This year’s summer office looked very different (castles are so 2018). Based on our learnings from the previous venture, we changed the concept and pivoted our approach significantly.
Last year, we rented a castle in Bordeaux for two weeks. Colleagues came and went as they pleased. Besides a strategy day and a team day, there was no fixed agenda – it was business as usual. The only real difference was that we were in an enjoyable remote setting (living that pseudo-medieval life!). And we were able to easily connect with our rarely-seen colleagues.
This was definitely a nice experience. But the most-common feedback afterward was that we missed out on an opportunity to actually work together as one team and benefit from each other’s expertise.
This year, that changed. We made the experience shorter, reducing it from two weeks to one, ensuring the whole team could be there from start to finish (yes, including the New York BOIs) as this gave us additional collaboration and connection opportunities.
We also decided not to do client work this time (#sorryagain). Instead, we ran 3-day sprints in small, cross-team groups on internal content or projects. The topics ranged from improving the wellbeing of our team and up-leveling our innovation strategy to validating a potential new offering.
Along with this clear set of sprints, we wanted to give our hard-working BOIs an explicit opportunity to breathe and recharge. Many colleagues translated that into doing sports daily: surfing, obviously (a few of them went at 5.30 am in the morning!), as well as yoga, skateboarding, volleyball, and running. And games were a thing. I personally didn’t realize we had so many game-geeks in the company, but it was amazing to see people slamming cards onto the table at breakneck speed. Though, I’m not sure games like Saboteur – which involves uncovering secret saboteurs within the group – were ideal for colleague relations. On the weekend, people went city tripping to Biaritz, booked on-site massages (glamping has its perks), read books, and spent time at the beach.
Finally, we went from an isolated castle with a pool and rooftop terrace to living life outdoors 24/7 at a busy campsite next to a beautiful surf beach. That’s quite a difference, too. Some people assumed we switched the setting for budget reasons, but the price per person per day was almost the same. No, money had nothing to do with the change – our goal was to switch up the environment completely in order to deliberately create new experiences.