How to choose inclusive team offsites


This document was initially written in the context of selecting team offsites at Silicon Valley based tech companies. However, much of it is applicable to other settings.

What is an offsite?

For the purposes of this document, an offsite is an employer-sponsored social event, which takes place outside of the normal work setting and sometimes outside of the normal work hours. Offsites usually have an explicit or implicit goal of team-bonding and/or morale-building, and there is usually peer pressure to attend (“mandatory fun”). Offsites are distinct from conferences and interoffice travel. Offsites may vary in scale, from e.g., an overnight ski trip for thousands to a mini-golfing outing for a handful of people.

What is inclusivity?

For the purposes of this document, inclusivity is the intention of including people and groups who might otherwise be excluded. In the context of tech companies, the term often refers to including women and members of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, but inclusivity also applies to including individuals who are not members of visibly distinct groups.

Why should I read this?

When you come up with ideas for offsites, you probably come up with ideas you would personally enjoy. You may also think that because you would enjoy them, your teammates would enjoy them. That’s totally natural, but not everyone enjoys the same things, and if a few people always come up with ideas, they may unintentionally plan offsites that make other people feel unwelcome or excluded. Sometimes, they may even come up with ideas that make it infeasible for some people to participate at all. As an offsite planner, this is probably not what you want! Fortunately, once you are aware of this tendency, you can keep it in check by explicitly considering inclusivity when planning offsites. Many of the things which can prevent offsites from being inclusive are non-obvious, so here are some guidelines.

General considerations

Know who the offsite is for, and identify potential barriers to participation. What are the attendees’ physical abilities, dietary restrictions, activity preferences, etc? Talk to your intended participants. Solicit their requirements as well as their preferences, and make sure they can do so without broadcasting to the whole team.

Don’t just solicit ideas and votes for top offsite choices. Allow people to tell you what they will do (approval voting or similar), and even more importantly, what they won’t or can’t do. The best offsite for the whole team might not be the offsite that is most popular with the majority of the team. You probably can’t get everyone to agree on their top choice for an offsite idea, but it is usually possible to plan an offsite that satisfies everyone.

Don’t have the same kind of offsite every time. If you have an athletic offsite one round, have a non-athletic one the next round. You may not be able to please everyone all the time, but you can make sure that no single person, or group of people, is consistently being left out.

If there’s no single option that satisfies everyone, you may want to have multiple options. If you have a large team, you may be able to split into small groups, so some people can do one thing while others do another. Avoid treating one offsite activity as the primary regular activity for most of the team and the other as a lesser special activity for those who cannot participate in the primary activity. If you split up into groups, finishing up with a single combined event can be a good way to bring the group back together.

Encourage people to attend and/or help come up with offsites that they will attend, but don’t pressure people if they’ve said no.

If you’re trying to promote team unity, focus on collaboration rather than individual competition. Offsites that involve making something, solving something together, or volunteering seem to be especially good for this.

Solicit feedback after the offsite. Send out a survey and allow anonymous comments. Use the feedback to help plan the next offsite.

Specific inclusion concerns

This is not an exhaustive list.

Eating and drinking

Physical requirements


Appendix: Some offsite ideas

Do not just use this as a checklist of approved activities. Every team is composed of different people, so what worked for one team may not be inclusive or fun for yours.

Appendix: Danger zone!

Again every team is different, but these are some categories of offsite activity which have a high probability of excluding some team members.

Adult entertainment: An offsite to a strip club can be expected to be divisive. Even “tamer” sexualized events, such as going to restaurants whose primary appeal is the appearance of the waitstaff (e.g., Hooters in the U.S.), can be just as divisive. Many women (especially women in an overwhelmingly male team) are unlikely to feel comfortable in this environment with their teammates, and many men will be uncomfortable as well. Choosing such an offsite strongly signals that the intended offsite audience does not include most women nor gay men, nor people who prefer to keep sexual entertainment separate from their work life. Additionally, choosing such an offsite or asking people if they would like to attend such an offsite is likely to make some people uncomfortable even if they do not attend the offsite.

Firearms: Comfort with firearms varies greatly, including (but not only) by nationality/regionality/culture, so this can be expected to be a divisive offsite choice on teams with people from different backgrounds. Some people have negative associations with firearms, due to either specific personal experiences or general moral objections to firearms or to their use for sport. Some people have no experience with firearms and will be uncomfortable around firearms or with learning to use firearms in the presence of their teammates. Some people have extensive experience with firearms in other settings, but have no desire to use them at a work event or with people who are less experienced.

Contributors for v1 (March 2015)
Sara Smollett and anonymous contributors
Versions of this doc can also be found at and