For workers who are never on site, “offsite” always attracts
Many find remote work to be more transactional than in-person work. You let go of someone when you need something, and otherwise you’re staring at your own screen in your own house. Managers see offsite locations as a way to make remote work more personal.
Laura Burkhauser, product manager at Twitter in San Francisco, planned an offsite hybrid in January to help her team build what she called “that elusive rapport.” In May 2020, Twitter announced to its employees that they could continue to work from home permanently. Ms Burkhauser, whose team included workers in London and New York, said “off-site locations are more important than ever in an age of virtual working” because it is easier to trust and communicate with people. distant colleagues when you actually know them.
While many technicians and executives agree that offsite retreats have some value, even when held remotely, how to execute them is much trickier.
Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab and co-founder of Strivr, a virtual reality start-up, called the idea of doing a multi-day retreat with back-to-back meetings “insanity – and I will use that word not lightly. He added, “You can’t just talk to someone for 36 hours and expect the brain to absorb it.” He recently posted about Zoom fatigue , and he said that “Zoom is like a fire hose. You are inundated with non-verbal cues.
Then there’s the question of how to actually spend your time together offsite. Ms. Wu said her start-up’s recent offsite in Napa, Calif., which the offsite company had planned, was primarily social. She knows that in-demand software engineers, in particular, can easily quit and take on different jobs. “So,” she said, “you really want to create an environment where people are excited to be there, believe in the company, like the people they work with, and aren’t just going to jump ship. “
Meghana Reddy, a human resources manager in Oakland, Calif., said that while offsite locations were “nice to have”, during the pandemic they have become “a staple”. She said that for tech companies looking to attract talent, investing in offsite locations “will be a better use of money than trying to get people back to the office.” Some companies are already abandoning their offices and diverting facility budgets to offsite locations. Hunter Block, the founder of Offsiter, said he knows of a large company that plans more than 600 offsite sites per year for smaller teams of employees.
Mr Bailenson, who has written about Zoom fatigue, would advise that whatever companies do to amp up their offsite plans, they shouldn’t rely too heavily on video chats.