Almost two weeks ago, our People and Culture department set up one of the best and most literal team buildings any of us has ever had. In a time when it got so tempting to be fantasizing about extravagant and “out-of-the-box” activities, we chose to go for the one solution hidden in plain sight this whole time – a team-building where people get together by literally building something for the community around. ⛏️
And not just anything.
We found three schools in a remote, yet utterly welcoming village in Bihor and built playgrounds for each one of them.
After all, we do have a new office playground too, so we figured that since we enjoy it so much, then surely the 100+ kids are going to absolutely love having their own.
Some of us gave our shot at painting the walls with some joyful illustrations, while others exploited their constructions skills by putting together what seemed to be a simple structure. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t. At least not like assembling an IKEA couch. Which.. I guess is not always easy either.. Anyway.
Here’s how it went:
We kick off our long-awaited adventure by gathering almost two thirds of our people at the office and have everyone tested to make sure that we are in for an epic, yet safe trip.
Once everyone gets their negative results back, we hop on the bus, two busses actually, and head towards Bratca, a nice little village surrounded by nature and picturesque views.
Now most of the faces are quite familiar, as we had seen each-other before in our weekly Friday company meetings. Still, since much of the online interaction we’ve had was only with those part of our departments, there is this sense of excitement in the air, knowing that we are finally going to step beyond our closed circles and really get to know the rest of the people, which are enough to worry about remembering names 😅..
I mean, think about it.. Almost two years have passed since we last had a team building.
In the meantime, we tripled in size, growing from 40 to about 120 people, we moved from our glossy low-key corporate office into a nice little house and started working in a hybrid environment.
To most of us, getting to know each other got harder the moment we left the office and began adapting to the new remote work environment.
People were still seeing each other, but most of the interactions were rather intentional and not so much accidental, which meant that despite all the daily meetings and online initiatives, random & organic relationships were yet to be built.
On the other hand, adapting to this new kind of virtual togetherness made us even more grateful for the moments spent in the company of each other. Hence the great turnout of our most recent offline initiatives such as the Movie Nights, the Wine-Tasting evenings, the Summer BBQs, Board-games Sessions, or the Yard Sale.
This is also why this team-building, as late as it was, came just at the right time.
Now going back at it,
We break the ice in this first evening, or more like melt it, with a cup of mulled wine and some small talk near a big campfire. Shortly after, we all enjoy a cozy dinner together and successfully fail in keeping our rebels well-rested and contained for what was going to happen the day after.
What you could deem as “pre-party party” happens organically with most of the people preferring to dance and chat for hours into the night which, although was not part of the actual timetable, is the best thing we did not plan for.
Everyone’s just naturally getting together, talking so casually, like they know each other from before…
There are no fixed roles anymore, no labels, just people. 😊
People enjoying finally being together.
A highly sociable setting powered by this extended state of isolation and.. well… the spiritual wonders of kitsch music.
Day 2 - 9:07 AM
Breakfast is served and soon enough we all set off for a trip. We split into 3 groups and after a 30-minute bus ride deep into the natural landscapes of Bihor, we all reach the destination and learn what our actual quest is going to be. The excitement is real and you can just feel it – It’s bound to be an adventure.
The task is pretty straightforward – paint the walls of each classroom and build a playground.
And here we are now, 3 groups of roughly 25 people, trying to be Agile “on-site”.
We’re told that we got till 7PM to finish everything, which means that there’s no time for stages like wireframing or MVP development.
This playground has to be flawless from the very first try so no beta version or further updates.
We get moving.
Some of us give our shot at painting the walls, some others start chopping the necessary materials and some others want to show that the “engineer” in their JD does not only stand for software, handling the drill machine like it’s second nature.
It is fun.
A bit cold and maybe a challenge for those of us who stayed long into the previous night, but fun, nevertheless.
2:30 PM – We're getting there 😀
Hours fly by, the paintings are gradually coming to life, the playgrounds.. not so much, but good thing there’s still some time to undo the mistakes, slightly panic together and miraculously find a last-minute solution.
It’s actually fascinating to just step outside for a minute and look at how everyone is being useful, no matter their skill. If a couple of hours ago we were all just a big mess, now everyone is busy, even if it’s varnishing, drilling, carrying planks or.. figuring out how to help, also known as “giving indications” 😂..
It really does look like a cross-functional team, a cluster of smaller groups that work on separate tasks, but constantly communicate with each other to deliver the best solution. Kinda like what we do for our clients.
From time to time you get to see people zoning out, being absorbed by the beautiful scenery and then smiling, acknowledging the present moment, the fact that we’re all here, happy, doing this thing to make someone even happier. 🎈
7:15 PM – Yes, we do overtime. No, we don’t leave things undone.
Three hours later, we make the final adjustments and start packing. The energy levels are slowly draining, but the satisfaction is through the roof.
We look at the final product and can’t help but think – we made this. 🤩
We all organize for the celebratory final photo, but not before our QAs do their thing and stress-test both the playground slides and swings. – Say cheeeeese! 📸
This second night is actually supposed to be even more exciting than last night because this is when the “official” rebel party happens. This time we got an actual DJ with a professional sound system and it shows. We party till early in the morning and create more memorable moments on the dancefloor.
Day 3 – a morning full of gratitude and memories to look back on.
Here we are now, enjoying a coffee on Sunday morning, having just finished a short hike, kind of wishing we’d stay here for at least a few more days.
But there’s still time for one last surprise before we set to go back home.
We’re invited to attend a dance performance in the parking lot, something random enough to get everyone outside and see what’s going on.
Turns out some of the kids we’ve made all these things for, found out about our not-so-secret initiative and thought about showing their gratitude in an original way, to say the least.
By setting up an impromptu traditional dance show which is just…wholesome. We also get hand-written thank you notes and a genuine smile from these innocent little souls.
And we know it.
Giving back was the best thing we could have done together.
So.. Why not keep on doing this? Building teams by literally building things..
I guess we now found our side-hustle. 😊
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Besides, we got a whole bunch of activities going on, all of them designed for you to really enjoy working here.
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