Laughing is Encouraged: Retreats for Employees

Retreat participant reacting to an icebreaker activity.

Retreat participant reacting to an icebreaker activity.

There are a lot of expectations on employees when you work for an organization like the Richmond City Health District WIC Office.  No day is just another day at the office.  Your clients are experiencing poverty – some episodic and some systemic, and every client has their own story, requiring different levels of understanding and often completely different approaches to case management.  The City has expectations that weigh on the management, which weighs on the employees.  A team from RCHD WIC recognized this and worked for a couple of months with The Spark Mill to develop a two-day retreat plan that would reinvest in the staff.

The intent of this training was to encourage staff to look at their work and their personal life with a more compassionate perspective and to appreciate other’s point of views, demonstrating an enhanced understanding and acceptance of others. At the same time, supplying them with the necessary tools to improve relationships with clients (and others) and make the work place more harmonious.
— Lizbeth Snead, Richmond City Coordinator WIC Program

The months of planning finally came together in March, at the lovely East District Family Resource Center in Church Hill.   The first day centered on the difficult conversations – What does poverty in Richmond look like? Where does it live? Who are our clients? Who are we? What are we doing well? What would we like to do better?  We talked through the tough stuff, everyone in the room learned something – either about one another, about poverty in Richmond, or about life as a client.

The second day was all about providing tools for self-care, stress management, and general teamwork. The Spark Mill partnered with Richmond Peace Education Center for part of the day to facilitate exercises and conversations around conflict resolution.  The Chrysalis Institute came in for part of the day to explore mindfulness techniques geared towards granting self-compassion.

Whether you are a government agency, small business, faith community, nonprofit, or huge Fortune 500 firm – employee engagement is essential and rewarding.  There is some sort of magic that happens when you get out of your board room and take a break from the daily grind to simply check-in with your staff, invest in them, laugh together, share a meal, use old Polaroid’s and play with balloons!