27 September 2023

Together again — and loving every minute

Start the conversation

Reconnecting employees after pandemic-enforced separation can be challenging for any organisation. Brian de Haaff* relates how his team did it after more than two years apart, and the benefits that resulted.

Measure success in hugs: Let me explain. Usually we frame an organisation’s performance in terms of customers, revenue, and lovability.

However, I knew we needed a different approach earlier this month when our team met in person for the first time in two-and-a-half years.

During our week together, I watched for one thing — hugs. I saw many.

There were embraces between old friends, rookie teammates, and even folks who had never met before. It was gratifying to witness.

It is also worth noting that we required people to be fully vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19 within 24 hours of travel.

Company and connection go together. By strengthening bonds, you solidify your ability to achieve together.

Pre-pandemic, our fully-remote team got together in person at a different destination every six months.

These ‘onsites’ are an integral part of life at Aha! — offering valuable opportunities to discuss our goals and build relationships.

While our virtual offsites in 2020 and 2021 were certainly a success, they could not replicate the energy that comes from being together in person.

In June, we met for a week in Beaver Creek, Colorado, trading our home offices for the mountains, aspen groves, and rushing rivers.

It takes a great deal of effort to orchestrate these gatherings for more than 100 remote team members across eight countries, but our determination outweighed the obstacles.

A percentage of our current team had never been to an onsite. I was thrilled to reintroduce this hallmark tradition to such a large group.

It was equally special for the folks who have attended before — looking people in the eye again, hearing laughter in high fidelity, and sharing meals at the same table.

We nurture a lively team spirit from afar — but memories are fortified when we can forge them in person.

We discussed our vision, strategy, and roadmap for the next half-year. Functional groups met about upcoming goals.

Much of the week was dedicated to having fun together to make up for time lost. Big efforts amid uncertain or unusual times deserve to be rewarded.

It is a privilege to have this deeply-needed, immersive time to connect. I imagine that folks at other organisations are finding ways to do the same.

This is especially the case for remote teams borne out of the pandemic.

Here are some of the highlights from our onsite in hopes they will inspire you to make the most of your time together.

Warm welcomes:

Many of us met our first Aha! team members en-route to the destination, kicking off reunions in advance of our opening reception.

“I was sitting alone at the airport in my Aha! sweater when another Aha! teammate came up and said hello,” says Carolyn Padbury on our finance team.

“Then two more joined us. When we arrived in Denver, we met up with an even larger group.

Bold adventures:

White-water rafting, hiking, mountain jeep tours, ziplining — the Aha! team does not shy away from adventure.

“I was doing all kinds of extra physical activity during onsite week, like hiking and even swinging a pickaxe,” says marketer, Jessica McFall.

“Surprisingly, the only place I am sore is my abs — from laughing.”

Care for others:

At every on- or off-site, we volunteer with local non-profits through Aha! Cares.

We spent time in Beaver Creek gardening, sorting donated food, readying shelter spaces, even building chicken coops.

Team time:

A natural closeness emerges when working hard as a team each day, but simply enjoying each other’s company peels back another layer of friendship.

“The Customer Success Team Dinner was full of shenanigans,” says Tahlia Sutton.

“I witnessed some of the best negotiation skills I have ever seen during our gift exchange.”

From book club meet-ups to randomised, cross-functional group dinners, we had plenty of opportunities to get to know one another.

Marketer, Suthamie Poologasingham remembers joining in a lawn game with Chris Waters as her partner.

“I am not a sporty person, so I was a little nervous, but it was fun. Where else can you play slam ball with the co-founder of your company,” she says.

The onsite was a jolt of energy for the entire team — renewing our motivation for the next half of the year.

In the weeks since the onsite, this enlivened spirit has been palpable in our day-to-day — in lengthy, amicable message threads and up-ticked enthusiasm for our next product launch.

We send out a survey after every off- or onsite to understand what folks loved or want to see improved.

This lets us all reflect on the experience — and it always gets us looking forward to the next one.

*Brian de Haaff is the Chief Executive of cloud-based software company Aha! He can be contacted on Twitter @bdehaaff.

This article first appeared on the Aha! company website.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.