Two weeks ago we held our first Engineering Meetup in Toronto. It was the first time we had the entire engineering team together since 2019 – back when we had just one office and a couple of remote workers. This year was quite a bit different as we have engineers in three different countries, offices in seven different locations, and a plethora of fully remote workers. Additionally, many were hired during COVID and, even if they were in a city with an office, they hadn’t met each other.
This is the second large group meetup we have done this year. The other was a Sales and Customer Success kick-off back in February. Quite frankly, we don’t do enough of these events and in a distributed world the in-person interaction and relationship building is hard to mimic – or maybe impossible over Zoom. We have used the application Gather.Town to create virtual offices and, while it has some of the same feel as a real office, you still can’t replicate a scavenger hunt through Toronto, a coding challenge in groups in an office, or laughter over happy hour. Gathering large groups together also allows for deeper discussion and doing fairly basic things like walking through the history of Searchspring so all new employees have a basis for where we started and how far we have come.
Distributed and/or hybrid is here to stay. As leaders, it is our job to figure out how to replicate all the good that comes from the office. One way is through organized meetups. As we evaluate some of our satellite offices in favor of co-working spaces, we plan to use the savings and reinvest it back into these sorts of events so they can occur on a regular basis.
We have to learn how to cater to all sorts of different circumstances as each of our offices is very different and there will always be fully remote workers. Ensuring employees are engaged and welcomed is the goal and this is just one of the ways we are tackling it.