The vitality of a team retreat

I obviously believe that remote work is amazing. I wouldn't trade it for any fancy title or shiny salary in the universe. Freedom is worth every single downside.

A big downside to remote work: it's more difficult to build friendships, rapport, real connected relationships from behind a computer screen. It's possible, but there's always something missing.

Enter the team retreat.

A team retreat is a very exciting notion to an employee. Two paid-for vacations a year in cities like Montreal and San Sebastien? Uhhh yeah, sign me up.

Of course it's not just vacation. We work during the retreat - HARD. It's passionate, deciding-the-future-of-the-company work. The kind of decisions and discussions that make sense to do in-person. It's draining in the best way, because we all love our WHY and care so much. We're putting our heart and soul into Tortuga, all together, all at the same time.

Teammates reviewing samples of new products. SPOILER ALERT.

Teammates reviewing samples of new products. SPOILER ALERT.

It's not just work, of course. We volunteer together, serving food to the homeless. We gorge on candy (so much candy) and cook breakfast together. We gripe about our respective flights to get to the retreat (mine was 27 hours and included stops in FOUR countries). We bond over planetarium shows, viewed from a huddle on a massive beanbag. We indulge in gluttonous meals. 

Did I mention the gluttony? Because we ate here and it was everything my dreams are made of.

Did I mention the gluttony? Because we ate here and it was everything my dreams are made of.

In short, we build that in-person rapport that is so difficult in a remote team. We have free time to explore the incredible city, and we choose to spend that free time together. That says a lot.

For a company like Tortuga, with an ethos built on passion and trust, a team retreat is vital. I didn't really get that until I did it.

It's vital for the employees' relationships with each other. Every interaction with Lauren feels more meaningful. I look up to Jenn even more than before. I get Angela in a way that I didn't. And my urge to shout accolades at Patrick has only increased, especially since I know it makes him slightly uncomfortable and that is hilarious to me.

And of course, it's vital for the relationship between leader and employee. That's a tough one, even in-person. An employee must read a million little cues to figure out how to best navigate the relationship. Where's the rapport line with this specific boss? What makes Jeremy mad, what makes Fred feel confident, what do you want me to tell you about and what is unhelpful minutia?

It's truly tough to answer those questions from a remote position. It takes intention and it takes time. It helped to see their smiles, see the passion in their faces as they'd talk about Tortuga, the future, how they see the process of hiring, how they see our roles as part of the bigger picture, and even things like how they feel about the cultural movement in which we participate.

Since day one, I've hoped that Tortuga would be a long-term piece of my life. My first team retreat made that hope feel like a reality.

It still feels too good to be true... but now it seems more real. Touching our new products (before they're products), listening to the inner workings of Patrick's brain, snuggling with the gals, reveling in Jeremy's delight in food, all of it.

Those real-life moments fuel the passion, further increase my adoration for what I do and why I do it, and make me feel like a crucial piece of the team.

I get why spending the money on a team retreat is worth it, not just to woo future employees. For me, for Tortuga, it's vital.

I'm not crying, you're crying

I'm not crying, you're crying


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.