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Don’t be that person who messes up the corporate off-site

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter! I’m subbing in for Michelle Ma today.

Today: Allison Levitsky shares how not to mess up your company off-site, why Uber is now treating hiring like a “privilege,” and who’s paying the most to commute to work right now.

— Amber Burton, reporter (email | twitter)

How not to mess up your company off-site

Off-site retreats are back. If you haven’t already held an in-person gathering of employees this year, chances are you’re planning one. Attending Protocol’s own IRLFest in D.C. last month — and hearing chatter from startup leaders about their own upcoming off-sites — got me thinking about how to plan a great retreat.

Retreat planners told me they’re now inundated with demand after a sleepy pandemic period. Normally, off-site season peaks in the fall, but this spring has been a busy time as offices reopen and colleagues gather. I asked some planners for tips to avoid common retreat-planning missteps.

Start early. Retreat planners sometimes have to turn clients down because their requests come in at the last minute, said Sean Hoff, founder and managing partner of the Toronto-based retreat agency Moniker.

  • Hoff said he encounters companies that want to plan a retreat for hundreds of employees with just a couple of months of lead time.
  • “For a decent-sized retreat of 100-people over, you’re looking at a minimum of six months,” Hoff said.
  • That’s especially true in the pandemic era, since many companies are opting to buy out an entire hotel for their retreat.

Plan a realistic budget. Some companies are flying their employees out for international excursions — Mexico is one popular choice — but there’s no need to overspend. Just do your homework on how pricey hotels, meals out and activities can be.

  • Hoff said a typical budget for a 200-person retreat is $600,000 or $700,000: $3,000 to $3,500 a head. Some companies spend as much as $5,000 or $6,000 per person.
  • Startups working within tighter budgets may opt to have employees share hotel rooms, go to a more casual restaurant for dinner or nix the open bar. (Maybe they’ll just cover the first two drinks, for example.)
  • Companies may also want to choose cheaper activities, like going for a hike rather than taking a cooking class.

Don’t overbook yourself. Many companies are overly ambitious with their retreat schedules, Hoff said. But especially after two years of remote work, a major goal of off-sites is just to have fun and connect with colleagues.

  • “[Some clients] think that they have to have programming from 9 [a.m.] until night,” Hoff said. “Sometimes, the most fun thing happens in the free time, where people can just hang out by the pool or go to a common space like a fire pit.”
  • At the same time, don’t let your retreat become one long party, said Ryan Shortill, the founder and executive chairman of Positive Adventures. “If you’re bringing everyone together, but at the end, you’re not coming away with a really strong strategic plan, then it’s more of a celebration,” Shortill said.

The ways that companies gather teams are changing quickly. Quarterly meetups may become a common cadence in the tech industry: Airbnb just told employees that while they can work from anywhere indefinitely, most of them will get together for a week at a time four times a year.

But it’s not about lavish parties. No one needs to go to Europe with their co-workers, but some festive and thoughtful in-person time is important. Face time means more to teams now than it ever has before.

— Allison Levitsky, reporter (email | twitter)

Uber is tightening the purse strings

Tech is hitting a “seismic shift” in the market. Or at least that’s what Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told employees in an email obtained by CNBC. Khosrowshahi said the company plans to cut back on hiring and other related costs, and from here on out hiring will be treated as a “privilege.” Uber is just the latest in the long list of tech companies that have announced intentions to cut back on spending. Organizations are continuing to feel the pressures of the war in Ukraine, the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain failures, inflation and other issues. Perhaps Khosrowshahi summarized the current sentiment best: "Meeting the moment means making trade-offs.”

Read the full story.


The digital revolution is already here – transforming the way we live, work, and communicate. Smart infrastructure is a key part of this revolution. It brings the power of the digital world to physical components like energy, public transportation, and public safety by using sensors, cameras, and connected devices.

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Today's tips & tools

Aye Moah, CEO of email app Boomerang, has a hot take: Stop pouring all your energy into Inbox Zero. Protocol sat down with her to talk about tackling the email inbox and meeting schedule blues. Read the full article, or check out a couple of her best tips below.

  • Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. The very first thing Moah does is absorb the previous day’s to-do list and figure out when she’ll work on each task.
  • Recurring reminder emails can help streamline meetings. Boomerang employees get recurring reminder emails the afternoon before a meeting. The reminder will prompt people to send necessary material and give an overview of what the meeting is about.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter)

Commuting. In this economy?

Back to the office means back to the commuter bus, train or plane (although, please rethink your life choices if you’re commuting to the office via plane on a regular basis.)

If you can’t take public transportation, that means you’re behind the wheel of your car again, white-knuckling it to work with the rest of the folks on the highway. And with gas prices as they are today, that can be enormously expensive.

Car insurance comparison site AutoInsurance.org looked at data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and a Harvard Business Review survey to find out who’s paying the most these days.

  • $15,005: The yearly average cost to commute to work in Fremont, California, the city with the most expensive commute in the U.S.
  • $2,874: The yearly average cost to commute to work in Lubbock, Texas, the city with the least expensive commute in the U.S.
  • $52: The daily average commute cost for workers in San Francisco, California.
  • $3,200: The average amount a commuter saves if they live in one of the cities with the least expensive average commute (Lubbock, Texas; Laredo, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma).
  • 41 minutes: The average amount of time that workers saved per day by working at home.

See the rest of the data.

More stories from us

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Everything you need to know about the tech layoffs right now.

Why we should all stop being obsessed with the idea of reaching Inbox Zero.

Microsoft has a plan for closing the security talent gap.

TC or GTFO. Is this good for salary transparency or not? It's complicated.


The potential of the IIJA to shape our future is immense; if we don’t spend the funds wisely, the effects will be felt for generations. Physical infrastructure alone does not fully address the diverse needs of our modern, information-driven economy and set us up for future success.

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Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Easier said than done: A look at how tech companies are actually moving forward without a physical office.

After a whirlwind hiring spree, a wave of tech companies are slowing down hiring to a near halt to offset costs.

A new global survey found that Asian employees feel least included in the workplace compared to other groups.

Turns out flexible hybrid work might not be all that flexible at Apple.

And finally, the marketing for the four-day workweek is really something.

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com. Have a great day, see you Thursday.

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