Many big companies plan retreats and offsites to bring far-flung teams together, but holding an event like this at a small company does not always make sense and requires some careful decision making. Just as you evaluate the cost-benefit equation with other investments you make in your team, it’s important to do so with company retreats. Here are some factors to consider:

How big is your team?

If you run a company with a very small number of employees, a retreat may not be necessary. At a small business with three or four employees, it’s likely that you all work together closely enough on a regular basis that concentrated alone time isn’t necessary.

Where retreats often make the most sense is at companies with 10 or more people that are scaling up. As a company grows, and perhaps adds remote team members, it is important for everyone to get to know each other. A retreat can be a great way to allow your team to do that in a relaxed setting.

Offsites can also be very helpful at companies that rely on a substantial number of remote employees. It’s easier than ever to build a remote relationship today because of the growth of inexpensive videoconferencing tools. However, there’s no substitute for meeting each other in person from time to time.

What result are you hoping for?

Many companies hold retreats to reward employees for their contributions, such as hitting an ambitious sales goal. Company retreats can be great for your business if you and your team need concentrated time away from the office to work on an initiative that requires focused thinking time, such as a new strategic plan. Often, such work can get pushed to the back burner so often it never gets done.

If your goal is more along the lines of building a great culture, consider whether there are other ways to achieve it that will require less of an investment. Taking half a day off to go bowling as a team may be more fun for everyone than driving for 90 minutes to get to a conference center to do team-building exercises.

Do your employees have demanding family responsibilities?  

At a company where there are many working parents, a company retreat that requires team members to be away overnight may be burdensome. Arranging for someone to watch the kids overnight may be costly. For those on your team who have commitments like coaching sports teams in their community, it can also cause logistical challenges.

If you suspect it may be hard for team members to get away, that doesn’t mean you have to table your idea for an offsite. Consider planning a full-day offsite during the normal workday. That way, they’ll arrive at the event with a clear mind.

What is your budget?

Holding an offsite can be costly, when you factor in the need to pay for employees’ travel, the meeting space, and lodgings if the event will last more than one day. If you’re having a very profitable year, this may not matter, but if money is tight, it may be more cost effective to schedule regular informal get-togethers, such as a long catered lunch once a month in your conference room.

What will customers think?

During the recession, many companies tabled retreats because of “optics.” Even if the retreat might inspire employees, companies feared customers might frown on a trip that might seem self-indulgent or excessive.

Although the economy has improved greatly since then, it’s still important to look at your retreat as your customers might. If you’ve just informed customers you have to raise prices to pass along added costs, how will it look if they call the company and find out you’re closed for four days for a retreat? If you suspect it might not sit well with customers, perhaps its best to hold off until the timing is better and opt for a more modest way to get your team together outside of your office.

Retreats can be a great way to build teamwork and get away from the everyday stressors of the business, but they’re not the only way.