Office leasing is on the decline, and companies are redirecting budgets in a big way: To offsites and employee experience. Many companies have always spent money on fun events and ways to get the team to bond. Now that teams are dispersed or turning to hybrid office models, companies are using that spend to bring employees together in the form of offsites.
A multi-day event might seem pricey and a hit on productivity. But your team is not seeing each other regularly in an office, which is why offsites are replacing the in-office experience. An annual or quarterly company offsite can provide the opportunity for team members to pause the hustle of the day-to-day, foster creative brainstorms, and grow relationships in a more organic way that might not happen as easily in a remote-first environment. Here are 3 benefits to emphasizing offsites in the hybrid remote office world.
A well-run offsite will build meaningful relationships
Maintaining and building culture is even more critical now with dispersed teams. In a typical office environment, employees can interact with each other on a regular basis and plan drinks or lunch on their own (or perhaps bolstered by a company events committee). Informal interactions not only build relationships but are essential to developing empathy and understanding of others’ experiences. And while weekly lunches or happy hours might not be a feasible reality, periodic offsites can foster non-work interactions and more profound relationships — and that’s going to help your team output. An example of a Silicon Valley company that is investing in a big annual offsite: Thumbtack. Camp Thumbtack “will be filled with meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones,” says Jelena Djordjevic, their Head of People. Thumbtack is flying over 1000 employees across the country to meet up for purely social interaction because they cannot rely on the old “office glue” to build relationships organically anymore in a virtual-first world.
It mixes ideas among the ranks to foster creativity
A company’s culture and values alignment are set from the top. And leadership must appear accessible and visible to all employees – not just decision-makers. In a traditional office setting, individual contributors or early-career employees can more easily bump elbows with department heads or leaders within the organization. But this doesn’t necessarily translate to a remote setting. At a company offsite event, a team member’s seniority isn’t front and center in every conversation. A more senior employee and a first-year employee can join ranks for a surf lesson or at the dinner table. The CEO and a first-time manager might be paired up for a trust-building exercise. This laidback and organic facetime with the executive and management teams at an offsite should translate to stronger communication lines with higher-ups, greater confidence in strategy decisions, and higher employee satisfaction in the long run.
And redistributes budget to the new way that hybrid employees work
In the old world, most employees spent a majority of their working hours in the office. Now, they are spending more time at home than before and benefit less from the in-office experience. As quoted by Dominique Baillet, Head of Employee Experience at Coinbase, “The Google effect is going away–lavish office perks and benefits aren’t enough to keep top talent in their seats. They want flexibility! And hybrid work support.” Your team’s needs have changed over the past year. Be it childcare solutions, where they live, or how they’re thinking about work-life integration, employers shouldn’t expect to revert to the “same old” benefits and perks to keep employees happy and satisfied. Even Google, one of the companies that started the extravagant office trend, is shifting to more hybrid work, which means reinventing how they are spending their employee experience dollars. As to how we think about perks and benefits changes, the focus should be on value-adds that directly impact company culture, such as offsites.
Snapshot: OfficeTogether’s First Offsite
On a personal note, OfficeTogether has invested heavily in team offsites. Our first-ever event was in Playa Venao, Panama. We brought the East and West coast crews together, with many folks meeting for the first time. Everyone was at least partially vaccinated and was tested upon arrival in Panama, so it felt as safe as possible given the current climate. While the team had a ton of fun, we also managed to hit a few goals. We conducted a big brainstorm that generated our Q2 engineering roadmap. We were also able to deep dive into issues that came up organically throughout the week together. At one point, we were paddleboarding through the Panama mangroves, and my designer and I ended up coming up with a new team planning system that tackled some of our latest problems around communication. The conversation happened so naturally because we were sharing proximity to each other and it was much more fun to have while paddleboarding! Needless to say, the bonding that happened at the offsite has translated well into our day-to-day working experiences. Even as an early-stage team, prioritizing the offsite was incredibly beneficial to our success as a team.