As a remote company, we understand and value the importance of meeting each other in person, even when it is rare, especially during these pandemic times.
Retreats have been an essential part of Bunny Studio since 2017, when we had our first physical reunion in Bogotá, Colombia. Ever since we do them every year at a surprise location -mainly in Colombia, since part of our team lives here- and even when this year we couldn’t make it happen in the flesh, we wanted to connect with each other, align our goals and work on our future strategy virtually!
We organize our retreats to get a chance to reflect on what we’ve done and our goals for the future but also to:
– Favor human touch
– Improve our communications
– Build rapport among our team members
– Brainstorm for the future!
Find out how we made it happen and what we learned along the way.
The Planning Stage
Considering the current challenges, we wanted our 2021 retreat to be the perfect chance to connect and bond outside our usual working schedules. Having a distributed team of around 82 team members in over 8 time zones posed a challenge, making us test our flexibility and creativity. So we started planning it a month in advance.
Grouping our activities in timezone clusters were vital to the success of the task but also making them engaging. We reached out to our team asking them if they wanted to design and host a space based on their interests, hobbies, skills, etc. Many of our team members became volunteers and created activities around improv, storytelling, digital media, problem-solving, and other topics very close to our industry, but also to our personal interests.
We know we can’t do it all, so to make it perfect, we received help to create some spaces to a higher standard, and we partnered with Teambuilding to organize 13 virtual activities. Some of them were mandatory – specifically, the team building spaces for each functional area, the opening and closing event-, and some others were optional. We wanted to keep this week mostly optional for our team members to participate to acknowledge that not everyone is wanting or having the headspace in needing to have fun with their work colleagues and additionally we also didn’t want Zoom fatigue to happen.
To make our retreat even more engaging and cohesive we sent some swag to all our team members, just as we did on previous versions. We made sure every package was sent on time so they could have it before the actual event started. That is why we researched for a swag vendor, which we found an amazing one, YouInkIt. They are truly incredible, they have fantastic items to choose from and also ship the swag boxes all over the world. We decided on the items for the swag box, which consisted of a tumbler, a travel organizer bag for electronic cables, a cool t-shirt, and finally some stickers! We ensured to let the vendor know the date of the retreat so they would plan accordingly and the team members would receive their boxes on time.
Our 2021 retreat took place from July 26 to July 29 and we kicked it off with an opening ceremony led by Santiago Jaramillo, our CEO. We went through the agenda during the next 4 days and hosted a fun trivia game related to our company history and highlights.
Taking advantage of the 2020 Japan Summer Olympics, we decided to have our own version to get some competitiveness going on! Team members were organized in teams before actually starting our retreat and received daily team and individual prompts on a daily basis for a chance to earn points that added up to a final score at the end of the retreat.
Some of our exciting Olympic activities we had: Walking challenge (2 miles each day!) to keep everybody active; Guess The Baby to revisit some of our favorite childhood photos and see everyone else’s; a fun Bake Off where we tested our cooking skills, and a legendary Lip-sync Battle!
In the end, the winning members got a movie projector sent to their homes to watch their favorite movies wherever they prefer.
Our schedule was packed with educational workshops, and also fun, lighthearted activities for a good balance of growth, self-development and enjoyment. Some of them were led and created by our team members, putting in practice their expertise or sharing their interests! To name a few:
Our Senior Pro Associate, Amal led an improv workshop where we learned how to create theater magic at the moment by just using our creativity.
Juan Pablo (Customer experience associate) and Christina (Head of Customer Experience) taught us some photography tricks at their Photography 101 class.
Team members experienced the creation of an Audio Ad with a workshop designed by Angela (Senior Customer Operations Coordinator).
Maria Alejandra (Junior POPS Coordinator) taught us how to cook the traditional arepas. And many other entertaining things! We learned to draw, played Among Us and UNO, competed with a Mario Kart game, shared a Yoga class, learned to dance to Indian music thanks to Anjali, had some fun and laid-back time during our Cocktail party, and many other bonding activities!
The retreat was the perfect break from our day-to-day routines to talk more to our teammates, get to know them, share spontaneous Slack messages or simply jump into impromptu Zoom meetings to just catch up on things.
Lessons and Virtual Memories
This jam-packed week of events, encounters, and knowledge shares allowed us to see another side of us as co-workers, but also as human beings. The memories we made during this retreat may not have been physical but remain in our heads nonetheless, and are as effective as any face-to-face encounter, which we hope to have next year to make up for the lost time!
As our team at the end was thrilled with this experience as they said:
- “The opportunity to interact with other members in the company, the random selection of the groups was amazing”
- “I liked the possibility of connecting with others easily in different scenarios. I liked that different moods were created with much fewer resources and virtually no physical effort and totally supported by technology.”
- “I liked everything!! Getting to know peeps from other teams and squads I don’t often talk to, knowing about their cities, countries, culture, backgrounds. It was super fun <3”
We must admit, there were many things we could’ve done better, after all, creating a remote retreat has its challenges: making things engaging only through a screen is still hard, participation in some of the activities depended on the availability of team members aside from their working hours, time management can be improved by everybody (organization, leaders, and participants). But we learned through the process and took notes to make the next one even better.
We’re happy and satisfied with the results of this first remote retreat and we’re proud of all the members who made it possible thanks to their involvement, participation, and eagerness to connect.
And so our team also appreciated:
- “The possibility of connecting with others easily in different scenarios.”
- “ Having an opportunity to talk to almost everybody in the company.”
In the end, this retreat week gave us the boost of inspiration, closeness, and competitiveness to tackle the tasks and challenges of the next half of the year.