5 Tips for a Restorative Staff Retreat

While I know that The Firecracker Foundation is a workplace full of purpose, inspiration, and healing, I am also aware that the potential for staff burnout is high. It is work that is demanding, taxing, and often doesn’t have a satisfying and clear end. Burnout can negatively impact the physical and mental health of our entire staff team.

A diverse group of women pose for a photo together in front of wine bar. They are all smiling and one of them is holding a crying baby.
The Firecracker Foundation staff team from left to right. Erica Dziedzic, Carolyn Abide, Me, Baby Otis, Jasmine Doss, and Ayanna Spencer. And yes, we have a staff baby.

As the Executive Director and someone who preaches about #militantselfcare, I want to be intentional about creating a healthy work environment for the people doing the important work of offering healing to children who have experience sexual trauma and their families. One of the strategies I employ to fight burnout is through staff retreats. I have hosted 2 so far, thanks to a self-care grant from Just Beginnings Collaborative.

Hi. Hello, Funders. If you want to transform the way you fund the work of a team that experiences a lot of vicarious trauma, I would recommend self-care funds. You will lower turnover and increase productivity for your funded organizations. This will improve the success of any project you’re funding. Everybody wins.

Here are 5 things you definitely want to include in your next staff retreat:

Cook Together. Before we left, we created a shopping list of what we planned to eat during the retreat. We considered allergies and aversions (like my deep hatred of olives). We planned for low maintenance meals that were easy to make together. We cooked some beautiful food together and then sat down to share it. Meals felt luxurious and intimate.

A white woman in a jean jacket shucks corn into a trash can. She is looking down and focused on the work. She is standing in a kitchen and shucked corn is in a pile on the counter in front of her.
Erica, the newest member of our team, stepped right up during mealtimes.

Put Rest on the Agenda. We napped. Yep. You heard me. We took naps. We read books. We gazed out at the lake. You can’t call it a retreat if no one gets to rest because your agenda is too full. I literally put REST on the agenda so that we wouldn’t forget and then we even rested some more!

Share Affirmations. Per a suggestion from Ayanna, our Peer Support Specialist, we all wrote a notecard of positive affirmations for each member of our team – including our selves. Happy tears and kind words were shared. It felt good to read such encouraging sweetness from colleagues and it felt good to write them to myself.

As a side note, I keep these notes in my office just in case I need a rainy day pick me up.

Share Unofficial bios. I asked everyone to write an unofficial bio to share with the team. They were each asked to read them and participate in asking each other questions about their bios. It was a wonderful exercise in building community and learning more about the people serving right alongside us. H/T to Joan Garry for this idea.

A Meaningful Project. Make sure you have at least one meaningful project that you can work on together. We worked on our values, principles and agreements as inspired by Mia Mingus and the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective. It was dreamy. We talked about how important it is that every move we make is in service of healing for our community and ourselves.

Your retreat should be customized to match the team you work with. These were not the only things we did but these were the things we benefited from and loved the most.

Pssst…if you want to see what else we did, check out my stories on Instagram here.

Oh and here’s a bonus item.

A person is holding a baby who is reaching out to another person who is touching the baby's hand. They are silhouettes in the open doorway of a barn marketplace. There are various shelves around them.
Carolyn, Otis, and Sarah share a moment at The Fox Barn Marketplace & Winery.

Provide Childcare. We brought Sarah (the nanny) along with us so Carolyn’s baby, Otis, could attend and be cared for when we were doing things that required all of our focus. Not just for the winery. :)

A check in with my staff on the road trip home found them feeling relaxed, full, held, and encouraged. I could’nt have asked for a better outcome.

This funding source will end at the end of this year but I fully intend to keep this line item in the budget.

I hope you have the chance to provide big and small moments of restoration for those in the trenches serving alongside you.

A brown woman stands in a bathroom mirror shaped like a window and snaps a selfie. She is wearing reflective sunglasses and a blue dress with white polka dots.

In honor of all you do,

PS – Need more guidance? Check out this article by Joan Garry. She has some really great ideas!

Published by Tashmica Torok

Tashmica Torok is a survivor activist working to end child sexual abuse. As the founding Co-Director of The Firecracker Foundation, she incites riots of generosity and advocates for the healing of children and families. Tashmica is a published storyteller, kitchen witch, mother of three, and wife to a talented tile installer.

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