The value of (no) hard work: company getaways for creative agencies

Nestled in the south of Idaho is Sun Valley Resort, home to what is known colloquially as “summer camp for billionaires”. Every summer since 1983, Sun Valley has played host to an invitation-only corporate retreat architected by investment bank Allen & Company. Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg figure among the retreat’s alumni, and activities range from white water rafting to acquiring Yahoo to wearing fleece vests.


Tim Cook throws a peace sign at Sun Valley 2016, Image courtesy of Fortune


Ditching the corporate retreat

A business-world tradition as old as Flashdance (at least), corporate retreats like Sun Valley’s have adopted an air of exclusivity and elitism that makes them easy to dismiss. But the value of the true company getaway lies in exactly the opposite: their ability to level the playing field, sparking mind-melding collaboration and discovery at a level which, like a fleece vest three sizes too small, doesn’t quite fit behind laptop screens and Post-it notes.

Thankfully, Pixel Dreams’ own getaways bear little resemblance to Sun Valley’s shenanigans. Usually held at a near-northern Ontario lake in dubious rental cabins a few bunk beds short, being packed together tightly gives us a chance to expand our minds, and our understanding of one another. As we leave the city hierarchies are replaced by nature’s order and the shared experience of three main objectives: Saying thanks, experiencing individual freedom, and bonding as a team.

The PD Team throws peace signs at Company Getaway 2016

Connect the dots

This bonding — and the collaboration it begets — is especially crucial to multidisciplinary creative agencies. In the Monday-to-Friday workplace environment it is easy to become siloed, with each team member chipping away at their own projects, developing their own expertise. It is not an environment where a copywriter is always likely to share their creative perspective with a designer, or an intern with a seasoned strategist. When you level the playing field by being at play together, unexpected talents are revealed. The ‘creative’ component of the creative agency requires the connection of seemingly far-reaching dots. Escaping the ordinary gives your team more dots to play with.

It’s true that these discoveries reverberate positively into our work when the getaway is over. But a company getaway with the end objective of increasing the bottom line does not facilitate the same dopamine, bonding or restorative laughter of one that seeks — without ulterior motives — to create good times. Even those memories and inside jokes unrelated to professional development and productivity hacking keep us warm and united months later, when work becomes stressful and the lake has frozen over — as does anticipation for the next getaway.

While all we may acquire superficially is a sunburn and a hangover, it is with excitement and anticipation that we inform you that the Pixel Dreams Team will be away on our annual getaway from August 15th to 18th, 2018 — unreachable by email, phone, or carrier pigeon.

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