For workers who are never on site, the “off-site” still lures

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Many find remote work to be more transactional than in-person work. You slack off when you need something and otherwise stare at your own screen in your own home. Managers see offsites as a way to make remote work more personal.

Laura Burkhauser, a product manager at Twitter in San Francisco, planned a hybrid offsite in January to help her team build what she called “that elusive relationship.” In May 2020, Twitter informed its employees that they could work from home permanently. Ms Burkhauser, whose team included collaborators in London and New York, said “offsites are more important than ever in these times of virtual work” because it’s easier to trust and communicate with remote colleagues when you actually have them knows.

While many technicians and leaders agree that off-site retreats have some value, even when conducted remotely, they are much more difficult to conduct.

Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab and co-founder of Strivr, a virtual reality startup, called the idea of ​​conducting a multi-day retreat with back-to-back meetings “madness — and I’m not going to use that word lightly.” He adding, “You can’t just talk to someone for 36 hours and expect their brain to pick it up.” He recently published a paper on Zoom fatigue, saying, “Zoom is like a fire hose. You will be inundated with non-verbal cues.”

Then the question arises of how to actually spend the time together on an offsite. Ms. Wu said her startup’s latest outpost in Napa, California, planned by the Offsite Company, was primarily for social purposes. She knows that software engineers who are in demand can quickly quit and take on other jobs. “So,” she said, “you really want to create an environment where people are excited to be there, believe in the company, like the people they work with, and not just jump ship.”

Meghana Reddy, a human resources manager in Oakland, California, said off-sites used to be “nice to have” but have become “a must-have” during the pandemic. She said that for tech companies looking to attract talent, investing in offsites “represents a better use of money than trying to get people back into the office.” Some companies are already giving up their offices and reallocating operating budgets to off-site locations. Hunter Block, Offsiter’s founder, said he knows one large company that plans over 600 offsites a year for smaller teams of employees.

Mr. Bailenson, writing on Zoom fatigue, would advise that whatever businesses are doing to bolster their off-site plans, they shouldn’t over-rely on video chat.

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