By the time you read this, the Desana team will have gathered in a mystery location (Lieutenant Ellis Way; just off the M25, Junction 25) for our very first off-site.
If you’re not familiar with an off-site, explanations can be a little bit vague. So vague, in fact, that Wikipedia lists several possible definitions, from a type of art exhibition to a project by the US government to recover potentially dangerous radioactive sources which has a worryingly short entry.
But we shall neither be participating in site-specific art installations nor retrieving plutonium (unless the trip takes a real turn…).
Our off-site will involve a strategy session, the opportunity to learn some new skills (beekeeping is on the cards), and, of course, much eating, drinking, and chatting.
Many companies think about having off-sites but decide it isn’t worth the trouble and expense.
But for Desana this is crucial.
And, in case you are dithering about whether they are the right choice for you, here’s what motivated our decision.
1.Our off-site is an on-site
Ironically, since we are a remote-first team, our off-site is a rare occasion for everyone to get together. With team members scattered across the UK and Sweden, unless we plan for everyone to get together in one room, it’s never going to happen.
And we believe that it’s vital for everyone to get together in one room. It makes a lot of things like strategy and planning easier, and helps to strengthen the bonds between team members. Also, it’s really hard to organise a remote-first beekeeping lesson...
2.Pictures or it didn’t happen
As well as the big things like planning strategy and brainstorming new initiatives, getting small things done is also vital - and way more efficient when everyone is in the same place.
One small example of this for Desana are photos. We don’t have any photos of the whole team together - or even just a formal picture of our three founders. It’s something that takes five minutes to do in person but at a distance would take many hours of painstaking photoshopping.
3.We need to find out how tall everyone is
The last time everyone in Desana met in one place was December 2019. Since then our numbers have increased almost three-fold as many new faces have joined the team. And we do mean “new faces”: video calls mean that most of the team has only ever seen a small 2D image of each others’ faces and - if they are lucky - shoulders.
Meeting in person allows us to resolve the serious matter of how tall everyone is - is the “tall energy” some team members project an accurate reflection of their height in feet and inches?
On a more serious note, it allows those who have worked together for months to solidify connections made via the medium of emoji and Google Hangouts chat, while those who have recently joined the team can get a head start on finding common ground with their colleagues.
4.Lockdowns are lifting, meaning it’s possible
As restrictions lift (especially in the UK) and things return to something like “normal”, it has become possible for the whole team to gather in one place for the first time since the pandemic started.
We know the team is going to grow yet further in the coming months and wanted to have our first off-site before too many more people join so we can establish a clear tone for future events. In addition, it’s something that the team really wants, repeatedly appearing in staff survey responses.
At the same time we want to ensure we are doing this in as safe a way as possible. We are taking measures to reduce the risks of catching or spreading Covid: the Desana team will form a bubble during the event, with everyone asked to take twice-weekly tests before, during and after the event, as well as being asked to adopt all suitable precautions, particularly if traveling by public transport.
5.Lockdown is lifting, meaning it’s necessary
As the world takes its first wobbly steps into a post-lockdown reality, we have to be prepared for a “new normal” of hybrid working. More and more organisations will be figuring out what’s best for them and their employees when they can test it out in a real world environment. This is something we need to be ready for.
At the same time, we recently closed a funding round meaning that we’re moving into a new stage for Desana. The overlap of these two things means that it’s really important to take some time to step back from the ever-growing to-do list and the never ending email notifications to plan and prepare for the next chapter in our mission to change the way the world works.
N.B. If you are a Desana user, don’t worry! We’ll still be running support through our usual channels during the off-site. We may be retreating from the world but not from you.