Team and Culture
March 13, 2024

Building Bonds and Boosting Skills: Another Epic Remote Retreat!

by Rachel Gimbert
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Remember last year's incredible remote retreat at Birch, and Utrecht before that? We set the bar high, but this year at the Hoxton in Berlin, we absolutely smashed it! As a remote-first company, these in-person gatherings are more than just getaways; they're the cornerstones of our vibrant company culture.

Sure, getting work done is important, but here at KOPE, we recognize the power of the "moments that matter". That's why this year’s retreat wasn't just about projects and deadlines, it was about building connections, fostering communication, and celebrating the incredible team of 33 passionate individuals we've become.

Spotlight on Strengths and Communication

The retreat kicked off with some fun, interactive team workshops, learning how to bridge communication gaps and collaborate seamlessly across departments – covering everything from distilling feedback into actionable and meaningful change, silent communication and elevator pitching.  

We followed this with a deep dive into "Spotlight Profiles" by Mindflick, led by Jenny Danson. These insights were fascinating (and a little scary in their accuracy!), helping us understand each other's strengths and communication styles even better on an individual, team and organization level.

Having this skill and strength mapping has allowed us to understand how to get the best out of each other as well as learning to see where the empty seats are at KOPE and who might need to fill them. We can’t wait to utilize this knowledge as we move forward in our push to grow and deliver over the next couple of years.

Beyond the Workday: Discovering Hidden Talents

Work wasn't the only focus of this trip. We explored Berlin with city walking tours, unleashed our creativity in a graffiti workshop, and showcased our hidden talents with a Pecha Kucha in a cinema – a real chance to share our passions outside the realm of work. From mastering the perfect Negroni to finding out the 9 (nice) things that made one of our Devs cry recently, these presentations were a true highlight, reminding us that there's so much more to each of us than our job titles.

Building an Inclusive Retreat for All Personalities

Making sure everyone feels welcome and included is paramount when planning a retreat for a diverse, remote team and the pressure is always on for the Ops team. This year's success hinged on creating a space that catered to different personalities and needs, and we always ensure to take on board the feedback from previous team events.  

We offered a variety of activities, from the creative graffiti workshop to the more introspective Pecha Kucha presentations, ensuring everyone had opportunities to participate and shine, regardless of their comfort level in large groups. Additionally, having plenty of downtime for casual socializing allowed for quieter connections to form – which is crucial in a team of introverts.

For accessibility, we ensured clear communication beforehand, with options for dietary restrictions, travel and activity modifications if required. The Hoxton itself provided the most comfortable and stylish environment, with various workspace arrangements to suit different team’s needs for workshops. By prioritizing inclusivity, we fostered a retreat environment where everyone felt valued and could contribute their unique perspective in a way that was comfortable for them.

A Culture of Support and Growth

As I reflect on the retreat, one thing is still crystal clear: our company culture is thriving. Witnessing the team's unwavering support, kindness, and genuine curiosity towards each other fills me with immense pride. Seeing this culture organically evolve and strengthen as we grow is truly special and not an easy feat. It’s something you tend to notice more when times are tough, how the team rally together to support each other, which can only happen if you allow these joyful moments that matter to exist in the first place.

Why Retreats Matter for Remote-First Teams

In a remote-first world, physical gatherings like these retreats hold immense power. They bridge the physical gap, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared experience that transcends video calls and teams messages.

These retreats allow us to build trust and rapport in a way that's simply not possible online. We get to know each other on a deeper level, understanding each other's body language, humor, and communication nuances. This translates to smoother collaboration, stronger support systems, and ultimately, a happier and more productive team back in the remote sphere.

So, while video calls and teams keep us connected day-to-day, these retreats are the glue that binds us together, reminding us that we're not just colleagues scattered across the globe, but a close-knit team working towards a shared vision. They're a vital investment in our company culture, ensuring that as continues to grow, our sense of community grows even stronger.

Here's to many more incredible moments together, both in-person and across the remote miles.