HOW TO FOSTER CREATIVITY IN REMOTE WORKING MODES
An article co-authored with Paul Kenig.
It’s no surprise companies like Facebook, Quora, and Okta are increasingly looking to hire heads of remote. 
This evolution of leadership is just the next level of the Chief Operations Officer who became so important in the telecommunication age. We can also add some well-informed futurology here: the rank of chief people officer — or maybe even chief culture officer — could loom in the not-too-distant future.
A STAGGERING 75% OF AXIOS HIRES HAVE JOINED
THE COMPANY SINCE THE END OF 2020.
Most of them are experiencing the company culture personally for the first time — not for the first time since the pandemic restrictions were lifted — but for the first time ever. And they do so after almost two years with the company. To date, they have never entered a property in the company’s corporate design and have never met most of their colleagues in real life. 
This reality applies to successful companies worldwide. Yes, remote work has several benefits, from flexibility for the employees to a nearly limitless talent pool for the employer.
BUT ONE THING IS CERTAIN: TOGETHERNESS AND THE CORPORATE CULTURE SUFFER FROM THIS NEW WORKING MODE.
We should not interpret the unforeseen triumph of the home office as a one-dimensional positive signal and carefully consider, that the home office in times of the pandemic had one of the most understandable immediate purposes of all: to protect the weak and sick in our society as a whole. With that purpose in mind switching to a remote working mode was as obvious as going to work was all the years before. Let us keep in mind that this purpose is increasingly being called into question.
Clear benefits, such as the time saved by not having to commute, have an increasingly palpable price attached to them in terms of culture and creativity. Working remotely appears to be threatening the intangibles of spending unstructured time together: in a new study, researchers found that people are less creative in virtual meetings than in live meetings. 
Remote work is a new mode that requires employees to digitally commute — a mode that has its own associated set-up costs. Though linked with far less detrimental effects on health and well-being than spending time in traffic jams, the daily digital commute costs companies most of their staff’s satisfaction and time due to integration problems and the resulting threat of isolation. 
WHILE SOME COMPANIES ARE RETURNING TO TIGHTLY CONTROLLED OFFICES, OTHERS ARE SELLING THEIR COMMERCIAL PROPERTIES OR CONSIDERING OTHER WAYS TO FOSTER PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS AMONG THEIR EMPLOYEES.
According to the latter, there is no future in which all employees will be in the same place again. The workation is a strategic team-building journey characterized by activities for the whole company. It aims to revitalize employees, encourage cross-departmental teamwork, and strengthen and encourage friendships. Workations have proven fundamental and essential for remotely working teams to improve social interactions and collaboration, bringing a touch of reality back to remote work. 
According to Toronto based event agency Moniker Partners, requests for workations have quintupled.  No wonder since this format encourages camaraderie and strengthens corporate culture like no other event. A novelty is that these trips are now often composed of unstructured time with colleagues and are often combined with activities such as scavenger hunts and dragon boat races in unusual places.
Since this format becomes so widely accepted, here are 5 essential tips for your workcation endeavors:
A. WHAT DIMENSION SHOULD YOUR INVESTMENT IN YOUR CORPORATE CULTURE HAVE?
A local retreat should cost around €250 per person per night — all-in. The international trips including flights, accommodation, and activities can easily exceed the €1,000 limit per person per night. That corresponds to around €80,000 for a four-day workshop for 20 employees. Boutique activities like a custom escape room, a keynote by celebrity coaches and entrepreneurs, or a themed party add to that estimate.
Yes, workcations don’t come cheap, but a remote team that doesn’t work well together is many times more expensive.
And please add to your considerations: in many cases, the annual workcation replaces a headquarters, including operating and maintenance costs.
B. PLAN WELL IN ADVANCE!
Note that your workcation will be tantamount to a five-day wedding celebration in terms of complexity. Since you are independent of holiday times, choose spring or autumn for your travel time. In this way, you avoid overbooked hotels with families who are on summer holidays and the high volume of travel during the winter holidays.
C. PLAN THE GOALS OF YOUR WORKCATION WELL IN ADVANCE AS WELL!
What experiences do you want your team to have on their journey? The goal should be for all your employees to fly home with a feeling of elevated inspiredness and connectedness to the vision of the company. More specifically, your goal could also be that each employee is encouraged to seek a real human connection with — for example — eight people they did not know before.
D. CHOOSE YOUR LOCATION WISELY:
Most colleagues will have expired passports and not even realize it. Although many countries have now eased Covid-19 guidelines, visitors may still need a work visa. Due to these peculiarities, it is advisable to check in advance if everyone can join. The platform Cloopio shows excellent locations for your workcations.
Many organizers recommend setting clear and firm codes of conduct. All employees must be always aware that they are representatives of the company. This means that respectful behavior must be a matter of course during the workcation and in distant countries. In concrete terms, this means: the wine should not be opened before dinner. Yes, most certainly, workcations are not the time to work on one’s promotion — but they should not be used to present one’s fewer charming traits to everyone either.
In any case, work should not be neglected. The organization of the work urgently needs to be organized in a varied and unfamiliar way. Shitstorming-sessions, Power Point karaoke, and hackathons, that deliver tangible results but don’t necessarily feel like every day work are recommended.
It is highly recommended to add external workshop hosts and speakers into the mix. There is nothing more deadening to corporate serendipity flow on a workation than an unexperienced, hesitant host. Investing in the perfect surroundings you might as well book a professional, with hours on hours on remote and hybrid moderation experience.
A very specific example of such a format emerged, for example, in preparation for a workation at Buffer. When the Buffer workforce decided to spend a workation in Singapore in 2018, the organizational team created a regularly updated open document with frequently asked questions. When the retreat finally began, the online compendium totaled a whopping 24 pages of specific information. 
If you are willing to invest in your workation and if you follow these five tips above, you and your colleagues can be sure of a corporate-culture-after-glow and productional afterburner effects among your teams:
- The feeling of isolation in your team decreases and remote work ceases to be the number one isolation driver.
- Team morale towards work increases significantly as your employees‘ excitement and enthusiasm are renewed.
- The work output and productivity within your teams increases. Nothing is more detrimental to productivity than a deadened team. New or strengthened connections between your employees generate more knowledge and stimulate the exploration of new skills.
- Your fluctuation rates are significantly reduced: the new social ties between your employees automatically lead to a higher appreciation among them. Their commitment and performance soar. Loyalty to the company increases and important knowledge and talents remain in your company. This in turn means continued success and sustainable performance.
- The increased loyalty also increases the degree and quality of cooperation and thus the cohesion of the teams. These strong bonds and new ways of communicating lead to greater interaction and therefore more innovation.
- Strong bonds are the condition for cross-functional and cross-departmental cooperation, the basis of a game changer organization, and the generation and dissemination of new knowledge.
Workations can — if they are planned and carried out with enough care — have the character of an annually recurring company reunion.
The benefits of remote working come with their challenges, particularly at the cross-cultural corporate level. However, these challenges can be mastered through management training and structural rethinking — they only require getting used to an organization and professional discipline that has long entered our blood for the way too familiar on-site mode.