June 13, 2024

Planning the Perfect Offsite

Planning the Perfect Offsite

Planning the Perfect Offsite

Since our offsites are a special event for everyone at OAK’S LAB, we decided to sit down with Zelo Doan, our People & Office Ops, who organizes this experience. We wanted to dive deep into the planning process and share what makes our offsites memorable. Here's what we learned from our conversation with Zelo.

The Purpose Behind Our Annual Offsite

What is the reason that OAK'S LAB does a yearly offsite? What are we trying to achieve?

Zelo: I would start with the term offsite and how we view the event at OAK’S LAB. I am sure each company has a slightly different approach to organizing one, and the goals differ. At OAK’S LAB, the initial idea of offsite came from our founders, Jake & Theo. The main goal is to offer our people an opportunity to travel abroad to an offsite location where we spend time together working and hanging out. Nowadays, the purpose has slightly evolved as the company matured. Now, we view an offsite as an opportunity to deepen the relationships, get inspired from each other, and strengthen the company culture while working on the things that matter.

Jake and Theo Dluhy-Smith, founders of OAK'SLAB.

Organizing the Perfect Offsite: Timing and Planning

When are we going on the offsite, and for how long? Why this particular season? How do you think about the organization overall?

Zelo: Over the years of organizing our offsites, we've developed a blueprint to ensure each event has a high level of quality. Here’s a glimpse into how we plan our unforgettable offsites:

  • Season Selection - We choose May to avoid peak tourist season, enjoy pleasant weather, and benefit from lower accommodation prices.
  • The Perfect Duration - We choose a time frame that allows everyone to fully enjoy the event without feeling it drags on too long, ensuring a balanced and enjoyable experience.
  • Transportation Planning - We arrange and cover transportation to ensure a smooth journey for everybody.
  • Communication - A dedicated Confluence page and Slack channel with all trip details keep everyone informed and prepared.
  • Structured Agenda - To keep things exciting and engaging, our agenda includes a mix of morning activities (jogs, yoga) and larger events (e.g., OAK’S LAB Olympics, boat trips, city excursions, and more).
  • Personalized Planning - We tailor the offsite to our team’s demographics, including considerations for family commitments and preferences.
  • Pre-Offsite Scouting - Personal visits to the location help us address potential challenges and connect with local contacts for the best experience.
  • Accommodation - We secure a unique location, comfortable sleeping arrangements, and social spaces for team gatherings and collaboration.
  • Surroundings - We select unique environments (seaside, mountains), interesting cities, and places to visit to inspire and refresh our team.
  • Internet Connectivity - Strong WiFi or EU locations with reliable data packages ensure uninterrupted work when needed.

At OAK'S LAB, our offsites are more than just a getaway. They’re an integral part of our company culture. They offer a unique opportunity to deepen relationships, get inspired, and strengthen our sense of community. By carefully considering every detail, we create an environment where our team can thrive, making each offsite an unforgettable experience. 

Stunning view from our hotel in Vlore, Albania.

What is the process for choosing a location? What are the key factors that come into play with the decision?

Zelo: How do we select an offsite location? Haha! We always start with a suggestion from our CEO, Jake. He asked us to pick a location where we would enjoy going for a vacation. In addition, there are several requirements from Jake and Erika, our Head of People, that help guide us during the planning stage. Below is a list of the requirements we need to fulfill to select a top-notch location:

  • Budget - Stay within the budget for both accommodation and flight tickets.
  • Flight Duration - The flight time should be no longer than 2 hours and 30 minutes.
  • Direct Flights - The flight must be direct.
  • Accommodation Distance - The location should be within 2 hours and 30 minutes of the airport or a maximum of 10 hours' driving distance.
  • Accommodation and Sleeping Arrangements - The rooms must be comfortable, and no one should have to sleep on a sofa bed.
  • Social Area - The accommodation must have a large social space where everyone can fit and work together.
  • Surroundings - The location should offer a unique environment, such as a seaside or beautiful mountains, that we don't have in the Czech Republic.
  • WiFi - A strong internet connection is essential, or the location should be within the EU so we can use our data packages.

With these requirements in mind, we explore options based on flight tickets and then proceed with selecting accommodation. Our CEO and Head of People evaluate the accommodation and provide feedback. We often plan a couple of sessions to make our final pick and proceed with a personal visit to establish a connection with the accommodation manager and get the best deals not available online.

Our football club sessions during our Albania offsite.

Impact of Offsites on the Company

What is the connection between employee well-being/morale and an off-site?

Zelo: Offsites play a crucial role in enhancing people’s well-being and morale. For us, the answer lies in time. Time and health are the most valuable resources we possess as human beings. We sometimes forget why we hustle, creating tunnel vision in our daily lives. We tend to lose sight of our wider impact on the company and the feeling of belonging. That’s why an offsite is important. Not only do we work hard, but at the end of the day, we can bond with our teammates and get inspired.

During the offsite, we can learn about each other from different perspectives - our life stories, purposes, goals, and the challenges we’ve overcome. These small interactions strengthen companionship, ultimately strengthening our company culture. Each person within the company directly impacts the culture and environment. With offsites, we want to remind people not to take what we have for granted and to ensure we continue to have such talented people under one roof. This requires participation from all of us, and the desired state is when the company will take care of its people, and the people will take care of the company.

Team-building night during our Albania offsite.

What have been the results from our previous offsites? How did it positively impact the company?

Zelo: Following up on the previous paragraph, we invested in opportunities for people to have meaningful conversations with team members from the same department and those who usually work fully remotely. These conversations deepen relationships within the company, regardless of position, as people inspire each other and create memories from the trip.

This manifests in a sense of safety and trust, not only in personal lives but also professionally. When people feel supported by the company, they strive to be the best versions of themselves, knowing they are valued. This enhances the company's effectiveness as people are more engaged and committed. So again, the company thrives when it takes care of its people, and the people, in turn, take care of the company.

Our team collaborating on the rooftop terrace of Hotel Belvedere in Vlore, Albania.

Discovering Vlore, Albania: Our Offsite Highlights

Why Albania for the offsite? What activities or culture does Albania offer that makes it stand out?

Zelo: There are so many beautiful places to visit, and this year, we've decided to explore the breathtaking Albanian Riviera. Our main reason for choosing Albania is that it is becoming a popular tourist destination, and we want to experience it before it gets too crowded. The country offers crystal-clear beaches, rich mountain ranges with diverse fauna and flora, and stunning sunsets that cover the entire horizon.

Our team enjoying afternoon dips in the sea after work.

What were the highlights of our offsite in Vlore, Albania?

Zelo: Based on our research and initial visit, we've decided to stay at Hotel Belvedere in Vlore. The city, known as the "City of Independence," is where Albania declared independence in 1912. It also has historical ties to Julius Caesar, who landed nearby during the Roman Civil War, highlighting its strategic importance. The accommodation is stunning, the hotel staff are professional and friendly, the WiFi is excellent (a rare find), and the rooftop bar is simply flawless. Check it out for yourself!

Morning yoga session on the pier in Vlore, Albania.

Regarding the program, the surrounding area offered a fantastic selection of activities, and this year, we participated in various events. We started with morning jogs and yoga sessions, and for bigger adventures, we took the team on a trip to Llogara National Park and the stunning Palasa Beach. We also had a memorable team-building night with great drinks and even better company.

Views from our hikes in Albania.

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