It’s no surprise that remote companies are growing in popularity. There are several perks to both the company and employee in working this way: low company overhead, hand-picking your team from anywhere in the world, no commuting, no one microwaving fish in the break room, etc. However, working remotely certainly isn’t perfect! One of the biggest issues with remote companies is creating and maintaining a sense of community and personal bond while working remotely. This issue is one of the most important reasons company retreats are important for remote companies. Whether these retreats are for the entire company or a select group, they allow a remote company to bring back that personal interaction that is missing on a daily basis.
You may say planning a retreat for a remote company is a waste of time. It takes a lot of work, a lot of money, it interrupts people’s personal lives, etc. But after 10 years of WebDevStudios (WDS) and experiencing the effect that retreats have on our company (ours is called WDS Camp), I will argue that it is completely worth it.
Working together IRL
While having a remote company allows WDS to have some of the top talents in the WordPress space, there is something to be said for being together in one location and working on things together in real life (IRL). WDS Camp allows our team to sit face-to-face and discuss the challenges we’ve been having, map out a new process, or just have an open dialogue discussion. Working together in person is much more engaging than online. You have the complete focus of the group and the ability to read body language; these type of things are lost in a virtual meeting.
This year at WDS Camp, we got together to work on WDS Blocks and React. We worked together on our project discovery process and revamped some areas that we felt could use improvement. We had open discussions about communication, working with clients, and marketing initiatives. There were breakaway groups that focused on Maintainn’s processes, branding, and our websites. So much information was shared and discussed in one short week!
Beyond the planned meetings and discussions, being together leads to impromptu conversations where people discover common interests and learn from one another. At a recent PMO retreat, a random question from Jodie turned into John holding a group tutorial on Mac tools and mailbox organization that I know I personally benefited from!
Bonding with coworkers
In WDS Slack, we have A LOT of personal interest rooms. Looking around WDS Camp is like experiencing these Slack rooms at once! Jeremy brought a number of board games for the team to enjoy. Greg and Cameron were running the cornhole tournament like champs. Ben led in-person growth sessions. Ashley and Justin were battling it out on Sonic vs. Tails, for some reason, everyone thought it would be a good idea to watch “IT” one night. I’m pretty sure even our most introverted team members were able to enjoy themselves!
Another form of bonding, that I find beneficial, is that at each retreat, we require that each team member perform a presentation. This year, we held ignite-style five-minute talks on anything. While the team may find these a bit stressful, they are invaluable to the entire team. Again, it’s about bonding and getting to know each other on a more intimate level. This type of personal bonding is conducive to a successful and productive work environment.
At our ignite talks, we learned that Jeffrey’s diet consists of basically nothing but hagelslag. As a child, Lauren hoped to be a singing paleontologist when she grew up. We also learned what life is like in Will’s house with a teenager and two toddlers.
“I love the ignite talks because I love learning more about the people I work with,” John told me. “I think the more we know about each other, the more we care about how they’re doing, what they’re learning, how happy they are. All of this leads to being an awesome team!” he exclaimed.
The vibe at WDS following our retreat is noticeably more upbeat and interactive. Our team already has a lot of appreciation for one another and the time we spend together helps shape that. Everyone goes home refreshed and ready to learn more.
Brad and Lisa gave a state of WebDev presentation, covering where we have come from and where we hope to be in the coming years. These presentations are great because they give everyone some insight into the big picture here at WDS. They can see what has worked as well as what hasn’t, what the hopes are for the future, what each department is working on and put everyone on the same page moving forward.
It’s work, but it’s fun!
What could possibly be better than finding a big house or resort in a beautiful location and plan a bunch of activities for our team to enjoy together!?
One of the most important parts of WDS Camp is the food! We opted to cook for breakfast and lunch and then had dinner catered by our very own Bearded Bros. Pizza Company one night and a local BBQ joint the other nights. We took turns cooking and had some amazing meals together.
We had a 10-Year Anniversary celebration with a cake and fun cocktails. We played board games, video games, and even held the first WDS Olympics, which I have to say, I was so impressed with everyone who participated. WDS team, you guys rocked it! Brad wore his ridiculous Halloween suit while presenting the “WebDevies” with a golden microphone. I feel like everyone worked together and it really brought out the best in the team. We had a really great week and while I’m very glad to have the planning behind me, I am already looking forward to the next one.
Also published on Medium.