What to expect from a company retreat when working remotely

When working remotely, you get used to communicate with your coworkers using audio, video, and text based chat. However, it’s always a good idea to see them in person once in a while. That’s why a lot of remote companies schedule a yearly meeting referred to as: the company retreat.

This year, we had an awesome company retreat in Rotterdam. The whole team at Automattic / VIP got together for a week.

In this post, I wanted to share what’s good about a company retreat and how we approach it at our company. Also, it’s a good opportunity for people still not sure if remote working is good for them, especially with the “no face to face” communication part.

Meeting everyone

This should be the first one, right? A company retreat is the best opportunity to meet your co-workers, either from the same team or from the whole company.

It can be overwhelming for new people to meet their new co-workers all at once. But it’s mind-blowing how everyone works together to make new joiners feel like home. People are friendly and will reach out to you whenever possible. They are more than happy to help you learn about the company and the people.

What I like the most about these meetups is they aren’t 100%-work related. People are more interested in knowing you, your hobbies and what you do in your free time! I don’t have a big experience working in an office environment, but I felt this mindset was more present in remote companies.

Knowing this, I was more likely to remember someone with his hobbies and interests rather than his position at the company. And this makes the relations more personal. We are humans after all.

It’s also a good opportunity to meet your team and discuss on future projects. At least in the upcoming 3/6 months.

Learning

The company retreat is a good opportunity to learn new things.

Each year, we prepare lot of workshops in engineering, support, marketing, sales and everything in between. People from the engineering teams can learn more about support. Support teams can learn more about sales. And vice-versa. It’s always good to learn something new.

We also have what we call Flash Talks. Those are 5 min talks where you can talk about your desired subject. This can be a personal subject, a funny talk or whatever. This year we had talks about football formulas, managing kickstarter projects and more.

The new thing this year was talks from people outside the company. We got talks from folks at GitHub and OAuth. We also had a talk from Sheena Iyengar (currently writing a recap of the talk and should be live soon)

Having fun

During the whole retreat, we had 3 rooms we used during the evenings:

  • The karaoke/jam room is where people can hang out to sing and play with their desired music instruments
  • The games room is where people can hangout to play board games and console games
  • The open bar is where people can hangout and discuss with each other

In addition to this, each team have their own time to do activities on their own. We usually go on boat rides, walking tours, etc. Each team have their own way of hanging out. And it’s totally ok to have this diversity instead of obliging everyone to do the same thing.

Everything is optional

You know what’s good about all of this? Everything is optional. There is at least 4 workshops and flash talks running at the same time, so you can chose which one to attend. Or maybe, skip them and do something else? It’s totally ok.


A company retreat is a good opportunity to meet, learn and have fun.

I liked the badge design and some posters from our company retreat, so I’m sharing them with you:


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