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What it feels like to spend 24hrs a day with your team for 5 days in the middle of nowhere – Offsite office, first hand!

What it feels like to spend 24hrs a day with your team for 5 days in the middle of nowhere – Offsite office, first hand!

Adacta builds a work environment based on team culture, knowledge and multinational cooperation. As a company we are always open to new methods of spicing up (in a good way) our work and connecting people even more.

In the last few months, the Adacta Brno team has expanded, with 6 new colleagues now making it a team of 19 in total. Recently we decided to integrate the new guys with a offsite office event.


Their first off-site experience

As this was our first off-site office event for work, and as we decided to organise it with the team, it was anything but easy. The first challenge was to determine how many days we will spend together in the same house for 24hrs/day. The final decison was made to do it from Wednesday to Sunday, with 3 working days and evenings + weekend team building activites.

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Location and planning

Ok, we had a basic plan, so we then had to set the dates and find the right place to spend 120hrs together. Now imagine a group of 19 people searching for dates with a weekend included when they have time reserved for everything except work. We're still not sure how, but we did it, and all 19 people agreed on the dates. I guess the reason was the team spirit that the Brno team has. So we rolled up our sleeves and set up the search filters for the right property where we could spend our first off-site team building event. It had to be a cottage, for 19 people, minimum 3 rooms and 4 bathrooms, good internet connection, within an 80km radius of Brno, with a hot tub).

Finally, we found the perfect one - the Statek Habří cottage located in the Vysočina region of the Czech Republic. It’s a chalet-style house with a huge common area with tables, a bar and kitchen, terrace and a lot of outdoor facilities like table tennis, trampoline, hot tub, pool, etc.

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As we will be in the middle of nowhere, what will we eat?

Once the reservation was confirmed, we had around two months to go, so we started the detailed planning. This required all of us to be involved, with a group of a few really motivated guys driving it.

The biggest challenges were with food and work equipment. We had never done that much grocery shopping before (19 people for 5 days), or had we cooked for that amount of people. It was a little bit of a struggle, but we got through it in the end. We did this by minimizing the variety of food available (and still having vegetarians covered), ensuring food deliveries to the place for lunch, having barbecues, roasting meat on an open fire or cooking goulash in the evenings. It saved us a lot of time, especially during the stay and when we were shopping.

Apart from general organization and planning, we also planned many fun activities for indoors and outdoors, such as live music, PlayStation with VR, sports, hikes, team challenges, board games, etc., so nobody would get bored over the 5 days.

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The pain in the neck part of organizaton, a.k.a. 'internet connection'

To work off-site, you need a PC and internet. Simple isn’t it? It is, as long as you are not going to a village in the woods with a population of 12 citizens and all your employees have work laptops. The PC issue was easy and all the guys without work laptops took their personal ones and set up a VPN to connect to the office PC remotely. But this required an even faster internet connection.

A poor internet connection was a huge risk, which could not be neglected, so I took a trip to the place during one weekend to measure the real connection speed. The chalet had a stable 30Mb/s landline, which we secured with three mobile connections, where everyone gave us another 50Mb/s. Surprisingly, the landline was able to cover up to 15 people working smoothly with remote servers. For conference calls and other network-sensitive operations, we used mobile connections to minimize delays.

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Our plan was to have a hackathon, but...

Our original plan was to have a 2-day hackathon, but this was abandoned when we became late with sprints. Despite working on regular backlog tasks, it was a totally new experience there.

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But at the end everything was perfect!

All this helped with motivation (people loved it there), cooperation (you sat with people from different teams), and I would say efficiency as well (if you have an update/question/problem, you could just shout and everybody could hear you and help you).

Some of the people were thinking of taking extra monitors, docking stations, speakers and other appliances to replicate their office workplaces. However, I really don't recommend this. I took all this kind of stuff and barely used any of it. It will restrict you from floating around the place, which is one of the best things about a place like this. You will just have a feeling of being in the office, which is not the point. You should step out of your comfort zone Many people might worry that significantly less work would be done at events like this, and I was expecting similar, but it didn't happen. Despite efficiency perhaps being lower at an event like this, everybody worked longer than they would during a regular day in the office. The reason is rather simple. You don’t have to travel to work, you have breakfast and lunches together with your colleagues directly at your 'workplace', and your personal responsibilities are minimized as well. So, in the end, your working day is just a bit “longer“, and most of the people were also working for longer. Some of us also worked on Saturday to finish all the tasks. 
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Was it worth it?

Of course, this event cost some money, which could be considered as a downside, but it really wasn’t. In the end, it was around €130 per person for the whole stay, for accommodation, food - including food delivery, restaurants and drinks - including drinks which contain variants of a colourless volatile flammable liquid which is produced by the natural fermentation of sugars ;).

So yes, it was definitely worth it. We had a lot of fun, brought great memories back home and those new colleagues now feel like they have been with us for a long time.

I don’t regret any minute I spent on the preparations and loved every minute of being there with my colleagues. I cannot think of any downsides of this, apart from maybe one; You cannot do it too often, because people would love it and demand it every month!

Pros

  • The new environment helps with cooperation, motivation and maybe bring new ideas
  • It is team building where you still do a lot of work
  • Knowledge sharing, as you work closely with people from other teams
  • Onboarding of new colleagues can be done naturally 

Cons

  • Requires planning and a serious amount of preparation for the first event
  • Support required during the stay (food preparation, washing dishes, general maintenance), for which you have to invest ~15% of the time
  • You cannot do it very often :)

How did our colleagues like it?


“It's always a good idea to change the working environment from time to time - you know, just to escape from the daily routine . At our team-building, we were at this nice place (featuring a nice garden with a little lake and flowing water) and there were almost no external distractions, so the efficiency of the work was comparable with a standard experience – but the people were happier and more relaxed. One of the biggest pros that I see in this was that people were closer to each other, they could and they did get to know each other better, which in the end creates a more friendly environment in the building we are currently working in. So.. If I was asked whether I would recommend something like this, I would say: Yes, definitely - let's do it tomorrow! :)“

Tomáš Benčok – Software developer

Changing my daily office routine by working outside was a great experience for me. I was able to see how my colleagues think and work, which was really motivating. The atmosphere was relaxed, because we knew we'd be rewarded with great food later. I'm looking forward to the next one, only this time I'm bringing my comfy office chair though. ;)

Terézia Slanináková – Junior software developer

“Working out of the office was a refreshing experience, which I think had an overall positive impact on performance. I personally worked outside, which brought fresh air most of the time, except when the weather decided otherwise. Computers do not mix well with volatile weather conditions! However, the change of scene was a welcome diversion from the four office walls we are used to. The best part was no doubt everyone working together and cooperating more closely, not rushing off home after work, and getting to know each other better as a result. I'll be looking forward to the next one.“

Mário Bíroš – Junior software developer (newcomer)

Working outside the office with my team and colleagues was definitely a completely new experience for me. Everything was so natural and spontaneous. Even in the office, we are a great team but now everything was somehow elevated – the atmosphere was much more relaxed, like a holiday with friends. There was no rush to finish work in time and go home as soon as possible - all of us stayed voluntarily "after work" as well and enjoyed it to the max. In short, I would say: "Working all day long was fun, We spent time with nice people and good friends (not just colleagues) and I can’t wait to experience it again!

Alžběta Benešová – Application consultant

“In my opinion working away from the office was great. My productivity was better or at least the same as in the office. During work, we were mostly together outside and it was easier to ask or talk about issues we were working on. When everyone was working, it was motivating enough to work normally. Everyone was relaxed and more friendly.“

Šimon Pavlík – Junior software developer (newcomer)


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