How We Bond Without the Bullsh*t at Refined

Once a year the Refined team take a day off from building our theming apps to band together and work towards an alternate goal.

This blog is a personal reflection of the way we do team building at our company. I’m doing this because I think the way we do team building at Refined is awesome, representative of the culture we have, and I want to share it with Refined readers. As we are a Swedish company, based in Sweden, team building is referred to as a
‘kick-off’. Upon reflection, I’ve identified some aspects I believe uphold an invaluable Refined team building day each year.

Removing the irrelevant fluff

Team building exercises can be terrific, but they can also be awkward, uncomfortable, overused and irrelevant. Commonly found on the internet, these exercises can fail to drive team spirit and instead cause the participants to feel like they are wasting their time. When I reflected on the many team building exercises I’ve done over the years, the common factor that truly motivated me was working on a real problem, issue or towards a real goal. Hypotheticals just didn’t quite cut it.

Making the team exercises real

While I can’t pretend to be a master of team building exercises I can tell you that the exercises we have done for the past 3 years involved real goals or projects that were relevant to our company. In 2015 and 2016 our ‘kick-off’, or team building exercise was equivalent of an office working bee. We wore our old torn jeans, our CEO brought his electric drill and DIY materials and we built, constructed, and worked together in smaller teams to improve our office working space. This exercise was motivating as we were helping to build the space we work in every day, it was fun, and we were able to work with our teammates towards a common and real goal.

For the 2017 kick-off we were in our new office and a working bee wasn’t necessary, so the Co-founders gave us a more intellectual project to work together on. We were given one hour in teams of three to come up with another way we could expand RefinedTheme’s core elements, theme, layout and navigation to other Atlassian platforms. This was both enjoyable, and a realistic project that could be used in the future.

Sharing the company direction with the team

Each year we get a run down from both our Co-founders on our products, the business, and the direction we are going. While we are transparent year round on these things, the team building day is an opportunity to really crunch the big numbers and invite us to understand that we are part of the progression of the company and each contributing to driving results. This in itself can make us feel both motivated and closer as a team. 

Doing activities the whole team will enjoy

Every year after the more ‘team’ focused exercises we leave the office for activities. Our co-founders are particularly good at selecting activities the whole team will enjoy. So perhaps the key is to know your team. For the past few years we have gone to a spa in the south of Sweden to be indulged with massages, excellent sauna chats and invigorating dips in cool oceans!

This year we changed things up a bit and partook in one of the greatest sports ever invented, CURLING! If you’ve never done it, get onto it, it is an absolute hoot of a time.

At Refined we take on Atlassian’s value of no bullshit, and cut the fluff that can come with team building days. We work on real Refined goals and projects together as a team. We are transparent, involve the entire team to strive further and we have a lot of fun together!