Calculations in this article are based on our current team size of 7 people. Costs can vary depending on your team size, work model, and destination.
When you're a fully remote team it can sometimes be challenging to foster a strong team bond when your team is geographically distributed. Sometimes virtual event and online happy hours aren't enough. One of the ways we combat this is by organizing "onsites" around the country a couple times a year.
We just came back from our second "onsite" trip... this time in Boulder, CO (we had our last one in Hawaii). We chose Boulder because our founding engineer, Sean Callahan, is currently based there. Additionally, it is relatively COVID-safe as opposed to other more densely populated cities.
It was a week long trip filled with daily activities including:
- Dinners with our +1s
- Trip to Denver to watch the Rockies vs Dodgers baseball game
- Team video game night
- And much more!
The Cost Breakdown
In our last post, our first question we asked was: how do we maintain trips like these under reasonable budget? Here's the side by side comparison of our Boulder versus Hawaii trip:
A couple observations:
When we compare our Boulder trip against Hawaii's, it's roughly about the same. That's mainly because we have a new member on our team (Ryan Perez), resulting in 1 more person's expenses. Otherwise, our Hawaii trip would've been proportionally more expensive ($14,500 / 6 total team members) * 7 team members = ~$17,000)
We were able to save more on travel costs for a couple reasons:
- Boulder is more of a midway point for our team since we're mostly located on the West and East coasts
- Ryan had been road tripping across the country so he drove to Boulder instead of flying
- Boulder is not as dense as other metropolises like NYC, SF, or LA, so we were able to walk around more instead of taking Ubers. Additionally, Sean and his wife have two cars, making the need to Uber unnecessary (besides getting to and from the airport).
Food & Drinks
We were a bit more lenient with food and drinks, and included +1s for more of our events. We learned from our last trip that things can get confusing (and sometimes awkward) when we have to isolate payments between personal and work, and between different parties. Sometimes, it's just easier to pay for everyone all together especially when costs are marginal in the grand scheme of things.
How the Match Checks Out
In my Hawaii trip post, I analyzed the average cost of renting out a SF office space for a team of 6. In this scenario, I've calculated the proportional cost for a 7 person team.
Turns out it's still cheaper to do these team trips multiple times a year than to rent office space; if we assume we went on 3x Boulder trips annually (which is the number of times we feel we should meet up as a team), here's how our annual costs for a 7-person team stack up against office costs:
The amount we would be spending on SF office rent would allow us to do the Boulder trip 6x times a year with a team of our size. Because Hawaii is a bit more expensive, we can only do a trip there 5x times (not complaining about that though!).
Of course, while it looks like a cost efficient trip at face value, there are many other variables to consider that can either dramatically increase or decreases costs. These include:
- The flexibility of variable trip costs
- Lack of additional office expenses and amenities (adding to the cost of office space)
- Logistical complexities as our team grows
- Arbitraging between pre-COVID vs. post-COVID numbers
- And more which I discussed in this previous article
What We Did Differently
A Central "Home Base"
Fortunately, Sean was more than happy to lend his house to our team to temporarily work out of. This made the whole experience even better for the following reasons:
- It created a "hacker house" vibe that got us in the team building mode
- We had amenities that Sean was happy to provide like snacks, a common room and a backyard. We also had private rooms for calls if needed.
- Our engineering team was able to have their own desktop monitor stations
- We could leave our stuff in a central location while we were out and about hiking or getting coffee
- We saved even more costs! We didn't have to rent out another hotel room like we did in Hawaii
- Sean had a video game setup for us to use when we needed some downtime!
- We're a dog-loving company and we had Banner to keep us company 🐶
Had Sean not been there to provide for us, we would've gotten an Airbnb house to substitute. We quickly realized that having this team "home base" is critical to fostering a great onsite experience.
Creative Bonding Activities
We did a lot of exploring of Boulder - from food and drinks to hikes to watching the Rockies baseball game in Denver. But, we also played video games at Sean's house, in particular "Pico Park", which is a fun team bonding game. Not only is it inexpensive to conduct, but it turned out to be one of the most fun things we did (highly recommend you try it out with your own team or family)!
Team Collaboration Time
We didn't run a hackathon this time as we're all heads down on some massive company-wide initiatives. It was also especially fun to be together while grinding on a big project - being able to destress in the middle of it by grabbing coffee outside or playing in the backyard with Sean's dog Banner was impactful.
We love promoting the idea that you can #workfromanywhere when working remote. Last week, we worked from a boat. In Boulder, we tried working from a mountain! Props to Katherine for organizing these stunts:
Continuing the Tradition of Having +1s
During our Hawaii offsite, we invited +1s to come along and it was a great time. This time, we did the same, except as mentioned above, we were more lenient about covering costs for significant others. We think that resulted in an even better experience for the team 🙂
All in all, we are continuing to prove that these kinds of trips as a remote team is possible - and we think you can do it too while saving costs and having fun along the way. If you're curious to learn more about how we organized this or our Hawaii onsite, don't hesitate to reach out to [email protected]. Or, if you've done something similar before, I'd love to hear about it!
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