Atwix is a distributed company. But once a year we break all our rules… Well, almost all :). For the whole year Atwix heroes work hard and from anywhere they want, except during one summer weekend when we all take a break together at the annual offsite meeting. This is an informal event that brings all our teammates, no matter where they are located, together for a long weekend – to spend time together and communicate face-to-face. Last year we had a pilot offsite, and since then we are committed to doing it annually.

This year, we wanted to improve our experience, and came up with some basic principles for holding a successful offsite.

Location

Free to decide on location, we were considering different options – go to the previous location, go somewhere else in Ukraine, pick a European place, or simply gather everybody at our Ukrainian office location.

When you have many choices you have to go back to the reasons of holding an offsite – bringing a team together and providing a place for informal off-work communication. So the Ukranian office, no matter how tempting it was, was taken off the list almost instantly. While it is very easy to organize everything locally, it brings some extra inequality to the team, giving an opportunity for some to go home, instead of spending time together. Thus we came up with a simple rule – move out!

Another thing to consider – how to maintain great communication within the team? This is why we realized that we needed to somehow stay together, have a good infrastructure for team activities, and maintain reasonable level of comfort throughout the event.

Plan with your team

As your team grows bigger, you start facing various preferences, dietary restrictions and life experiences. While it is hard to meet everybody’s expectations, you still need to take your whole team into account. You can fall into the trap of following the way that majority of your team supports, but you don’t want to make somebody feel left out. This is why it is absolutely necessary to collect feedback from your team before and after the event. Ask questions, but try not to overwhelm your team, thus focus on what is really important. Be focused on the goal of your offsite event at all times, and, when making a decision, think whether it supports or contradicts your ultimate goal.

It is also very important to gather feedback right after the event – when the impressions are fresh. This will help you in preparing your next year event. We decided to go with a Start Stop Continue retrospective:
What should we start doing on the next offsite?
What should we stop doing on the next offsite?
What should we continue doing on the next offsite?

Incorporate team activities

Last year we realized that some of the best activities at an offsite are team sports. This is a great team building opportunity and a chance to set up new connections in-between usual working teams. We absolutely love team sports like volleyball and football. But the literal peak of this year offsite was summiting Hoverla – the highest mountain in Ukraine. Another cool idea was to go through rope obstacles. This was somehow challenging for some, and, at the same time, a great opportunity to support your teammates at hard stages.

Anyway, when planning your time at an offsite try to include as many team activities, sometimes even challenging, to give more opportunities for team building.

100% focus

It is very important to maintain a 100% focus at the event. No work, no deadlines, no back-at-home unfinished tasks. This is a once-in-a-year opportunity to leave all work behind and fully commit to communicating with your teammates. While it is sometimes tempting to check your inbox, it is very important to deliver the need to focus on spending time together.

These are our takeaways:

  • Move out.
  • Stay together.
  • Provide comfort.
  • Collect feedback – before and after the event.
  • More team activities
  • 100% focus

Company offsite is a great opportunity to strengthen the spirit of the company, deliver company values and become a better team!