A few of the highlights from our recent in-person team retreat.
Since day one of its inception, Designlab has been a fully remote company, with team members hailing from around the world.
Our work days are spent asynchronously—with help from Zoom, Slack, and a variety of other remote collaboration tools.
Like many remote companies, our physical separation makes it all the more exciting when we get the chance to actually meet up in person. And, after 3 long years of being apart (thank you, pandemic), we finally gathered together in September.
The Location: Cascais, Portugal
Past retreats have taken place in:
Salt Lake City, Utah
Woodstock, New York
This time around, we chose Cascais, Portugal.
The beautiful Cascais harbor.
The location-planning squad scoured many locations to find a place that would offer a great spot for us to work and socialize.
A few key criteria for the location were:
A place where all team members could travel to the destination in 15 hours or less
Average travel costs were within a set budget
The accommodations provided space for all team members to stay and work, and were close to local activities to allow us to connect less formally
Cascais ticked all of the boxes for us, with its close proximity to the Lisbon airport, resort accommodations, and the beautiful surrounding scenery!
Logistics: The Planning Committee
Bringing 27 team members together for a week required an incredible amount of planning and coordination. We’re incredibly grateful to the 11 team members who took on this responsibility (in addition to their day-to-day workload!)
The retreat committee assisted with the planning and implementation of:
Coordinating with the venue
Transportation (including flights, shuttles, and rental cars)
Daily “extra curricular” activities that gave team members a chance to sightsee and spend some more unstructured time together
While we work and collaborate efficiently in our remote work environment, we wanted to make the most of our in-person time together. This meant finding a balance between workshops, co-working sessions, and team building activities.
For this retreat, we spent the mornings in sessions that focused on company objectives and key results (OKRs, brand updates, a conscious leadership workshop, and a collaborative session where we began the process of assessing and realigning our company values.
In addition to a few larger group sessions, afternoons also included time to break off into smaller teams and co-work together, followed by a span of time where team members could opt to participate in a fun activity (or simply relax and be on their own).
Optional Fun Time
Every afternoon, there were a selection of fun activities that we could choose to participate in, from shopping in Cascais Old Town to visiting the famous Boca do Inferno.
An evening walk to the famous Boca do Inferno
It was incredible to spend time with each other in 3D, and there were a lot of laughs, new inside jokes, and deep insights that came out of our time together.
Here are just a few of the comments shared by retreat attendees:
It was great to spend IRL time with our immediate teammates but also our colleagues that we may not meet with on a day to day basis. Having both structured and unstructured time to collaborate, hang out and learn more about each other was invaluable. I think it really enhanced our already-pretty-darn-good work culture and relationships. Can’t wait for the next one! - Matt Shaw, Head of Engineering
The best part about our retreat was realizing the strong bond we were able to build through our screens. It felt like we had met in person many times before and it was all thanks to the amazing communication we established across the board - Zeynep Ozkasim, CX Lead
We want to make the most out of our retreats, and ensure that our time together is meaningful and worthwhile.
So after the retreat ended and we were all back to our respective lives (at home, or traveling onwards as digital nomads), each team member was asked to share their candid thoughts and reflections through a survey.
This helped us to get a better feel about how each person experienced the retreat, and how various elements (like location, individual sessions, meals, and activities) might be improved for the next retreat.
The retrospective helps us to stay grounded and identify what truly went as well as we had hoped, where there’s room for improvement.
Until We Meet Again…
We ended our time together with a lot of laughter and overall hilarity during a series of pizza parties (including delicious gluten free options!), games, and overall just enjoying each other’s company.
The jury’s still out on when and where the next retreat will be, but until then, we continue our remote lifestyle with a deeper sense of community and friendships forged in our time together.