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By Doug Andrew

It’s an epidemic that’s been causing increased concern across America. It’s taking more than a toll on our emotional well-being; it’s causing physiological fallout. A recent Harvard Business Review article by former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy noted it’s “associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.” It also impacts the workplace, limiting task performance, creativity and executive functioning such as reasoning and decision making, according to Murthy.

It’s loneliness. And experts are asking company execs to step up, step in and make a difference.

Despite all our social media, Americans are feeling less social. Because the workplace is one of the few places where Americans spend most of their face-to-face time, company leaders are poised to encourage greater connectivity, create a sense of community and ease the debilitating effects of isolation.

I’m often asked to speak to businesses about implementing systems for greater productivity and unity, and one of the tools I share in my latest book, Entitlement Abolition, is “Business Retreats with a Purpose.” These events are a mix of fun and purposeful lessons on teamwork, abundance and empowerment. They can be implemented in three easy steps.

1. Give it a purpose. These retreats are about more than business strategy or goals. They’re about personal renewal, mutual connection and company culture. So, make it count. Determine the primary purpose, objectives and strategies for your retreat.

2. Schedule it. Set aside a day or two where you can blend adventure or activities with values-driven training. Make this a regular event that employees can look forward to, whether that’s monthly, semiannually or annually. 

3. Hold it here — or there. Decide on a venue that is conducive to the purpose of your retreat. If you’re aiming for personal renewal, then heading to a mountain cabin or reserving a park may be ideal. If you’re focused on business coaching, then a hotel with a relaxed setting may be best. And if the budget’s tight, by all means hold it at the office, but consider reconfiguring the space to make it feel different. 

With our staff, we have incorporated a variety of strategies for our business retreats with a purpose. Sometimes we’re at the office; sometimes we head to my cabin. Our areas of emphasis are based on best practices — principles we teach in our “Live Abundant” series, as well as those gleaned from thought leaders across the nation. Past topics have included having a positive focus and aiming for three wins a day, exploring how to develop “legacy banks” for our families and how to deal with crises and deadlines.

On one retreat, I conducted the conscious communicator exercise, one of our Live Abundant tools. It only takes about 45 minutes and it dramatically improves communication among employees, supervisors, business partners, companies, customers and even husbands and wives. Following the exercise, we received overwhelming feedback that it was a game-changer at work — and at home.

Every summer, we invite our employees and their families to join us at Lagoon. With plenty of time for everyone to enjoy amusement park rides, we also gather as a group for lunch under the pavilion. There, we share an uplifting message and engage in activities designed to foster our company’s culture of abundance and support.

Recently, one of our team members revealed that he had received a handsome offer from another company. He turned it down without a second thought because he wanted to have a more abundant life, even more than he wanted a bigger paycheck. I was blown away and, of course, have demonstrated appreciation for his loyalty and contributions to our firm.

Are retreats an investment on the part of the company? Yes. But do they bring returns? Absolutely. I’ve seen firsthand the impact of business retreats with a purpose. For years, I’ve witnessed that employees return to work with a fresh dedication to the organization’s big-picture goals and a revitalized commitment to their individual contributions.

And now, especially in light of our nation’s loneliness epidemic, I see yet another impetus for these retreats. By getting together, we as company leaders can increase our employees’ sense of togetherness. They will know they’re not alone, not just at work, but in life. And that can make a difference for everyone’s bottom line.

Doug Andrew is a best-selling author, radio talk show host and abundant living coach.