How a Week on an Island Brought Our Work Team Together

Shannon Vincent-Brown

When I joined Nextup in March of this year our leadership team was already talking about a company retreat in the fall both as a reward for the team’s hard work but also to allow our remote workforce to spend some time face-to-face.

Having worked remotely for almost a decade now I was expecting a typical company retreat where we pick a convenient location and spend time in a conference room looking at slides and forecasting for the future. I was so excited to be proven wrong, when I learned that the retreat was actually going to be in the Azores Islands.

The retreat took place at the end of August where we spent a week together on the amazing island of Terceira! There were no fluorescent office lights in sight nor excel documents to review. It was truly all about spending time together as a team in a beautiful location.

Terceira is a Portuguese volcanic island in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean. And while it’s small enough to drive around in a day it had so much to offer. Some of the ways we spent our time included:

  • Taking a boat to whale watch and spending time amongst a pod of about 100 dolphins
  • Walking into the island’s inactive volcano to see the amazing plant life and rock formations
  • Water activities such as snorkeling, paddle boarding, and kayaking
  • Jumping into volcanic rock pools and enjoying the island’s many swimming spots
  • Volunteering on an organic farm (I weeded a bed of beets and harvested yellow tomatoes).
  • Walking the central part of the city and stopping at cafes for coffee and pastries
  • Eating way too much delicious food during long leisurely dinners

It was so fun to see our team’s chemistry in the real world. I thought every one on the team was the best travel companion. These are people I talk to almost every day and spend a lot of time with on zoom calls or chatting on Slack, and while there are so many wonderful team collaboration tools to keep us connected and informed, I’m grateful for the opportunity to see my co-workers in person.

Not only see them but enjoy them, have fun with them, laugh with them, learn about their families and hobbies. It makes our remote meetings more friendly. I find when we’re comfortable with each other we are more likely to speak up in a meeting or collaborate during a challenge.

Plus I’m a big believer that a mental break from the routine of the work-week creates space for new ideas to form! A change of scenery can do wonders for sparking creativity and a casual environment (such as talking over a plate of perfectly cooked octopus) can help break down communication barriers.

We all came back with renewed passion for our work and excited to implement ideas sparked while away. We all work hard and love what we do but we can all get in a rut and feel the isolation of being in front of our computers all day.  I’m thankful to work at a company like Nextup that understands the value of taking a break and having fun while doing it.

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