff.
  19. If you’re the manager, don’t get bored after lunch and drive home, leaving the rest of your staff to wait for the bus back to work.
  20. Don’t do tequila shots at work.


Have you ever been on a staff or corporate retreat? Regale me with your stories 🙂 

The Laugh Link members are:

Emily from Have a Laugh on Me | Kimberley from Melbourne Mum | Alison from Talking Frankly | Vanessa from 26 Years and Counting (aka me!)


You know the drill: every Monday, link up an old or new funny post!

30 Replies to “How NOT To Run A Staff Retreat (Laugh Link)”

  1. Alcohol and work should never mix. There is always going to be someone who makes an arse of themselves.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      In this case, the ones who didn’t make an arse (at least in my view) were the odd ones out!

  2. Oh wow, that does not sound like fun! I’ve never been on a staff retreat and am not sure I’m very eager to now!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I’m sure there are good ones – but this all happened within the space of about 36 hours, so…not my most enjoyable work trip ever haha. I prefer the high pressure trips when massive things were at stake to this – pressure needing my skills I can deal with!


    I have no idea why 😉

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Some things really shouldn’t need to be advice 🙂

  4. Oh dear god, I’d rather stay home and be tortured by my children. I’d certainly be out of place, being a non-drinker.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I’m not a non-drinker but when people tell me I have to drink, or there’s that level of expectation, it irritates me and I just point-blank refuse. Probably good that I developed that in high school, come to think of it!! Stubbornness pays off 🙂

  5. I’ve also never been on a staff retreat! I’ve had to do a few “development days” but we never went anywhere special. The manager you refer to in some of those points sounds like real a horse’s ass! Especially the one where he drives home and leaves you all to wait for the bus – so not cool.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      It was a rather dysfunctional team, to say the least 🙂 Actually, the part where the manager left was one of the nicest parts of the retreat – it was a cold & foggy day so myself and the one or two others who weren’t part of the drinking brigade just sat around a fire in the waiting room area and had some quiet time.

  6. Ouch! I’ve actually never been to a staff retreat. I was always in government so one-day strategic planning sessions in the office was the most adventurous we ever got.

    My brief foray into the private sector did include a staff christmas party at the Gold Coast and accommodation though. That was pretty exciting! 😉

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I’ve fairly evenly been between government and corporate in recent years – both have their negatives haha. At least in government this amount of boozing would be in the personal pockets 🙂

  7. Oh dear, that sounds awful. That manager clearly did not want to be there. Also one would imagine it would have been their job to have some sort of itinerary for everyone? lol

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I think there was an itinerary, but no one know who had it haha

  8. Hilarious – you must have been thinking you were in some kind of farce the whole time! I want to go on one now… but only if it didn’t involve some kind of team bonding obstacle course.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I was mad & wondering what the cost of a cab home would be, but in the end, it’s all just writing fodder.

  9. Can’t say I’ve ever had the pleasure. That sounds like something right out of an episode of The Office or similar quirky type TV show. Maybe you need to write the Aussie version of The Office based on your experiences.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Actually I’ve had a lot of experiences that could work in a tv show…maybe I should write one 🙂

  10. Robyna @ the Mummy and the Minx says: Reply

    The drinking part does sound like a few staff retreats I have been too (although the senior team members have always been lovely). What happens on retreat, stays on retreat and it’s kind of interesting to see a different side of your work mates.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I do wonder if that company will ever allow anyone to have a retreat again after this one 🙂

  11. My workplace’s version of retreat is the recent announcement that the entire organisation will be abolished and we will all lose our jobs. Possibly.

    Nothing keeps you on your toes like possible unemployment!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Ah, that keeps you on your toes! I’m a contract worker (currently casual and contract, which sounds absurd now that I’ve written it) so I get that feeling a lot.

  12. Never had one, but that sounds like hell

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      It felt like it at the time!

  13. Oh my god. Never been to one and always wanted to. But not now! Bahahhahahha!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      They’re great. In theory 🙂

  14. Nope, never been to one and I’m so glad I haven’t. Being forced to do team things that I have no interest in like sports and presentations is my idea of hell. Training days are bad enough.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      The worst part of staff retreats is that you can’t go home and mock them with your partner afterwards. In this instance, we had between 0-2 bars of mobile phone reception too, so I couldn’t even call to vent!

  15. I feel like there are some stories behind these that I NEED to hear. Especially the bow and arrow one!

  16. […] being forced to share because GASP I AM NOT IN FUCKING PRESCHOOL, and I generally have always had negative experiences with […]

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