6 ways our remote team reconnected after 2.5 years apart

Reuniting in person for the June 2022 company retreat | Photo by Aha!

June 30, 2022

6 ways our remote team reconnected after 2.5 years apart

by Brian de Haaff

Measure success in hugs. Let me explain. Usually we frame company performance in terms of customers, revenue, and lovability. But 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. And I saw many. Embraces between old friends, "rookie" teammates, and even folks who had never met before. It was gratifying to witness. And also worth noting that we required people to be fully vaccinated and test negative for Covid-19 within 24 hours of travel to reconnect as safely as possible.

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.

Earlier this month, 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. Even more so with an increased focus on health and safety. But our determination outweighed the obstacles.

A meaningful percentage of our current team had never been to an onsite. I was thrilled to reintroduce this hallmark tradition to such a large group. But 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. Functional groups met about upcoming goals. And much of the week was dedicated to having fun together to make up for time lost. Big efforts — even amid uncertain or unusual times — deserve to be rewarded.

It is a privilege to have this deeply needed, immersive time to connect. And I imagine that folks at other companies are finding ways to do the same — especially remote teams borne out of the pandemic. So, I wanted to share 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! It was like a wave of Aha! people growing bigger and bigger each step of the way."

A group of Aha! teammates meeting for the first time at the airport | Photo by Bonnie Trei, Aha!

A group of Aha! teammates meeting for the first time at the airport | Photo by Bonnie Trei, Aha!

Bold adventures

Whitewater rafting, hiking, mountain jeep tours, ziplining — the Aha! team does not shy away from adventure. And these excursions are often the source of joyful connection. Marketer Jessica McFall shares: "I was doing all kinds of extra physical activity during onsite week, like hiking and even swinging a pickaxe. Surprisingly, the only place I am sore is my abs — from laughing."

Bold adventures at the June 2022 onsite

Aha! teammates braving the rapids and swinging through the trees | Photo by Aha!

Care for others

"How many engineers does it take to build a chicken coop?" jokes Yuko Takegoshi. At every on- or off-site, we volunteer with local nonprofits through Aha! Cares. We spent time in Beaver Creek gardening, sorting donated food, readying shelter spaces, and yes — building chicken coops.

Volunteering at the June 2022 onsite

Showing gusto for gardening and a newly constructed a chicken coop | Photo by Aha!

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."

Sharing laughs in a common space | Photo by Aha!

Sharing laughs in a common space | Photo by Aha!

Mixing and mingling

From book club meetups to randomized, cross-functional group dinners, we had plenty of opportunities to get to know one another. "My random group dinner was the best — getting to know different people on a deeper level with similar passions made me feel at home," says Finn Meyer on the Customer Success team. Marketer Suthamie Poologasingham adds, "I joined in on a lawn game with Dr. Chris Waters as my partner. I am not a sporty person, so I was a little nervous — but it was so fun. Where else can you play slam ball with the co-founder of your company?"

A spirited game on the hotel lawn | Photo by Aha!

A spirited game on the hotel lawn | Photo by Aha!

Words of gratitude

We have a long-running custom of sharing gratitude (“hatitude,” as we call it) to celebrate the great work people do. Hatitude happens daily in Slack but at onsites it is more ceremonious — complete with thematic hats donned by each recipient. "There is nothing quite like hatitude in person. Silly hats, heartfelt thanks, and genuine smiles make it one of my favorite things we do. You could truly feel the joy in the moment at this onsite," says Ashley Thompson.

Hatitude at the June 2022 onsite

Givers and receivers of hatitude — with attitude | Photo by Aha!

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 upticked enthusiasm for our next product launch. We strive to achieve results like this each time. So 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.

Our team is happy, remote, and hiring — join us.

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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