The Office Retreat in Belgium was a blast!
This trip to Belgium was a special one. We booked it in 2019 and had to cancel it in 2020 because of this COVID-19 thing, which you perhaps remember fucked us all up. Working more than 12 months as a remote-only team in the pandemic-driven home office is a tough challenge for our family-like company culture.
As the incidences in Germany and Belgium were low and most of us are already vaccinated twice, we decided to catch up on that trip now. It was a fantastic chance for all the new people at überdosis to get to know each other better in a relaxed atmosphere and talk about our collaboration, our needs and wishes, and our goals as a company.
Bienvenue en Belgique
We decided to drive by car because of the lower carbon footprint compared to flying and the unpredictable corona restrictions for tourism in Europe. We arrived on Friday afternoon at our rented chalet in the southeast of Belgium.
Saturday was an entertaining one. We played real life Mario Kart with electric go-karts, which is pure fun. On Sunday, we relaxed at the house, enjoyed the sunny day in the pool, cooked together, and relaxed around the campfire in the evening. It felt like reuniting with good old friends.
We discussed and decided a lot of things in the next four days full of workshops.
First things first, the rules:
- No distractions, smartphones, and no bottles on the table
- Allow silence to reflect
- Do not interrupt
- No monologues, balanced speaking time for everyone
- Hands up when you want to say something
- Take ideas and carry them forward
- Create concrete tasks
- Develop methods to monitor if we are executing the tasks as planned
- Write protocols for each workshop
Yes, we know and appreciate the benefits of remote work, but there are some things that we can improve. We have tried to manage the challenges of remote work with empathy and good sense, but so far there are no processes and structures that everyone in the team can follow and that can be checked and improved.
To make remote work humane with our growing team, we want to ensure that there are no technical issues, that asynchronous communication is reinforced and lived, and that everyone is integrated into our daily interactions through various scheduled meeting formats.
We want to continue our social commitment in the future. In recent times, we have collected many ideas on how to help people but have not executed them consistently. Our previous plans were too big or fuzzy or not prepared well enough.
We want our social commitment to be relevant and consistently executed.
We attach high priority to sustainability and have already made continuous improvements in the last few years. We want to continue to do this consistently and document it in an understandable way for everyone in the future.
We know the conceptual, design, and technical aspects that turn a website or web application into an inclusive one. Still, we don't yet have a process to apply this knowledge in a reproducible and measurable way.
We will create checklists to make our operations measurable and repeatable. We will adapt our sales process to get customers more excited about accessible products, and we will lead by example and optimize our website to do so.
Permanent education is an unbelievably important topic for the whole team. We have a 1,000 € training budget per person and year, and we create free work time for everyone to do that. But not every person takes advantage of this benefit yet.
We will improve our monitoring of whether the team uses the education budget. If not, we will motivate the person to take advantage of it. We also want everyone to share their experiences from online training or conference visits with the team.
We already try to keep our meetings short, but there are moments when we stray from the topic or realize that maybe it wasn't worth it.
In the future, we will pay more attention to this by considering in advance who is really needed for the meeting and whether the questions can also be clarified via asynchronous communication. Before the meeting, we will create a meeting agenda so that all participants can prepare for it, making the meeting shorter and more productive.
Our weekly team meetings, the design team meeting, and the development team meeting should be better structured and properly prepared to use the time more efficiently and educationally.
For this reason, there will be a team of two people per Jour fixe who take care of this. They will create and control the meeting agenda, establish various recurring and varied topic formats, and gather content for them.
Some of us prefer the home office, and others feel more comfortable in the office. Many would also like to come to the office more frequently to have social and personal interaction with colleagues, but no one knows when somebody is there. This intransparent office presence is one reason why most of us prefer to stay at home to avoid going to the office for nothing.
We have created a non-binding office presence calendar where we list when we are in the office. This way, everyone can decide to go to the office, to meet each other and not be there alone.
It was fun, it was exciting, it was familiar, it was emotional, it was fantastic! Seeing this team grow together in deep respect, supporting and encouraging each other is something that no money can buy.
After more than a year of COVID-19 lockdowns and home office and a week full of joy and human intimacy, it feels a bit weird to be home alone again. The silence, the loneliness, the everyday life are back. Let's try to brighten up the time until the next trip with the beautiful memories of this one.
We are excited to go on the next trip and have a lot of work to do before putting the things we talked about into practice.