There are benefits to remote work, like working in sweatpants & saving gas money (especially right now).
But there are pieces to the experience that are less transparent, like isolation & a lack of community even with weekly virtual meetings.
Remote encompasses these experiences & more, but (in my opinion) comes with the best times of your life when you can get together with the team.
Kennected’s marketing team went fully remote in May 2022 & while some members stick to a hybrid schedule, the majority don’t.
I went on my first work retreat in late July to get back together with the marketing gang & work on building department goals taking into account where the department is at & where we hope to take the company.
This blog serves as a slightly foggy recollection of events that occurred in the forested area of Traverse City, Michigan.
It Started With A Minivan
After parking in the busy streets of downtown Indianapolis, I joined the rest of the marketing team PLUS Kennected’s chauffeur & coworker Brad Johnston.
Here’s some interesting advice: If you want to get to know your coworkers, cram everyone into a vehicle & drive a couple of hours.
You will notice how naturally people begin to open up to each other as it’s on mutual ground. This car ride was the beginning of a lasting bond & it’s something unexplainable.
Previously, there was no reason to open up to coworkers, but it seemed appropriate to take a leap of faith in a mutually unfamiliar area.
The feeling was mutual, not something I can prove, but I can bet my life anyone else in that Chrysler would attest to.
Strangely, the experience was similar to The Breakfast Club minus the detention.
Although we worked in the same department, we had different views on life, hot button topics, and gas station snacks.
A “Greener” Side of Life
I never had many male friends growing up. Is it because I lack hand-eye coordination, an attraction to women, or an interest in sports?
Maybe it’s all of these things, or maybe it’s none of these things. But something about being camped out in an Airbnb does something to people (in the best way).
The location was cozy & perfect for a nontraditional bonding experience: no air conditioning but an eye for design and scenery.
The moment we walked into the house, it was as if everything had been put on pause and nothing important mattered. I look back on it & wish I could have bottled that feeling up.
Everything was comical but real.
Our conversations about growing up in different parts of the U.S. and what we hoped to accomplish in our professional careers were merely the top layer of a complicated group of people.
The first night consisted of competitive bean bag tossing (mainly between CMO Stephen Twomey & our social media guru Kyle Raisor).
For someone that rarely plays, I was surprised how well I did even when it got to be dark outside.
Drinks, and fire followed, started by Director of Marketing Ryan Forrest.
The team spent roughly two hours talking through the goals & dreams of a young team trying to get on the map.
I was out of my element & with a group of people I had not thought were capable of opening up about their lives.
The Ticking Time Bomb
Forrest is amazingly charismatic and a natural leader. I would bet my life there’s little the man can’t do.
Due to the lack of rooms for everyone, I ended up sleeping in a small bedroom with a dresser, closet, bed, and mattress on the floor.
The nights consisted of myself on a floor mattress next to a small box fan ticking its life away. Forrest lay nearby on the bed.
While Forrest snored, I pondered if all the thoughts I’d had previously about the team were true. My negativity and lack of optimism naturally faded during those three extravaganza days.
During the night, these thoughts were challenged by the inconsistent high-frequency ticking from the fan.
But there was little time to dwell on anything permanent as we had early daily plans.
Around The World In Six Hours
I’m not sure there was a time when I was completely sober, but as everyone kept saying, “The vibes were good,” somehow it was easy to break into “work mode” when needed.
Day two consisted of an all-day wine tour around Traverse City. I had not ridden on a party bus before, but life comes at you fast.
The wine tour was my favorite day of the retreat as (besides the obvious) it was a chance to know what everyone was up to in their lives.
It was warm & sunny, and the day was full of opportunity. It wasn’t long before I fell in love with the rosé.
Six tours later and several take-home glasses lay in bags at the back of the bus. Only four glasses made it back to the Airbnb.
It was time to eat & we went to a restaurant whose name escaped me until Stephen told me- Its Boone’s Long Lake Inn– but I had an amazing French dip sandwich.
After stumbling back to Twomey’s house, I finally saw where all the marketing magic happens. In the woods lay a decent-sized house overlooking Long Lake.
There was a private beach, a boat, a pontoon, and a water trampoline. We spent around an hour or two getting a tour of the property & meeting Twomey’s family.
Each day that went by seemed to cement our friendship. It was an unforeseen circumstance but a treasure I likely won’t forget.
Before leaving, the team spent the day on Twomey’s watercraft. He took us out on the pontoon, telling us about the rich and famous residents living on the lake.
The water was a solid 68-70 degrees and entirely too cold for any human. Stephen’s note, it was 80 degrees, the air was 70, so the air was freezing!
Our newest member Emily Klemptner has a solid collegiate record for swimming, so she was far out while the rest of us played tipsy toss.
I made better defense than anything else, but Kyle Raisor & I came close to beating Twomey & Johnston. Even far out on the islands, the lake water was crystal clear.
As we made our way around the lake, Twomey pointed out how shallow the lake had been due to the lack of rain.
We arrived back at Twomey’s beach to switch to the wake boat. Twomey’s wife Jane dominated the wake surfing, as did Forrest, Twomey, and Eli Alvarez, our videographer.
Alvarez captured the trip’s best moments, so a HUGE shoutout to that guy. We made our way to dinner & watched Jurassic World: Dominion later that night.
If you’re a department head & are reading this, consider this: If you don’t know your team, take them on a trip in the middle of nowhere.
You will be surprised how much you’ll learn from conversing with these people. Team bonding is perhaps one of the most beneficial skills a work team can build.
So no big project came out of this trip & Kennected’s marketing team did not come back with infinite wisdom. However, there’s no doubt our bond is solid.