The whole team have just returned from Hullafest 2021 – a week-long celebration of our team, dedicated to recognising our achievements and cultivating a company culture we’re proud of.
From the moment Hullabalook was founded, Hullafest was introduced as an integral part of the company. The idea was simple – we would take 1 (sometimes 2) weeks out of every year to reflect on our achievements, focus on building relationships within the team and give Hullabytes space to be creative, learn from one another and have fun.
Each year Hullafest adapts to suit the needs of Hullaybtes. Our first Hullafest was all about giving people the space to learn something new and explore the boundaries of technology. In 2021, after almost 2 years apart from one another, we decided to use Hullafest as an opportunity to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company once again.
Hullafest takes ‘team bonding’ to new heights. We spent the last week exploring London during an interactive treasure hunt game, Kayaking through the canals of East London, trying our hand at pottery and sampling Kent’s best wines.
By having such a variety of activities, we hoped that everyone would experience something they enjoy, but also step out of their comfort zones.
It takes a lot of time and planning to make Hullafest a success. August was one of the busiest months in Hullabalook history; we went live with 3 new experiences, we’re currently in the midst of our biggest recruitment drive and we’re beginning projects with some huge retailers… Essentially, we couldn’t have picked a worse time to take a week out of the office. But we felt it was incredibly important that we did. Here are some things we learned and relearned about ourselves, and some top tips for running Hullafest style events.
What we’ve learned about ourselves
1. Our team’s individual skill sets are applicable in all situations
Even completely out of their usual habitat and elements our team’s skills shone through. When we had a minor delay to starting one of our planned activities our Customer Success team herded everyone into the nearest coffee shop and made sure that they were occupied with drinks and snacks. When a couple of the team took an unfortunate plunge off a Kayak our Engineering team were fashioning rope ladders and pulley systems to get them out of the water and back onto dry land. When everyone’s energy was dipping our Sales & Comms team were hyping everyone up, creating competitions and keeping everyone powering towards the finish line.
2. Despite a year and a half out of an office environment – our team is still a team
We enjoy each other’s company. We work together naturally and in all situations. We support each other. We’re proud of the culture and the company that we are building.
Top tips for running a successful away day(s)
The most successful away- days support what the company needs at that moment. When we were all in an office together our people needed time apart to work on individual passion/learning projects to re-energise them and spark their creativity. When we are existing virtually, our team needs time together working as groups creating shared experiences and personal connections that are difficult to achieve via Zoom alone.
“Planned Fun” is still work, and your team needs to approach it with the same mindset and dedication that they would any other work task. No opting out or deciding only to attend some parts, no sideling off to take work calls. All in, and all in together.
1. To build culture, you need to put people first
No matter how busy the company is, how many projects we have kicking off, or how demanding our deadlines are, we will always prioritise our team. By making Hullafest an ingrained part of our company culture, we have made the decision that every year, no matter what, we will take time to cultivate relationships within the team. We make sure that all Hullabytes know that Hullafest requires their full participation – you can’t pick and choose the times you attend. You’re either in or out!
2. To nurture relationships, you need to switch off
Too often companies arrange ‘team bonding’ days that still require employees to work in between activities. We disagree with this approach. For Hullafest to be successful, we think it’s essential that everyone is given the freedom to switch off and focus on being with their colleagues. This makes the final memories shared much more powerful, and increases camaraderie between everyone.
3. It’s important to create a schedule everyone can enjoy
Our team is full of curious Hullabytes with lots of different interests. It’s impossible for everyone to enjoy every activity, so we worked hard to organise a week of varied activities that each person would enjoy. Each activity required a different set of skills – some needed a critical mind, some required creative flair and others, good coordination. Mixing up our activities meant that most people had the chance to try something new for the very first time, which we always like to encourage.
Reflecting on Hullafest, everyone within the company agreed that they feel more connected with their colleagues. They have strengthened relationships with colleagues in different teams. They have learned something new. They’ve enjoyed themselves and feel ready to accomplish more amazing things together as a team. All in all, a pretty successful Hullafest!