Offsites 101

At Emptor, offsites fall into the intersection of the Emptor Culture layer and Engagement pillar in our company’s wellness grid. As a remote company it’s incredibly important to find ways to get to know each other, foster our culture and give everybody some time to relax and have fun together.

Before starting, think about what you’d like your team to learn or develop from an offsite, what are your objectives? It could be bonding, specific content (like leadership coaching), announcing and kicking off company initiatives, getting everybody to unplug, etc. Once you settle on what you’d like your company to get out of an offsite it’ll be much easier to plan and develop a productive itinerary.

Ideas for offsites:
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  1. HackathonsGet the team to learn how the founders do it: break everybody into groups that don’t normally work together, give them a realistic problem the company faces and have them propose and implement solutions.
  2. Team buildingPick activities based on what you want your team to reflect upon, cross the lava is a great (often hilarious) metaphor for what happens when you all work together (or not), what happens when somebody is left behind and how problems can be solved if you get creative.Make sure to have a reflection at the end of the activities so participants can share what the activity meant to them and then wrap up with the importance of teamwork and collaboration (or whichever the activity learnings and objectives were).
  3. SpeakersInvite your company’s community in! Advisors, investors, consultants or professionals you respect and admire can be great sources of knowledge and wisdom. Mix it up and try to cater to initiatives and challenges your team is facing.  We had our investor (Hi Greg!) speak on how he views the future of the company, a peruvian startup CTO speak about her experience leading a tech firm, the speaker from a TED talk on remote working and a QA engineer who spoke on fostering a culture of software and product quality.
  4. Lego Serious Play
    This is an incredible exercise, there are plenty of resources and books online to learn how to best use this tool. Our head of HR dutifully studied several books (and hopes to become certified) on this facilitation methodology. The team tackles a problem they are facing at work and use legos as a proxy to metaphorically express concerns and solutions for the problem.

Stuff to bring
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Other advice:

  • plan obsessively… but expect travel hiccups
  • budget some work hours in the itinerary (unless your startup can afford to not work for several days!)
  • include a half day off for optional activities or rest
  • make sure to keep all team members involved and engaged through the activities
  • publish a handbook (include itinerary, speaker bios, travel tips, packing needs, etc)
  • take as many photos as possible, team photos, activities, etc

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