We just got back from our bi-annual company retreat at TeamGantt. It was a lot of fun, but we also got some serious work done. We actually produced a fully functional app that we now use internally and will eventually release to the public. The thing is, though, we didn't actually spend much time working with our face in a computer screen. Most of the time was spent on group activities, great meals and just getting to know each other a little better.We're not alone. As more companies are embracing remote work, the team retreat is making a comeback.
Company or team retreats used to be thought of as a reward or a perk to attract top notch talent, an expense that doesn't really have a ROI. But getting away with those you work with every day can have many benefits that can lead to breakthroughs, even if you don't have any remote team members.
This was only our third team retreat, so we will save the how to have a successful retreat until we have a few more under our belt. If you are in the midst of planning a retreat, and want more detail on the how, I suggest you read how Zapier, Automattic or Buffer do it. What we can share is why we will continue to do them, and the value we get from our retreats.
Everyone writes about productivity from the standpoint of personal work output. But what about team productivity?
If all individual members of your team are productive, does that mean the team itself is as productive as can be? While it certainly won't hurt things, unless they all work in a literal vacuum and don't need anything from anyone ever, then personal productivity does not directly translate to team productivity. There is a major aspect involved with making sure your team is operating like a well-oiled machine... communication.
How well your team works together is really dependant on how well they communicate. Even if you work in an office, you likely communicate with most of your team digitally, via email or chat most of the time.
Unfortunately text is a poor medium for human communication. Tone is completely lost, even with ample use of emoticons.
Retreats allow you to establish a rhythm and a tone of communicating with your coworkers in a relaxed and informal setting. These types of informal engagements are what help you understand the subtleties of how your teammates communicate. You carry this with you into your digital conversations. Misunderstandings and communication errors decrease.
You probably know the quote by now:
“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” - Albert Einstein
Throughout the course of the year, we acquire some problems that can linger and we just can't seem to crack them. One of the best ways to change your thinking is to change your location. Novel locations can lead to novel thinking and novel thinking can solve those problems you have.
When you get out of your office or your cubicle, you shed some of the cognitive baggage you have acquired in that place. It's not uncommon for great ideas and solutions to pop up in the bowling alley, or on a fishing trip with your colleagues.
I have worked at TeamGantt for just over a year now, and yet despite only meeting my coworkers a handful of times in person, I really feel closer to them than I did at companies where I'd worked twice as long. There are a lot of reasons for this, and many of them can be attributed to the 3 retreats we have had. But one of those 3 retreats was a family retreat, and I think that trip had a special impact on team bonding.
A family retreat is not for every company, but for a family-centric culture like TeamGantt's, meeting and spending time with your coworkers' significant others and families gives a dimension of depth to the relationships. The more your coworkers start to resemble friends, the more naturally good communication happens.
While the benefits of retreats are definitely more pronounced in a remote distributed company like TeamGantt, any team can reap the additional rewards of getting out of the office. Is doesnt have to be for a week, it can just be a weekend. The improved interpersonal relations it fosters will lead to a better team culture and fewer communication issues.