At Meltano, we are all remote-first enthusiasts. We love the flexibility, not having to commute, and being able to have lunch at home, on the couch or wherever. But this environment doesn’t keep us from connecting. One of the key benefits of remote work is that we get to connect intentionally and strategically rather than running into someone on a bathroom trip. One means we use to bond and get face time is at our annual company on-site: Meltano Assemble.
What is “Assemble,” and Why Do We Do It?
Roughly every nine months, the whole team meets in a new location to meet face to face. (I call this our “onsite meeting”; since we have no offices, this is the one time we are on-site.) 🙂 The goal for these onsite meetings is to get some much-needed team face-to-face time. Everyone on the team assembles together for a week of collaboration, workshopping, fun, and bonding.
I might have revealed my hand to the team on this trip. I love food and experiencing a new culture through its cuisine. So much of what we did had tasty treats involved. You don’t need to make it like this for every offsite, but I will say it does prevent people from getting hangry on your watch.
With that preface, I’ll venture the guess that the favorite group activity was the cooking class 👩🍳. It checked all the boxes:
- We ate delicious food. 🍰 🥧 🫒 (Did I already mention how important this is?😛 )
- We had the chance to actively work on something together that wasn’t work-related. This is a rare and special thing.
- There were snacks while we cooked. (I swear this is a different point than the one above.)
- We learned a bit about the culture and history of Portugal. I’m a huge proponent of going somewhere to broaden your worldview and to educate yourself on new people and customs. This is especially critical for global remote teams.
- There is something magical about breaking bread with your team that deepens your level of empathy and understanding.
- Everything was cross-functional and non-hierarchical. I got to fry fish dumplings with someone on each team.
- There is some sort of universal language about food and cooking: you can speak and be together without words.
We did tons of wonderful things (city tour, strategic planning, sharing your local snack, visiting a castle…), but nothing compared to just being able to be together.
How do I prove value from an off-site?
How is going to Lisbon helping your company move the ball forward? There are many angles from which to approach this question, so I will lean into the one that comes up most often: How do I get maximum value from an offsite?
Tips for planning your very own team off-site
- Lead with your goals: The Art of Gathering address this point well. Build all gatherings out of a meaningful purpose. You should build backward from your desired outcomes. If your desire is to relax as a team, you might just plan to go to a small remote beach resort and have a lot of unstructured downtime.
- Make sure to have a schedule, but also activities that are loosely structured. If you don’t have an agenda, people will see this meeting as a vacation and tend to plan things on their own, making it harder to bond as a collective. That said, you need to build in breaks and off time for people to decompress and have casual moments to allow the unexpected to happen.
- Messaging and expectation setting: This ties back to the outcomes and ambiance you’re trying to create. From your first announcement about the event, you’re setting the tone on what people can expect and how they should behave. Every touchpoint is an opportunity to reestablish expectations and prep people. We try to let everyone know to save the date. At the same time, we can provide some baseline info on the event so people know we have got it under control, and they can sit back and relax until given their next touchpoint.
- Pick the right location and venue for your goals and audience. If you plan to have intense meetings all week, it might not make sense to go to some remote beach or New York City. Why pay a premium for incredible locations when you are only planning to be in meetings? Or, why go to a beach vacation spot and then deny everyone that luxury?
- Plan things that are cross-functional and non-hierarchical. We find this time is best spent when people get to bond, not only with people they work with every day but interact with teams they may know nothing about. It is especially critical for people to engage with folks at all different levels in the company. This creates new levels of empathy and awareness company-wide.
- Make the most of every opportunity. The week is short and expensive, so get every drop of value from it you can. Examples: hire a photographer to document the event so you have a roll and candid photos for media and marketing materials for the next year. You can also use a photographer to get team headshots. If you need to have a leadership offsite, tag it at the beginning or end of the event to save on flight costs and disruption. Reuse the content you create for the event—make things as evergreen as possible.
- Everything is optional, but attendance is highly encouraged. We treat everyone like adults and hope they choose to participate as much as they can.
- Build from your outliers: If you have one person who has extreme food allergies, use them your standard to which all vendors must adhere. If you have people who have never been on an airplane, create all your comms with that person in mind.
- These events can act as a great launching point or forcing function for things. We used this event as a chance to brush up on our comms guide, long-term goals, and our pitch deck. Without this deadline, we might have dragged these priorities out for much longer.
- Always follow the NYT rule! Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want on the cover of a major news source the next day. Not a very fun one to end on, but important nonetheless.
Finally, if this sounds like something you want to be a part of, we are hiring and headed to South America in January 2023! See our open roles.