Why This Company Sends All Its Remote Employees to Berlin Once a Year

The annual trip gives employees the opportunity to build rapport and engage with one another, beyond Slack and email.

learn more about Samar Birwadker

By Samar Birwadker

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Newsflash: Plummeting employee engagement levels cost way more than company vacations.

I'll be the first to admit: If you're looking to measure the ROI of team building through shared experience (especially one with a sizeable price tag), you won't find one. However, what you will find are changes that will improve your company culture and dramatically boost employee engagement levels.

Related: 5 Ways to Work Remotely Without Being Overlooked

In a world where remote is the new normal, employees of the same company can be spread around the globe. No matter where they call home, talented candidates can be a part of any company if they are the right culture fit. Likewise, companies searching for the best talent are no longer limited by location. While this has plenty of advantages, collaborating with people spread across multiple time zones also comes with its own unique set of challenges. After all, Slack messages, email chains and weekly stand-up meetings only go so far to help build relationships between people. A survey of more than 4,000 employees and 100 employers by Totaljobs found that employees are seven times more likely to be fully engaged if they have a best friend at work. Likewise, 31 percent of survey respondents said that solid workplace friendships help them feel stronger and more valued at work.

Good&Co was started five years ago with a tight-knit team of individuals committed to fostering happier, more productive workplaces. Today, we're a company of about 75 employees spread across San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, London, Ukraine and Germany with plans to continue adding great talent, regardless of location. However, as we began to expand across the globe, we reached the point where many of our employees had worked together for months (or even years), before ever meeting in person. While we've always made it a priority to promote camaraderie within our company, we quickly realized that we had to do something more.

Related: With These 4 Tips, Your Remote Team Can Participate in Your Hiring Decisions

This is why we invest in sending our entire team -- new hires included -- to Berlin every January for a week of team-building activities and sightseeing. This annual trip gives our employees the opportunity to build rapport and engage with each other one-to-one beyond Slack and email.

While this is a costly undertaking, here are just a few of the many intangible benefits we've experienced:

Face challenges head-on.

Our annual trip to Berlin serves as a "kick-off" for the upcoming year, giving every team the opportunity to share their goals and responsibilities while learning more about the challenges other teams are facing. Complete transparency with regards to the state of the business, possible areas of future conflict and explanations of collective goals are discussed with everyone from our leadership team to our interns, illustrating how each and every member of our team plays an integral part in realizing the greater vision for the company.

Related: 5 Ways to Instill a Company Culture Even When Your Workforce Is Virtual

Prioritize hugs over heart emojis.

Each team member we hire has a unique personality and skill set that they bring to our company, all of which are an essential part of reaching our collective business goals. Because our team includes a unique blend of creatives, devs, salespeople and psychometricians, the act of establishing connections beyond job titles and LinkedIn profile pictures becomes even more important. To encourage collaboration across teams, we host a fun creative session that enables each employee to work with people from various teams in order to achieve one common goal. In the end, this enables our people to build rapport they can draw on when future cross-team deadlines come calling.

Conversation replaces conflict.

Spending time in a comfortable environment allows people to relax and open up about the challenges they face on a daily basis, as well as the challenges they foresee coming down the pipeline. Addressing and assessing these possible issues in one place allows conversations to supplant conflicts and encourages open dialogue across teams.

Related: How a Business With No Office Has One of the Best Company Cultures in America

Make work personal.

Everyone's workload is different, and issues with projects are as different across a company as the employees that solve them. Jet lag, late nights and sightseeing expeditions brought our team closer than any all-hands meeting ever could. People broke off into mixed groups to check out museums, sample the local fare or take in the historical monuments around the city, reuniting in the evenings for team dinners. Learning more about an unfamiliar place with new friends creates memories that will last years beyond the trip, ultimately enabling our employees to create cross-departmental relationships with a backbone.

At the end of the day, no matter where an employee logs in, it's important to remind them that they are working for the same reason: They believe in what the company does, the company is invested in them and no one person can achieve success alone.

Related Video: Should You Keep Everyone in a Single Office or Hire Remote Employees?

Samar Birwadker

Founder and CEO of Good&Co

Samar Birwadker is co-founder and CEO of Good&Co Labs, Inc. Using a proprietary psychometric algorithm, Good&Co helps companies increase employee engagement, reduce turnover and make better hiring decisions, while empowering millions of employees to make smarter, more informed career decisions.

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