If you’ve ever had to plan an international trip for a group of people, you’ll know there are a ton of things to take into consideration – flight tickets, accommodation, itineraries, varied food preferences and so on.

Now scale that up to 86 people from 16 countries, all flying into the same location. If that sounds daunting, that’s because it is. So why would we put ourselves through all that trouble? In short: because it’s worth it!

Last September, most of the LottieFiles team flew in to meet in Bali for a four-day retreat. We’re a fully remote team – and we love working remotely – but sometimes there’s no substitute for getting together in person. Here’s why we did it, and what we learned.

Forge deeper connections

Remote-first companies need to invest in how team members feel connected – both to the company and to each other. This brings stronger communication and teamwork when working remotely.

Team-building activities on the beach

This retreat was a chance for us to connect with each other beyond Slack or video calls. We set aside time for team-building exercises, casual meals and other activities our team wanted to explore outside our retreat agenda.

It felt really surreal that I finally get to meet all my friends that I see virtually every day in person. My favorite moment was during the last night of the trip, when we all stayed up until 3 am just to have our last in-person catch-up! – Carine Chang, Product Designer
It was amazing having the chance to see all my colleagues face-to-face (many for the first time). Virtual coffee chats are much more interesting now, as well as there is no more awkwardness and we sort of know each other better. - Marianne Tan, SEO Lead
We finished the night with an activity that allowed us to share gratitude for one another

As we finished the last night of the retreat with an activity that allowed us to share gratitude for one another, we saw that even among colleagues, friendships were built. Yes, we will remain fully distributed and remote, but face-to-face interaction can be the foundation for building deeper connection.

It was really nice to meet in person. I tried to talk to as many other people in the company as possible. Since R&D is usually so isolated from other teams, I hadn't talked to the vast majority of the other team members. It ended up being a wholly positive experience and I made a ton of new friends. The best part is that now, whenever I do have to work with folks from other teams, I can reach out to them with no inhibitions because of the rapport established during the retreat. – Yaniu Areef, R&D Engineer

Celebrate our team’s diversity

The great thing about remote work is being able to work with people from around the world. The result is often a fantastically diverse team. At LottieFiles, we’re spread across 18 countries!

During our retreat, we had lots of opportunities to learn about each other’s cultural backgrounds – from sharing food preferences, learning Bollywood dance by the beach to late-night talks about our differences (and more often, our similarities).

I love that I get to hang out with the best people and learning about their cultural backgrounds was such a joy. It never ceases to amaze me how the People & Culture team manages to get us all in one place. – Jatin Jha, Senior Mobile Developer

We celebrate the uniqueness of each person in the company, but this retreat brought that to a whole new level.

An opportunity to travel

For some of our team members, this was a trip of many ‘firsts’ – their first time meeting their team in person, first time visiting Bali, or first time leaving their home countries. Even after the retreat ended, some team members chose to stay on to work together, while others traveled solo within Bali or other areas.

Our visit to the Uluwatu Temple, where we were able to watch a traditional Kecak dance
Our visit to the Uluwatu Temple, where we were able to watch a traditional Kecak dance
I had a great time in Bali. Having never traveled overseas before, everything was new, unique, and exciting. The visit to the temple was really beautiful due to the kecak chant and stunning sunset with the never-ending sea. – Archit Jain, QA/DevOps Engineer

As a remote company, our team members have always been free to work from anywhere – even while traveling. But this retreat nudged some of us to truly take advantage of this perk.

Is there measurable evidence that travel improves an employee’s performance? Maybe not, but there’s probably something to be said about stepping out of your comfort zone, gaining new insights and growing as a person. I think those are elements you’d bring into your professional life. If anything else, being able to offer these experiences leads to happier employees – and happier employees are more productive!

Come together to strategize

We partied, but we also got our brains together to strategize for the future. During the third day of our retreat, we brainstormed on our most ambitious goals – and how we might be able to meet them. Teams got to align with each other and with leadership on our company vision. While we often collaborate online, there’s something special about being in the same room to work on big-picture ideas.

“It was comforting to know that I'm not alone in this – we have the entire army working on this mission together. I also liked how the leadership team encourages us to dream bigger and am supportive of whatever we achieve.” – Jia Ying Chang, Growth Hacker

We came together to strategize

At the end of the session, each team shared their visions of contributing to LottieFiles’ larger goal, and lots of cheers and hugs were shared. Everyone left without a doubt that we are indeed building a legacy in the motion industry, and that we were a part of something big.

Building an exceptional employee experience

Our entire team by the beach

At the end of the day, retreats like these are all about building an exceptional employee experience. When your experience with a company is enjoyable and memorable, engagement and commitment happen. Employees will take this unforgettable experience back with them, building momentum for the growth of LottieFiles.

Going on a company retreat is much more than just a bonding experience and a fun getaway. It’s also a great way to show appreciation to the team for all that they’ve already accomplished. When planning for the team retreat, we wanted to bring a perfect amalgamation of meaningful experiences, team bonding and celebration of cultural diversity.

During the team building exercises, we reflected a lot and gained eye-opening insights. Thoughts and laughter were shared – and even tears were shed – as there were so much raw emotion, ideas and feelings being poured out. This allowed us to grow, and to learn about ourselves alongside other people in the company.

It was also great to just take a break from work, get along with different teams, and have insightful sessions with laughter and meaningful connections. This reflects on our individual and company successes, as well as our core values. – Rathini Dharmalingam, Regional HR Manager

When the two co-founders of LottieFiles, K and Nattu, hired us as an HR team, they asked us to take good care of people. It’s not an easy task to do in a fast-growing tech startup, but we try – every day. A people-first culture will always be at the core of who we are, and this retreat was just a small snippet of what we’re trying to build here at LottieFiles.