Prior to COVID, most of the employees at ShopPad — the largest developer of solutions for Shopify’s ecomm platform — worked out of the Oakland, California headquarters. Now, the plan is to offer a more flexible environment, “whether that’s from their home, in an office, or on a beach somewhere,” explained CEO Aaron Wadler.
While the team is on board with removing geographic constraints, Wadler knew that it was essential to find a way to retain the culture and camaraderie experienced pre-pandemic.
“That’s why regular events that bring the team together in person are becoming an important part of our company identity.”
Continue reading to learn more about ShopPad’s recent retreat in Santa Cruz, California.
Aligning on retreat goals
Going into the retreat, Wadler knew he wanted to provide diverse programming focused on the specific types of activities that are difficult or impossible to replicate remotely. That’s why, while it was important to have pockets of co-working time, their itinerary also included a mix of education, team-building activities, community service, and shared meals.
Selecting a destination
During the planning phase, the ShopPad team determined that they needed a setting that was both functional (think high-speed WiFi, access to outlets, tables for co-working, etc) and inspiring.
“Santa Cruz provided the perfect mix,” says Wadler. “We found the location to be conveniently close (but not too close) to the Bay Area and liked that it offered a wide variety of accommodations and activities.”
READ MORE: 15 Best Corporate Retreat Destinations
Selecting a venue
Flok reserved a block of rooms for ShopPad’s 17-person team at the Dream Inn. In addition to boasting stunning views of the Monterey Bay from all rooms, the resort also came with high-speed internet access, cozy pool deck fire pits, onsite restaurants, a large heated outdoor pool, morning yoga classes, and more.
In addition to co-working sessions and leisure time, Flok planned several organized activities for the ShopPad team, including:
In this team-building activity, small groups were tasked with a series of problem-solving exercises to complete with limited time, tools, and expertise in order to mirror common workplace constraints. For each problem solved, a new part was added onto a brand new bicycle until each team had all the necessary parts to assemble the final project.
- Wine and olive oil tasting at Nicholson Vineyards
During this afternoon excursion, the ShopPad team went on a private tour of the estate vineyard and olive grove, followed by a tasting of select wines and olive oils.
Other activities included a movie night, private yoga session, and morning beach run.
READ MORE: 15 Great Team-Building Activities For Work
To kick off the retreat, Flok organized a welcome reception for the team at the pool deck, complete with small plates and finger foods.
For each night during their stay in Santa Cruz, the team enjoyed a three-course plated dinner together. Lunch was also provided every day, with one exception to allow for more leisure time. Breakfast was usually buffet-style.
Highlight of the experience
“From yoga on the beach to a private winery tour, we had so many great experiences packed into one short week,” said Wadler. “However, my fondest memories are the conversations we had, whether it was learning more about my co-workers during dinner, sharing drinks and funny stories over a fire, or having pool-side technical discussions.”
The value add of Flok
- Saving time
“Because Flok took the time to learn about our company, they could quickly connect us with quality vendors that would have been time-consuming to find on our own.”
- Stressing less
“Flok was the secret sauce that enabled our leadership team to deliver a high-quality event with a minimal amount of stress.”
- Counting on someone to handle all the decisions...
“Flok worked behind the scenes to manage the countless decisions and deadlines in a way that ensured everything happened on time.”
- ...and provide thoughtful advice along the way
“They not only helped us with the complex logistics of planning the event, but they also provided thoughtful advice along the way for how we could design a meaningful experience.”
All-hands retreats will now be a triannual fixture at ShopPad. This way, they can leverage the benefits of distributed teams while maintaining the mission-focused aligning that a growing organization requires.
“Remote work may be the future,” says Wadler, “but our need for connection is timeless.”