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How to design an impactful team-building: Lessons from our Neem retreat

In recent weeks, you might have caught a glimpse of our team's retreat. Today, we're excited to unpack some valuable insights from this experience – from defining the core purpose of such activities, our design approach, individual activities, to lessons learned. We are sharing these with a strong belief that strategic team buildings are an important element of building our culture, and it requires conscious design to make it work!

In the middle of our busy workdays filled with meetings and tasks, our People and Culture (P&C) team saw the importance of taking a break and reconnecting on a deeper human level. We wanted to create a special time to connect as a team, and realign on our north star, business vision and business goals. So, we decided it was the right moment for a team retreat. We packed our bags and went to the beautiful Dhirkot, Kashmir, for a 3-day adventure together.

The blueprint for an impactful team retreat

Begin by clarifying your "why" with well-defined objectives

Before diving into such a project, it is crucial to have a clearly defined purpose. In our case, our goals were clear: to establish and reinforce alignment with Neem's vision, cultivate trust and collaboration among Neemers, and create a space for relaxation and enjoyment. Every activity, exercise, and intervention was thoughtfully aligned with our core values, ensuring that the retreat was more than just a pleasant break — it became a catalyst for cultural alignment and increased team engagement. Inclusivity, psychological safety, and collaboration, stood as the guiding pillars of this experience.

Create a tailored agenda with core purpose as your guide

Below, we are sharing our carefully designed agenda, following a structured 10/30/50/10 framework:

  1. 10% Learnings & reflections 💡 Devoting 10% of our retreat to work-centric sessions. Whilst we avoided conventional PowerPoint presentations, we instead designed a circle, where each team shared their quarterly wins and learnings.
  2. 30% Wellbeing activities 🌟 Allocating 30% to team-building, well-being, and recreational activities such as hiking, yoga, walks to the nearby market for pakoras, and forest bathing. Our aim was to strike a balance between organised team activities and downtime for relaxation.
  3. 50% Focused sessions 🚀The predominant 50% was dedicated to focused sessions delving into Neem's core values, long-term vision, and our joint ambitious goals. This provided a platform for realignment on our cultural principles, our north star and purpose, as well as trained our problem-solving capabilities on critical matters.
  4. 10% Free time 🙌 The final 10% was left open for unstructured moments — free time allowing for organic conversations and breakthroughs to unfold naturally. This intentional space facilitated unexpected connections.

Focus on the positive start with clarifying expectations

We started our retreat by clearly explaining the retreat objectives, guiding principles and expectations. We set out ‘house rules’, with the objective of creating a respectful and inclusive environment. Every day, to make sure everyone felt acknowledged, we initiated the day with a check-in, inviting each person to share their feelings on an energy scale from 0 to 10.

Don't wait any longer – bring out your company cool and sustainable merch

With everyone gathered, our marketing and branding team led by our Neemer Umayr Khan, took advantage of the moment to reinforce our Neem identity through thoughtfully designed merchandise. Our collection, including sustainably crafted t-shirts and cozy hoodies, not only boosted our team spirit but also became a tangible symbol of our shared values and unity. Every piece of merchandise was carefully crafted to mirror our brand attributes and the essence of Neem. Putting on our Neem gear made us feel united and proud, boosting our team spirit.

Team retreat is the perfect time to realign on core values and company vision

We took advantage of this opportunity to bring our values and vision to life through various activities. These included creative role-play activities representing the impact of financial wellness; as well as a strategic reflection exercise - “The Neem Way” - on who we want to be as a team; a safe-space vulnerable experience of “Privilege circle” focusing on the impacts of privilege in our lives; a round table with our founders to answer any question from the team about their journeys and motivation; and also our favourite “Gratitude circle” creating an opportunity for every Neemer to celebrate others in the team.

Enable everyone to actively practice ownership

We wanted to break away from the traditional top-down approach during the retreat planning. We created room for all Neemers to engage in specific roles or activities, allowing each individual to contribute in their unique way. This inclusive strategy not only exceeded expectations but also built trust, ownership and collaboration. By empowering each member to take on roles like session designers, game facilitators, but also DJs, and photographers, the retreat was jointly co-created.

Take a holistic approach to well-being: prioritise both mind and body

Each day began with morning yoga, breathing exercises and gentle workouts in the beautiful nature of the Diyar resort. With several trails winding through dense Diyar tree forests, we engaged in daily walks and hikes. One of the highlights of the retreat was a magical forest bathing experience guided by one of our founders. It was a new experience for many, fostering a deep, immersive connection with nature. This positively impacted our mental well-being, fostered mindfulness, and reduced stress.

Place inclusivity at the core of your entire experience

At Neem, we make the effort to place inclusivity as our foundation. Every activity had been thoughtfully crafted to embrace our team's diversity, ensuring that everyone feels respected and welcomed. When tailoring the retreat agenda, we considered unique physical and emotional needs, fitness levels, as well as our diverse personalities. Recognising that some thrive in group settings while others prefer quiet focus, our activities catered to these differences. Our nutrition plan also considered the diverse food preferences of Neemers. Overall, we aimed to design for inclusion in many small and big details of our retreat experience.

While good beginnings are important, a group reflection at the end is no less magical

Our retreat was not a typical getaway; we tried to design it with a lasting impact beyond those few days. Towards the end, we created a space for reflections on the top moments, learnings and new insights, and gratitude. All that in our favourite circle, which brings us all together as one team. On return to our daily lives at Neem, our People & Culture team made sure to bridge the gap for those Neemers who could not join and guided them through major highlights and take-aways. This served a purpose of fostering a sense of belonging among all Neemers.

Final reflections

Reflecting on our team retreat now, this experience has been a crucial investment in 'how we want to build Neem' and in defining our identity as a company. We will continue investing and consciously designing more of such team experiences in the future, learning from others along the way.

By sharing our learnings through this blog, we hope to inspire other teams and companies to embrace such shared experiences and be intentional when designing those unique moments that will ultimately make you a stronger and more connected team and community.

🚀 Ready to become a Neemer? Look out for opportunities on our job board:


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