How MetaLab’s Flexible Offsite Workspace Fuels Creativity

March 10, 2016

Taking your team offsite is a great way to break down barriers and encourage creativity. With the right space, you can provide an environment that will allow for team members to improve collaboration and productivity.

We often talk about finding unique locations for offsites, but today we thought it would be fun to take a deeper dive into what makes an offsite special.

In this post, we talk with MetaLab COO Tim Wilkinson, about getting away from the daily distractions of the workplace, and stepping into a space where your team can focus on a singular goal.

Is MetaLab a fully distributed team?

The bulk of our team is based in Vancouver. We have about 80 people and 20 of them work remotely. There are an incredible number of benefits that come from having a more distributed team.

How many times a year do you have a company wide summit?

We do a company wide summit once a year where everyone from our team is in the same place. We also do smaller offsites throughout the year when we need to shake up the routine and get out of the office. It’s crazy to me that we can have someone join the team and we start working together for several months without ever meeting in person. We work effectively using tools and video and what not, but there’s something really special about meeting in person. You can’t really put a price on face to face communication – especially in a retreat like setting. It feels really magical when we get our entire team together in one space where we can get to know each other and develop deeper relationships. You get to know what excites someone, how they respond, their mannerisms, etc.

Where have you been?

Last year we met in Victoria a and this year we are meeting in Vancouver at the Donnelly Hospitality Space. (This space is replete with full bar, theatre room, parlour games, pop-up barbershop and a giant leather couch!)

What do you during your summits?

Our offsites usually break down to an even mix of social time, work, and getting to know each other face to face. It’s amazing how much we actually get done when we’re all together. These retreats allow us to recap the year as a team, discuss goals for the next year, and plan for the future. It’s hard to carve time in your day to day to talk about things like vision and mission, but if you don’t have alignment here, you aren’t setting your team up to succeed. Getting together in a new space, outside the office, allows us to zoom in on what matters.

Is it worth the expense?

Absolutely. We budget this into our expense every year because we feel like our company wide retreat is essential. It’s hard to think about things in a fresh way with a new perspective when you’re in an environment that feels as crazy as most startup offices are. And we don’t just get offsite for our annual company retreat – sometimes we rent space for a half day or few hours so that we can get everyone away from the distraction of the work environment, and into a place where they can creatively tackle a specific challenge. That is definitely something we want to continue investing in!

Getting inspired…

The best way to really dive into the world of offsite meetings – whether you’re taking a team of 100 or just a few team members – is to get inspired and do some research in advance.

There are a ton of valuable resources online from influencers, experts, and other business and startups. Here are four of our favorite “offsite 101” articles that you can start with:

Inside The Buffer Retreat: How and Why We Spent 111, 874 Meeting Face to Face – Buffer

Courtney Seiter dives into the details of what Buffer does during their retreats—how they work, what activities they get up to, and, in the spirit of transparency they’re so fond of there, what it all costs. In case your company might be considering its own get-together, this post answers some frequently asked questions about retreats.

The Craziest Company Offsites We’ve Ever Seen – Inc

Team-building exercises are notoriously boring, but the right kind of offsite can be a shot in the arm for your company. Need some ideas? Here are some of the wackiest corporate retreats Inc has ever seen.

Off-sites That Work – Harvard Business Review

During two decades of designing and facilitating strategy off-sites around the world, HBR has worked with scores of firms, from family businesses to Fortune 10 multinationals. In this article, they’ve distilled some best practices from their experience that you can use to make the most of your offsite opportunity.

Supercharge Your Next Corporate Retreat – Science of People

Vanessa and the Science of People team have worked with over 75,000 participants in the last 10 years and have consulted with a number of Fortune 500 Companies including American Express, Symantec, Miller-Coors and Procter & Gamble. This article gives tips on how you can help make your next company off-site or corporate retreat a wonderful experience for your team.

We’re planning our first thisopenspace offsite for later this Summer and can’t wait to share it here on the blog. What have your team-building days and offsites been like? Where do you go? What have you found is the key benefit? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!