Company Culture

A Virginia wellness brand is hosting a multi-company, Olympic-style corporate retreat

The St. James health club is hosting an Olympic games-style event in which up to 150 companies can participate. Founders Craig Dixon and Kendrick Ashton also offered their advice for bringing new life to a corporate retreat.

Activities at The St. James.

(Photo via @TheStJames on Twitter)

This fall, Springfield, Virginia wellness company The St. James will implement some new ideas for the classic corporate retreat.

In what founders Kendrick Ashton and Craig Dixon say was inspired by the Olympics, the brand will host a multi-company, sports-style company retreat featuring games, exercise classes and good old-fashioned sportsmanship. The St. James Corporate Games, which will take place on October 14, is designed to put a new twist on the idea of a corporate retreat — and its founders have some ideas on how to breathe new life into yours.

The all-day event, which St. James said has room for about 150 companies, will feature a mix of competitive activities like flag football, cornhole and a home run derby as well as yoga, wellness walks and a healthy cooking class. The venue will also have impact stations spread across to help participants understand regional food security issues and the work of the Capital Area Food Bank, to which event proceeds will be donated. Washington Commanders President Jason Wright will also participate as a keynote speaker.

With the event, Dixon told Technical.ly that St. James is trying to create an experience that combines competition and social connection between employees. Involved companies can additionally work with St. James to add a personal experience just for their employees at the event.

“Employee satisfaction with their workplace is directly connected to the extent to which they feel like they have friends at work — and you build friends by spending time together and working together in ways that don’t necessarily connect directly to a specific project or particular deal,” Dixon said.

This is the first corporate games event that St. James has hosted, although Dixon and Ashton said that the competition combines a little bit of everything from its previous events. In the past, it’s done soccer and lacrosse tournaments, swim meets and other team-building and corporate retreats that mixed in social impact initiatives. But this will be the first that merges them all together.

On top of the daytime events, St. James will also host an evening networking event for participants. Dixon and Ashton view it as a chance for participants to build on their experience of the day, especially in the current workplace reality of many companies spending most of their weeks working remotely.

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The plan to combine companies in a single corporate retreat, Ashton said, is also something he and Dixon would like to see other companies embrace. While it might not be as conducive to community building with the people employees speak to every day, there are plenty of instances where companies collaborate on projects and in business. A multi-company event, he thinks, offers the space to build relationships and expand the workplace ecosystem.

“It’s really an opportunity for us to continue to expand our ability to be a connected tissue, support community building and [be] doing that through sports,” Ashton said.

Many companies will try to replicate that experience by going to a restaurant or bar in their networking events, he added. But he finds that incorporating a competitive and athletic element adds creativity to the networking game while simultaneously supporting employee and community wellness. He encourages others to try and be a bit more unique in their own corporate retreats, especially since it’s a practice that’s been around for such a long time.

“It’s really valuable to add some imagination to the core elements that these retreats typically focus on, which centers around scaled development and planning and those sorts of things,” Ashton said. “That would be my advice: be imaginative.”

“Focusing on creating human connection beyond just your immediate team or your immediate company is something that companies have to really be focused on,” Dixon added. “You can’t continue to limit that imagination, limit your thinking to the ways that it’s always been done.”

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