Technically, the Rochester Magazine team meets regularly. On any given afternoon, you’ll find us discussing magazine stories while grabbing a cookie from our conference table, tossing around marketing ideas while brewing a cup, brainstorming our next cover while leaning against our art director’s desk.
But formal meetings that require us to bring a notebook and write an agenda?
Not so much.
So when we scheduled a corporate retreat at Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Living Program (HLP), we weren’t sure what to expect.
I know what we didn’t expect: To watch Steve dice peppers for a stir-fry. To have our very own locker room attendant. To see Vicky hanging from the ceiling.
Yet, this is exactly what happened. Let’s start at the beginning.
8:10 a.m.: I come rushing into the high-ceilinged, 6th-floor lobby of Mayo Clinic’s HLP 10 minutes late. And I’m the first to arrive. The rest of the team—editor Steve, art director Lisa, marketing coordinator Vicky, and marketing director Tessa—have been sending rapid-fire texts for the last hour. Things like, “I’m stopping at the office for magazines first!” and “Where do you even park?” and “Whose idea was it to meet this early?” We don’t get out a lot.
8:20 a.m.: The gang’s all here. Shawna O’Reilly, HLP product manager, leads us to the buffet area, where a private breakfast is waiting. I will tell you this: It’s better than the Raisin Bran I would’ve had at home. There’s a poached egg sandwich with bruschetta and mozarella, pumpkin pancakes, apple compote. A wall-sized cooler of snacks and beverages. A collection of teas and coffee. The best part? Shawna tells us that we’re welcome to help ourselves to snacks throughout our retreat.
8:30 a.m.: We take our breakfast into the conference room that will be our home for the day. Shawna and Mike Casey, national key accounts manager, come in to tell us about the Healthy Living Program. Their corporate retreat packages are designed to help executives boost creativity and build teamwork, while teaching new skills and offering space to work. By this time, we’re ready to get creative ourselves, but first…
8:45 a.m.: We head to suspension training class. When we booked our retreat, Shawna gave us several classes from which to choose. We could’ve taken yoga, relaxation, or even balance classes. But we chose suspension training—mostly because Tessa and I hoped it meant we’d be swinging around the room like Pink on tour. Turns out, it’s not quite like that. Six bands, positioned above six yoga mats, hang from the ceiling in the suspension studio. Nolan, our fearless instructor, starts the class with familiar exercises… then adds suspension work so that our feet or arms are suspended above ground in the bands.
Now, we have what I’d call a close team. We spend a lot of time together. But we have never spent time together like this. There is sweating. There is swearing. There is holding our bodies in weird, mid-air positions. “I don’t think we should be doing this together,” says Vicky.
9:30 a.m.: Time to freshen up. Now, I don’t know what’s going down in Steve’s locker room, but Tessa, Vicky, Lisa and I decide that we want to skip the rest of the retreat and hang out in the women’s locker room for the rest of the day. We have everything we need—cushy towels, a hot tub, sample sizes of mouthwash, and anything else we’d need to forget that we just participated in an intense workout with our coworkers—including a locker attendant who vows to get us anything else we need. For the life of us, we can’t think of anything.
10 a.m.: We hunker down in our private conference room with the wall-sized white board and start the business at hand: Planning our 2016 editorial calendar.
12 p.m.: It’s time for lunch… which we’ll be making ourselves. Dietician Lisa Diercks and Executive Chef Jen Welper await us in the Participation Kitchen, which consists of several stations stocked with pots, pans, bowls, sinks, and stovetops. After a knife demonstration (turns out we’ve been cutting our food wrong our whole lives), we head to our stations with the recipes we’ve chosen. We chop. We mix. We sauté. And by 1 p.m., we sit together, eating chicken parmesan and vegetable stir-fry and pita pizzas. As we suspected, we’re damn good cooks.
2 p.m.: Back to the conference room for another two-hour stint. We start dragging at about 3, and make a trip to the buffet for coffee and snacks—berries, cheese, hummus. The treats are great, don’t get me wrong, but we find ourselves talking increasingly about cookies. With M&Ms in them.
4 p.m.: We’re done… but not before wandering up to the 7th floor to check out the famous living wall—the HLP’s vertical collection of 2,000 potted plants. It’s cool. In fact, we’ve changed our minds. We don’t want to go home, after all. We want to hang out here—with the living wall and an outdoor patio overlooking the city. But real life calls. Real life and M&M cookies.