If you run a remote team, a constant challenge is to make sure that team members interact on a regular basis. When you work with people on a daily basis, things can become mundane – even predictable. Together though, we learn where each other’s strengths lie and we trust them to accomplish their tasks just like they trust us to complete ours.
Now that we’re 39 strong, one of the downsides of being a remote team is that physical interaction doesn’t happen often enough unless you make a dedicated effort to get the team together. A company-wide retreat is a great way to ensure this.
Sure, it’s a big event to plan and execute, but it’s also a lot of fun. This past week, we were afforded the opportunity to have our annual retreat in Goa. Our retreat proved that culture is something that cannot be bought and paid for, but be something unique to us and our success really does hinge on its influence.
Our people, our relationships, our culture is what makes Axelerant, Axelerant. For this reason, we round up the whole team and come together for a retreat once a year. If you’re part of a distributed team, I would encourage you to consider planning your own get together soon.
Why We do Retreats and How it Benefit Us
Big, all hands company retreats can be tough to coordinate and can cost quite a bit of money. So why even bother? For starters, some things are just better done in person.
For instance, it can be hard to have a free flowing conversation with a teammate over Google Hangouts about their kids or shoot the breeze about some random idea that you have had about improving a secondary process in the company, or sit down and talk about company values. All these things don’t happen in a remote team, unless you enable it and sometimes force it.
It still blows my mind that we can have someone join the team and work together, very effectively, for several months without meeting in person. With chatting all day via Slack, Hangouts, standups, etc., we do get to know each other very well. However, there’s something magical that happens when you meet in person.
In a retreat setting it’s even more powerful. While we have casual meals and do activities together, we can learn about what makes each other tick and what our true passions are. We turn acquaintances into lasting friendships.
How we Utilize our Time during Retreats
This year over 30 team members flew and drove in from around the world for five days of collaboration, fun, and really getting to know each other. The weather was great and the people were even better! When we arrived on Sunday, we were welcomed by lush greenery and relaxing beaches at La Calypso on Baga Beach.
During retreat, it’s not a vacation, although it’s as much fun as one. For a week, we work together, have meetings, workshops, teambuildings, and then we enjoy some awesome area activities. Retreats are amongst our most productive times of the year.
After an early breakfast on Monday, the whole team got together for a company Town Hall presented by the strategy team and vertical heads.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, a deeply insightful Agile workshop was conducted by Avienaash Shiralige to help us Axelerant completely adapt Agile methodology with the year.
In between tea and snacks on Thursday, several sessions were held on best practices for the systems we use at Axelerant like Curamine, The Resumator, TribeHR, and Zendesk.
Throughout the week we typically took all meals together and this helped us build the real-life relationships that carry through to Slack conversations and Google Hangouts during the rest of the year. Every evening there was a special event like Trivia Night and Axelerant Awards.
Multiple times were kept aside for tribe, squad, and vertical meetings followed by company photo sessions and portrait photographs (team members chose to wear Axelerant T-shirts from our merchandising partner) by our collateral team. Kudos to them for a wonderful job. :-)
Even after four days of fun and team-building, our team members still felt it was important to meet up on Friday morning, the last day of the retreat, to have conversations before bidding each other goodbye.
I had met a few members of the team face-to-face. There is so much to learn from seeing someone in person, reading their body language, watching their personality come through and really starting to form a binding relationship with them.
Many team members formed new bonds this weekend that will only grow as we continue to work together- can’t wait for the next retreat!
Do you have company retreats?
If so, what have you found are the key benefits? Also, where do you go?