The start of a year pushes most of us into a self-reflective period about how we are living our lives. Some of us stop the booze, go on diets or have a big clean out, some of us plan travel for later in the year.
When it comes to business, it’s a time to think about how we can be doing things differently both in terms of our own progression, as well as the business culture and opportunities for driving revenue.
In a world in which we can Slack our boss, Skype the client and WeChat the supplier, our environment and culture can play a bigger role in success. Fully realising this is helping people to build businesses out of a love for travel, such as Alex Juke’s music PR business, or Rosie and Faris’ nomadic creative business.
For Gamee, a social gaming business based out of Prague, it’s not upped sticks to the tropics or become nomadic quite yet. However, after a successful trial in 2016, the business now takes its team to the beach for weeks each year, creating an environment in which they feel more creative. The Drum spoke to Gamee founder Bozena Rezab about the idea and how it’s impacting morale and business.
Where did the idea for an all-team trip come from?
A few years ago, I personally had a chance to spend some time on Bali enjoying the amazing energy of the island. It made me think about different scenarios, how to make it work for the whole team and if there would be any benefits from doing offsite work from a place like this. The best way to know is to go and give it a try. The first time we went for four weeks with the whole team was in 2016. It was an experiment that worked out well, so we did it again at the end of 2017. Our success gives us more freedom in the way we work. If working from a beach house creates an environment for success, that is a reason good enough!
What happens on the trips?
We stayed on Bali during the rainy season. We have noticed that most often the rain comes in the afternoon, so we kept the morning for surfing and met in the villa for lunch at 12pm. We worked 10–12 hours every day and felt very energetic.
We have created several wall posters with plans and to-dos that are cross-functional. We went through the priorities as a whole team and checked the items as we got them done. We got behind schedule by coming up with new ideas and improvements and adding them into the list. To be more productive, this could have been organised more tightly, but I believed that would stop the creativity, which was essentially the main goal of the trip.
In addition, we have defined several areas that needed exploration, thinking and new perspective and we did several workshops around them. We could have done better in preparations for the workshops, next time I would push more on this to get most of our time there.
Lastly, at the beginning of our stay, each of us has defined our own mission for the next four weeks, it was either personal or professional but something beyond the daily work: something to change, improve, start doing. Sharing the mission and having others witness that worked especially well and I was really proud so see people achieving what they set for themselves.
Why Bali? Why not somewhere in Europe?
Bali is a green paradise, full of sun and energy, with just enough of tourist infrastructure while still staying authentic. I had no doubts the team would love the idea. Each time we went during December and that is the time in central Europe when the nights are the longest and the temperature gets below zero degrees of Celsius. Traveling to Southeast Asia gave us escape from the daily routine and a boost of sun and daylight.
What about traveling as a team is important to you?
Sharing experience as a team pays-off, this has been proven many times before. For me, taking the team to Bali worked like a world-class team building program. During the first days, I have seen people naturally flow and sit close to those whom they needed to work more. No meeting schedules and full calendars. Actually, no calendars at all. Just a list of things we want to go get done or explore. Different people took the lead on different topics, got others to cooperate and help and just made it happen. Because people get to know each other more, they could also get things done much more easily. I was amazed.
What do you think the team gains from it? Do you see business benefits from doing this?
Increased collaboration and understanding among teams and team members. Also wellbeing and health. Sun, nature and sea are sources of unlimited energy, nothing is better to boost the immune system before winter. I could literally see people glow, physically and mentally just after four weeks of healthy Indonesian food, daily sport and tight sleep in the peace of the jungle. All this had an amazing impact on the work we did. Business-wise, it has a very positive impact on Gamee as employer brand. It is known in the tech community that we do these types of offsite work and it does attract attention.
How does technology allow you to do this as a team? Or what about the business means remotely working like this is doable?
Everything we work with is on cloud, accessible through internet. We only need laptops and WiFi. Our gamers are spread globally, we do not have any sales team that needs to meet clients. Product and game design, engineering and marketers, they can all work from any place with internet connection.
Do you think it would work for all businesses?
I think this can only work well if the team is below 30 people and also, the less people already have families, the better. It is definitely harder to leave a family or kids for four weeks and go travel and work with your colleagues. In our case, the majority of people in the team are below 30 years old and do not have their families yet. This is the stage of the company when things like this are possible. Otherwise, it should work for any type of business in which people can do work using their laptops.
How does it impact the culture and aspects such as hiring?
It does have a great impact on the culture, giving importance on creativity and innovative thinking. It also makes a link between our success and freedom to work in a way, and from a place that is inspiring.
Will this be something you do every year? What would you change?
If possible, we would love to keep doing something like this every year. It is and will be conditioned by meeting annual targets of the company, so it is both motivational and rewarding for the team. So next year’s adventure is really in our hands.