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How can we connect people when they don’t work in the same office?

5 min read


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Q. We have a partly remote team. What’s a creative way to bring all key leaders together a few times a year that will actually lead to productive conversation/strategizing?

1. Hold a quarterly retreat

My company, Webfor also has remote team members and we were struggling with this same question last year. We decided to do a quarterly retreat to bring everyone together to strategize and to tackle our three biggest limiting factors. During that meeting we brainstorm and assign responsible parties and deadlines. We always grab some food and end with drinks. It’s been both fun and productive. — Kevin Getch, Webfor

2. Rent a cabin for a few days

We run a remote team of 36. It is imperative to bring a bunch of our people together at least once a year. We will rent a cabin on the ocean or in the mountains and invite people to join us for strategy sessions, vision planning and learning. These are typically three-day events. The immersion is an important part. We cook for each other, clean for each other and share rooms, family style. — Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

3. Host a creative getaway

With the idea of working remote and distributed growing in popularity, it is important for companies to keep team members engaged and feeling loved. We do so by having events throughout the year, sometimes retreats in areas that are new to the employee. This fosters creativity, growth and a sense of pride within the team. — Zachary Burkes, June

4. Keep the retreat informal

The idea of the “company retreat” seems dead nowadays, but there doesn’t have to be anything formal about getting your team together and putting them up in a nice hotel/lodge/vacation home while you meet together. Have a strong agenda if you want to get things done. Having some fun earlier in the day will disarm people and make them more open to sharing. — Matt Doyle, Excel Builders

5. Make sure everyone feels connected

Open communication at all times is key. Scheduled meetings are also important. When all team members are on the same conference call, it cohesively brings together everything we’re working on. It builds confidence and provides a bigger picture so the whole team is on target, working towards the same goal, self-assured that their role is an integral part of the machine. — Mark Samuel, Fitmark

6. Hold a company summit

With team members across the country, we hold an annual summit. This event includes lectures and meetings, as well as group meals and entertainment, to bring employees together in both business and social settings. We focus on large-scale ideas in order to maximize the time together. This is a helpful team-building approach whether you hold yours annually or quarterly. — Chuck Cohn, Varsity Tutors

7. Hold digital-free meetings

At Nextiva, we have a rapidly growing team of remote channel managers who manage our channel partners. We bring them in at least once a quarter for strategizing sessions. Before their meeting starts, we require that each person put their cell phone and computer in another room. We find that this focus helps bring about some of our most innovative ideas. — Yaniv Masjedi, Nextiva

8. Meet at industry conferences

We find that setting up meetings around industry conferences is a powerful and creative way to get our team excited and motivated to bring in new ideas. Not only do we all get together, we are also exposed to new ideas, concepts, and can discuss what we’re learning and ways of growing the company based on new knowledge. And of course, we schedule time to go out, bond and have fun! — Marcela DeVivo, National Debt Relief

9. Segment everyone’s time

Have the remote workers come into the office the first day to get transactional business done. Then, for the next day or two, allow them to work off-site near the home office. Remote and headquartered leaders should have time to work together off-site to increase productivity. To end, bring the leaders back into the office and let them debrief and strategize before remote workers go home. — Mike Seiman, CPXi

10. Keep it casual and have an agenda

I like to make meetings like this semi-casual. Try to pick a quiet location, but that doesn’t mean it has to be in an office. If it is, you could make it seem a little more casual by providing snacks and drinks. Agendas get everyone prepared to cover the topics that are most important to the group. Plan time for socializing before or after the business discussion. — Kevin Henrikson, Outlook iOS & Android @ Microsoft

11. Have everyone work remotely for a month each year

At One Month, we pick a new location and bring the entire team together once a year for an entire month. The last two years, we brought the whole team to Berlin to work remotely for a month. Even with the cost of transportation and housing, we were able to keep costs low (we rented out our office for the month) and it made for a unique bonding experience. It’s even becoming a perk for recruiting. — Mattan Griffel, One Month