As we already made public several times, Whitesmith is a company that embraces who decides to work remotely the same way as who prefers to come to the office. In our team, we have people spread across multiple countries, time zones and up to 7000 Km apart.
Nevertheless, two weeks ago we pulled in all team and spent the entire week working together with no direct contact with the outside world (wat?). In this post, we are gonna tell you why we did this and how it went.
Before you start wondering about such an extreme measure, I can assure you it was all in good faith and with a good purpose. In the end, everyone seemed to have enjoyed this ordeal and think of it as a very fruitful experience.
Celebrate good times… Come on!
Last month we celebrated the company's fourth anniversary. Yep, we have been around for almost a handful of years and we’re still alive and kicking (harder than ever). This, of course, deserves some celebration!
Since many of us are remote (some don't even live in the same continent!) it was unanimous that to celebrate properly we needed to get all of us together somewhere. It is important to have these gatherings to foster interpersonal relationships - one of the hardest things to do in a remote team.
Plus, knowing your teammates outside of the work environment generally helps to strengthen connections and unite the group, of course, you have to exclude football from this equation, for that matter there’s no foreseeable solution.
Back into the woods
We decided that on having a full week gathering, with a simple schedule: work & fun (the weekend was even simpler: party!). We needed to be as far away from the office environment as we could in order for this to encourage bonding. Of course, we also needed a good and stable Internet connection!
The result? We ended in the beautiful mountains with almost no cell phone coverage and no other buildings around. A circa 90 minutes trip from our headquarters at Coimbra. After pulling several meters of Ethernet cables around from the houses we managed to get Wi-Fi over for everyone in the new awesome office-in-the-woods.
Where's this place? Well, to be exact it is the same village of our previous retreat, however, this time we stayed longer and came in to work. The "Loural village", as we saw on our previous tour, had all the characteristics we were looking for and if the first time was great why wouldn’t the second?
Living the experience
The organising team did a terrific job: figuring out how many cars were needed to get everyone there, how many trips to town for restocking supplies, planning each meal, etc. There was only one common complaint… the beer was not enough! (Is it ever enough?...)
For Monday and Tuesday we had our normal work days - everyone worked on their products / projects and usual, but surrounded by the whole team and by the relaxing sounds of wood burning in the fireplace (or the sound of the river for those that didn't care about the cold and could stand outside).
From Wednesday to Friday our CEO put ourselves to the challenge: anyone would either pitch a novel product or join someone else's group. We dedicated these days exclusively for this Hackathon, although some of us occasionally had to take a quick break to assist on other projects (we don’t let our customers down!).
These get-arounds are great to learn and do something new, so throughout the week, everyone had the chance to schedule a talk or organize an activity. We had a group doing very early morning runs, whilst other did late morning runs. We had yoga classes, meditation sessions, walks in the woods for photo shooting the landscape, etc. We quickly assembled a board for everyone to see and add or join activities.
Our nights, as well as the weekend, were mostly dedicated to partying. We've had some card playing nights, such as poker and our newly favourite: Exploding Kittens!. We also got to experience a fierce battle of chess that got some of us thrilled until 3am.
Thursday night was filled with the fantastic tunes of Meet Your Heights, our beloved band who played a set of awesome covers, that made the original artists look like amateurs and left the crowd screaming for more at the end of the show.
Karaoke is, of course, a must in this kind of events and we've hosted ours at Friday after each group's presentations of their products. We’ve created a total of 5 products, 3 of them were released to the world on that day, and the other 2 during the following week. We'll let you know of each of these products in future blog posts, or, if you can't wait to find out, check out our Twitter and Github)
What we brought home
At the end of this experience, the general sentiment was of accomplishment.
Not only were we able to know each other better whilst having fun, we also assured that our duties were fulfilled during this time.
The team managed to deliver some cool ideas or enhance previous ones and group up with teammates that didn't have yet the chance to work with on the same project.
Of course, this didn't end up here, we are already at work thinking about the next events, that will even more awesome because we know these are important moments that make us grow as a team.
Meanwhile, stay tuned because the posts about our hackathon projects will land in the next few days/weeks.