Why in person team meetings are important for remote teams

One of the best things about working remotely is the ability to work at home, or wherever you may be, alone in your pajamas. One of the worst things about working remotely is that you’re working alone and even the extreme introverts can start to feel disconnected from the rest of the remote team.

At any other time of the year, our small team are spread out among anything from five to seven countries, depending on who’s where at any given time, and operating in very different time zones and working hours.

Every year the iwantmyname team spends a week together at our annual team summit. Part team building, part get-shit-done, and part vacation, our team summit is a crucial part of keeping our team connected and focused.

Sure, we all use Zoom and Slack to communicate regularly by video and text message, and that’s great to keep us connected, but there’s nothing quite like sitting around a table with your entire team to eat great food, drink fantastic wine and enjoy a beautiful location. You learn a lot about yourself and your teammates when you are jet lagged, been awake for 20 hours and are drinking wine and playing Cards Against Humanity at 3am (while being eaten alive by mosquitos), having a lazy afternoon game of dominoes or riding horses through a vineyard under the Tuscan sun.

In the four years I’ve been with the iwantmyname team we’ve met up in New Zealand, Canada, France and earlier this month, Italy. We’ve hiked, swum, had wine tastings and brewery tours, hung out Tiki Bars, cooked food together, experienced multi-course fine dining, gone whale watching, bowling and played silly board games. We’ve had long conversations at 2 am with teammates we rarely interact with otherwise due to time zones and different projects, and we’ve all come away richer from having spent time connecting with each other and remembering how much we really enjoy each other’s company.

Every year the mix of team members is slightly different as new people join the team and others leave iwantmyname for other projects (or in Nik’s case this year, to become a Dad for the second time) but what remains constant is the feeling of connectedness we all come away with.

The structure of out meetups changes from year to year as well. Some years we have a long agenda of strategy meetings, planning sessions, and work to get done while we’re together. Smaller teams such as the developer team or the support team may break away for an afternoon or a day to work on something specific together. Other years, the agenda is more open, giving everyone the time to relax, hang out, get acquainted with new members or reacquainted with the members of the team they don’t often work with. And while there’s not a measurable ROI from the open agenda, work-related conversations do happen naturally, and our team comes away from the summit feeling more connected as a team and more invested in the success of iwantmyname which is what it’s all about.

Above is our 2019 iwantmyname team summit group photo while enjoying a wine tasting in Tuscany. A few hours after the photo was taken most of us were on our way back home knowing it'll be another year before we meet again in person, and at that time some faces may no longer be in the picture, new faces may be added, but knowing that we all take something away with us, and we all leave something behind (in my case, my dominoes game and in MJ's case, her Cards Agains Muggles game) when we part again.