As we made our way back from Braunschweig at the end of our very first Julia Reis Consulting offsite last Saturday, we reflected as a team upon the importance of these events in remote teams and on why ours was as successful as we felt it was.
During three days of working and living side by side, we got to know each other on a deeper level. Remote teams like ours in fact often do not have the opportunity to do so during their normal routines. While as a team we structure online chats and team calls to support personal and open exchanges, in-person interactions are difficult to replace. They can help you form a sense of camaraderie and enhance our productivity in the long and in the short term.
Regular offsites are a great way to deal with this!
During ours we decided to focus not only on strategy and learning and development, but mainly on having time to get to know each other on a more personal level while walking, eating or sightseeing together. How do you strike the balance between the two?
Our team began very simply by creating a brainstorming virtual whiteboard where we shared ideas for activities and goals for the offsite. In this board we not only reflected and posted ideas for strategic activities, but also ideas for social activities that could get the ball rolling to help us get to know each other a little better. We specifically decided to think of activities that would benefit from being carried out in presence.
After the brainstorming, we selected four key goals for the offsite. We did not want to overload ourselves with too many goals and objectives to ensure an enjoyable experience for all of us. In accordance with these priorities, we created a schedule that could allow us to work productively and without too much pressure.
We wanted to take advantage of the time together to work on tasks that were sometimes neglected in our day to day, and that could help us think of our work at a more long-term strategic level. For this reason we decided to have strategy sessions (for example on our mission), work on our company’s current quarterly OKRs and focus on improving our knowledge of German labour law and online marketing knowledge. The progress we made in these areas left us feeling very energised and aligned within our team.
Each team and organisation is different. Make sure to match your location and offsite plan to your specific culture: Are you a team of foodies? Then treat the team with a fancy restaurant visit or cook together. Are you nature lovers? Then you might prefer a “cabin in the woods” to a nice city apartment.
In most jobs, you rarely spend virtually the whole day with your colleagues. Be aware that some of your team members might have introverted personalities. Especially for them, it is crucial to block some slots in which everyone can decide what they do: be it having some “me time” walking or in their room, having a 1:1 chat with a colleague or visit a sight in a smaller group. You might also consider making some agenda points optional if your schedule is particularly packed. If your budget allows for it, letting your team members sleep in individual rooms can also help them to stay motivated.
As part of our offsite, we prepared a personal “5 picture” presentation in which we each shared 5 pictures showing persons / memories / places or objects who or which shaped us in some way. This, along with our mealtime and hiking conversations allowed us to learn more about each other’s experiences, aspirations and characteristics.
At the very beginning of our offsite, we conducted a check-in round to share our individual hopes, concerns and questions. Whether it was having enough personal time, or feeling intimidated by being invited to expensive restaurants, sharing our worries allowed us to be open, and helped us be more aware and mindful of each other’s personal boundaries.
On our last night, we took the time to sit on our apartment sofa, and reflect upon our offsite. We began by sharing what went well, and we quickly ran out of space on our Miro board! We realised that we naturally felt like a well-established team, and that our communication throughout the offsite had been easy and enlightening. We also discussed tricky moments that we experienced, and derived some key learnings to take away and implement in a future offsite.
You now want to start planning your next offsite?
We wish you a great time with your team!