Eat, play, love company retreat

Aug 24, 2023
Eat, play, love company retreat

Find Your Superpower newsletter 024

Read time: 5 minutes

Topics covered: teamwork, employee engagement, company culture, annual retreat


I’ve been very busy lately—not only for work, which definitely keeps me busy, but also with the planning and logistics of my company’s annual retreat.

Last year this time, I flew 24 of us to Langkawi, Malaysia for a 3D2N annual retreat, together with an executive coach who taught us about our CliftonStrengths and how we can work together better in teams.

As the CEO, I was given access to my team’s Top 5 CliftonStrengths. There are 34 of them in total and they cluster in four domains:

  • Executing Domain

  • Influencing Domain

  • Relationship Building Domain

  • Strategic Thinking Domain

From the data collected, most of my team’s CliftonStrengths clustered strongly for traits in the relationship building domain, which indexes highly for teamwork, collaboration and partnerships.

I wasn’t surprised at all by the data. While not everyone I recruit works out, I find increasingly that those who fit into the culture of the company index highly in this domain. It was heartening to see that the data aligned with my anecdotal observations.


Why build relationships with our colleagues?

If you read my newsletter regularly you would be aware that I gave up my company’s office lease this month, and that we are going remote for the foreseeable future.

I would like to issue a disclaimer here that I think more thought needs to go into making remote work more productive for companies for it to be adopted widely. Why?

Many, if not most, companies (that are able to go virtual) went fully virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic. All of them have at least tried remote work for a sustained period of time. They’ve measured its success and they have sufficient longitudinal data on it. These return-to-office (RTO) mandates are not random, non-data-driven decisions.

Logically speaking, if work-from-home (WFH) or work-from-anywhere (WFA) were ideal for creating high-performance teams, no company big or small would want to continue investing in expensive office space and mandate a RTO policy. What they all know is that remote work is not a panacea and that it comes with its own set of challenges that also affect the individual directly.

Human beings crave physical contact and interaction—everything we lost in the COVID-19 pandemic. The office is not just a place to attend meetings; it is also a place where we socialize and form human connections.

Among many things, feelings of isolation can arise when colleagues do not ask for help virtually, and likewise, when they do not offer mentorship to their remote colleagues. They may end up working in silos, which means companies don’t build high-performance teams and synergies from teamwork.


Eat, play, love in Bali

This means that in the absence of an office, we need to intentionally and purposefully create opportunities for us to connect and bond with our teammates, such as a company retreat.

While this is not the best global economy to splurge in, I have taken some of the future savings from having an office and consolidated it into an fully-sponsored 3D2N company annual retreat.

This year, we are all going to Bali with the theme of Eat, Play, Love. If you’ve read the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and watched the movie with Julia Roberts as the protagonist, you’d be familiar that the setting of the story is Bali.

In 2022, I wanted us to learn how to work together as a remote team. This year, I feel a strong calling for us to center ourselves, to find peace and harmony… to calm down.

Therefore, we will be practicing yoga and meditation with a yoga coach, and finding ways to connect more deeply with our remote colleagues through games and meals.

But that isn’t all. Similar to last year, we will also engage in sports and sightseeing, ranging from white-water rafting and visits to Balinese temples. Everyone is excited for it as the activities have been scheduled and flights and accommodation have been booked.


At the heart of it all

I think at the heart of all this we have to ask ourselves, beyond the company meals and annual retreats, why are we doing this?

Why do we form teams, and why do we form companies? Is it for the money, to pay the bills, to extract profit? 

And why do we bother to build relationships with our colleagues beyond the work itself, after the work is completed and submitted?

I think it is for this reason alone: a shared purpose.

No matter what I can offer them—fully remote work, annual company retreat to Langkawi and Bali—we are ultimately here for a singular purpose.  A much larger purpose.

For as long as I can remember, my company’s big, hairy audacious goal (BHAG) and mission has always been to “turn Asian scientists into household names.”

As long as everyone is aligned on the same mission to help the company achieve its North Star, I am prepared to do anything in my professional and personal capacity to keep them happy and working well together.


Thanks for reading issue 024 of my weekly Find Your Superpower newsletter.

See you next week. 

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