Let's chat about offsites for a minute. Offsites are called by a variety of different names at companies... team week, hangout week, coworking week, onsite, offsite, summit, team/department/company gathering, but no matter what you call it, the overarching goal is the same. You want to get people together.
As layoffs continue to deeply affect the tech industry, and companies look at every dollar they spend more carefully, more and more companies are cancelling their offsites. This is a mistake, plain and simple. But I also get it!!! Think about the last offsite you were a part of (or even the last one that you planned).
- Did people have fun? Probably but what about these other aspects...
- Did you have a rubric or a clear way of measuring success? And I'm not talking about the "was it nice to see everyone in person" success (because it's almost always nice to see everyone in person), I'm talking the realer, deeper questions.
- Did the offsite result in any deliverables being produced?
- Was everyone clear on next steps, action items, and who was owning what?
- Did folks with additional logistical constraints to work out so they could travel feel like it was truly worth their time?
- Did there end up being some sort of people-related issue that also occurred and then had to be addressed effectively after the fact?
I wouldn't be surprised if your answers to those questions were yes, no, no, no, no, yes, in that order. And so when you couple all of that with budget constraints, of course it might feel like it makes the most sense to cancel your upcoming offsite.
But you shouldn't do it
Here's why -
Offsites connect teams. They connect individuals to each other. They connect individuals to company goals and milestones. And they connect teams to each other. They (should) energize people. They (should) give people time to process celebrations and grievances in order to move forward in a healthy way for themselves and for the business. Finally, offsites create that connective tissue that allow individuals to work together so much more effectively. Time after time and study after study has shown that teams that know each other better and communicate more effectively are more productive. And that teams where people have closer ties to one another have higher retention and lower turnover rates. And no, this doesn't mean that bringing everyone back to work in person is the solution. It means that these thoughtful, creative, effective touchpoints are critical, not just for your team now, but for where your team will be 3 months and 6 months from now.
If you're not paying for your team's offsite now, you'll just be paying for it in a different way through communication gaps, team dynamics, and productivity hits later. The cost of an offsite is just easier to identify and easier to remove from a spreadsheet than the more hidden costs of teams that aren't quite meeting their potential or don't quite have the motivation that they once did.
But make sure it's worth it
If you're going to spend the money, make sure it's worth it. Make sure you're giving yourself enough time to plan an effective offsite. This starts with thinking about all of those questions above, about what led to all those "no"s and ensure that, this time, you have goals and deliverables that are balanced with fun and truly great experiences.
Interested in the current state of offsites more broadly? Fill out this survey to provide information about your company's offsites and I'll reach out with summarized and anonymized results after they survey closes.