As a remote company, face-to-face time is a rare treat. Red Argyle is extremely remote, with nearly everyone living in a different city. For 2015, we created a goal that we would host two company retreats this year. Retreats would move around the country and be in one of our team members’ cities whenever possible.
I’ve been reading a lot of great articles and blog posts lately about how one’s life can be more fulfilling when spending money on experiences, not on stuff. We like to look at our company retreats the same way. Having experiences with our team creates social bonds which go far beyond the daily interactions that we have in the context of projects, and, by consequence, make project work more fun and teamwork that much more natural.
Our retreat planning process has evolved. Tom and I used to noodle through all the details of our get-together and present a very top-down approach. Last year, that changed. Each company retreat now has its own “Retreat Planning Committee,” which is responsible for researching and scheduling the major aspects of the retreats. This has invited more diverse opinions and ideas into our planning process and made for more fun and involvement by the team. We use a Hipchat room to communicate about and during the retreat to keep everyone on the same page, and we track details of the meeting planning in Jira, just like any other project.
While we do get some obligatory work stuff out of the way on these retreats–you know, the requisite quarterly company update, some flash project meetings, and other administrivia–the real focus for these events has always been to have fun as a team.
Highlights for me at our most recent retreat were killing some sweet duets at karaoke, meeting Tamara Vogel in person for the first time, and, of course, watching the Red Sox warm up and then go on to beat the Orioles in the bottom of the 9th. On the walk back to the subway, Ryan won an impromptu dance-off in front of Berkeley, plus we saw some great musicians at the station. And afterwards there *may* have been a game of Cards Against Humanity.
If you’re a remote company, I highly suggest investing in some face-to-face time with your team, even if it’s only a few times a year. While we can accomplish anything remotely, the added shine that you get for having spent time together at a company retreat is invaluable. If you have any great tips for making a company retreat successful, please drop a comment.
The cost of a karaoke room: $60
The cost of a few beverages to warm everyone up: $40
Being able to watch Mark and Tom sing Muse: Priceless