As a fast-growing startup, we depend on quick iterations and direct feedback. We are constantly trying to improve what we do and sanity-check our thinking against each other. For this to happen in a safe space, we really need to know and trust each other. With every new member added to our +40 headcount, it has become increasingly important to "bake" solid social space into our system. That's why we have regular team events away from the office.
Startups are no 9 to 5 gigs. Everybody puts a lot of passion and energy into our mission. We often work long hours, sometimes have brainstorm sessions on weekends and put all our energy and focus into growing the business - and ourselves! :) This way, we obviously end up spending a lot of our time together. That's why it's quite important that everybody feels at home - which is why connecting work to fun plays such a big role.
Some of our team outings have organically become weekly "institutions" based on common interests:
- Climbing at Bloc11 or CityRock,
- Hiking on Lion's Head or Devil's Peak,
- Heading a running group or
- Chilling with board game nights.
All of the above are driven by individual team members and happen more or less frequently based on the weather (remember we are in Cape Town) and, of course, on which organiser has enough pull! :P
That said, with each new person who joins a different team, it becomes harder to get to know everyone personally and really understand what they are up to at OfferZen and in life. This might not be a problem for a bigger company where people are more likely to work in silos, but it does pose quite a challenge for us because our culture and work flows are based on:
- Radical transparency,
- Quick iterations and
- Lots of feedback, often across teams.
This can quickly break or cause tension if we don't know each other very well, understand where others come from and trust that we are all driving the same mission.
"Baking in" fun breaks
The key idea behind our more official team events is to have a solid break and get the entire team together on a monthly basis. This is to make sure that we have a chance to connect with people from other teams, their partners and friends and talk about non-work-related things in a relaxed space. That's why we try to center our team events around meaningful activities.
We want team members to experience something new or exciting and, possibly, learn something as well. To promote this kind of philosophy, we have previously thrown ourselves into things like:
- Cooking classes,
- Trampoline parks,
- Spit braais at Llandudno Beach, and
- Cinema visits with socials.
Apart from allowing for a more free form of interaction, spending time outside of the daily grind brings us closer.
Planning your own team events
If you are going to plan your own team events, these are the steps we generally follow and why we've found them useful:
- Selecting a date & sending a "Save-the-Date" to the team at least one month in advance: Obviously, we want to make sure that as many team members come to each event as possible. That's why we are giving everybody a heads-up to block their calendar.
- Listing and choosing ideas: Generally, we make a long list of things we've done and not yet done at the beginning of the year. Some of our team members also help us with ideas. Then it's all about choosing the right one for the right time. We consider various factors here, such as time of year, what we think most team members will enjoy and how we can involve all the team members during the event. There's always one idea that stands out.
- Confirming availability for the specific date: In order to keep things simple and sane, we try to get others to work with our dates, and not the other way around - if a location or event doesn't work with our plans, we move on to the next.
- Team mail: In addition to the first announcement, we send another mail to the team about two weeks before the event. This actually tells them what we will do and what they can expect from our outing.
- Creating excitement: In the actual week of the outing, we mention it in our weekly Team Update that everybody tends to attend. This is a great way to remind the everyone that the event is still happening and it creates some excitement around this - our giphy-game is on point! :)
- Post-event: I always do a retrospective after an event to figure out what went well, what didn't work and how we can create a better experience the next time around. I generally draw people from the team in to double-check my own impressions.
Bianca is the Office Manager at OfferZen. She manages all the office operations like repairs, security, cleaning, team lunches and snacks (Yes, we get snacks!). Essentially, she quite literally makes sure the office does not fall apart. When she is not doing OfferZen-y things, she studies, gyms and spends time with her family and friends!