When It Comes to Remote Work, IRL Is Still A Thing...


Remote First Doesn’t Mean Remote Only: How to Create Amazing IRL Moments in a Remote World

At twine, we live, eat, and breathe remote work. We are not only a remote-first company, we are focused on solving the problem of employee connection for remote and distributed teams. We’re helping organizations foster belonging, community, and connection in a world that is becoming more distributed. 

But at twine, remote first doesn’t mean remote only.  Most of our team came from the live events industry, so we fundamentally believe in and understand the importance of face to face, human connection. 

Every quarter, our team gets together for an in-person off-site. We democratically vote on a new location each quarter, meet there for 3-4 days, and spend time connecting with each other. These trips have become everyone’s favorite week of the quarter.  As the resident #eventprof I almost always raise my hand to plan these off-sites for our team. It lets me flex my event design muscles and reminds me of the impact that creating memorable experiences can have on a team.

The goals of our off-sites are simple; build connections within our team, brainstorm and work on the big, strategic questions that are hard to do virtually, and have fun.

When you’re bringing a remote team together in person from all over the world, intentionality is key. You’re asking people to commute, travel, get Covid tests, leave young kids at home, and invest 3 days of time. To ensure we’re accomplishing what we want at these off-sites, we leverage three design principles:

  1. Engagement: We start building engagement and excitement for the off-site early; weeks before anyone actually lands at the destination. We create location themed playlists (check out our playlist for our Austin, TX off-site here), we look up and watch movies that were filmed in those locations, and we use twine to setup speed networking sessions so people who have been to the location can share tips and tricks with people who haven’t been to there. This buzz helps build excitement and guarantees more engagement when people land.

  1. Intentionality: Before each of our off-sites, we review all the connections within the company and strategically create opportunities to strengthen the “weaker” ties within our team. Almost all of our activities at the off-site are designed to provide opportunities for people to spend time with people who they don’t get regular exposure to.
  1. For one of the lunches, we split up our team into smaller groups so they have an opportunity to spend time getting to know the people they don’t  work with
  • We design games, contests, and activities that require teamwork and assign teams based on people’s roles to ensure we’re mixing up our groups
  • We do real, in-person speed networking (we twine IRL!) so everyone has a chance to meet everyone else

Usually it’s product team members spending time with sales, marketing spending time with engineering, but we also intentionally split up the natural cliques that form to ensure we’re spending our IRL time building up new connections amongst the team.

  1. Attendee Buy-In: The off-site is meant to be an immersive experience for your entire team. One of the ways we get everyone bought into the experience is by divvying up and delegating the planning of portions of the event. 

For our off-sites, we often get different team members to help with different aspects ranging from making the off-site playlist, helping pick restaurants, organizing the welcome gifts, being in charge of hosting a happy hour, or organizing a holiday gift exchange. This ends up creating a bit more to coordinate, but the more people you involve in the planning process of these experiences, the more it feels like a team effort, which results in more buy-in.

Off-sites can be an expensive line item on the budget both in terms of hard costs and in opportunity cost of your whole team not being at their desks for a week,  but if properly designed and curated, the return from a good off-site or retreat are immeasurable. We always notice a more connected, engaged, and energized team after the off-sites and it always results in a higher level of productivity and output when they return home.  

Written by Lawrence Coburn, CEO and Co-Founder
Anh Nguyen

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