Why our annual company holiday matters to our culture
At the end of every year, the entire Cytora team take a company holiday abroad. In 2018, we spent three days together in Tenerife, the largest of Spain's Canary Islands.
We view this yearly trip as an opportunity to recognise and celebrate our team for their efforts. It also provides us with a chance to get to know each other better, in person, outside of the office. This is especially important to us as some of our teams are remote.
This year’s trip to Tenerife was our biggest to date – eclipsing our previous trips to Malaga, Barcelona, and Sicily – with over 50 Cytorians attending from our offices across London, Ljubljana, and Sydney.
How it all started
The annual retreat has evolved into one of our calendar highlights but is an initiative we stumbled upon unintentionally. Back in 2014, as a small company of 12, we were uninspired by the price of Christmas dinner and drinks in London and decided to find a better way to celebrate.
We started exploring a variety of options and discovered that we could take the entire company on vacation to sunnier shores for around the same price as a night out in Shoreditch.
In 2015, we held our first company holiday in Malaga. The trip had a profound impact on company culture, far bigger than a single night out in town could ever provide. The most noticeable change post-trip was a heightened sense of community and openness. We found this made knowledge sharing and problem-solving more effective, even when tensions were running high.
Why it works
We consciously decided to make our annual trip a holiday and not a forced-fun event. We try to be as considerate and inclusive as possible and don’t put too much emphasis on partying.
We organise a variety of activities but give people complete freedom to spend time however they choose. There is no pressure to comply with an agenda. This makes the entire experience very relaxed and allows everyone to be themselves.
By taking our teams away from the pressures of the office, we found that they bonded more closely and took these enhanced relationships back into the workplace, inspiring creative collaboration across a fluid matrix of teams. We see this manifested today through the evolution of our product and the ways in which we share ideas to move the business forward.
In Tenerife, we stayed across two villa complexes and organised a wide range of optional activities for people to enjoy, including:
Hiking: A 12km mountain hike to the Caldera rim at a maximum altitude of 2,550m with stunning views of the world’s third tallest volcanic structure – Mount Teide – and its stunning landscape.
Cycling: A short 30km road cycle, which started with a 15k descent but also featured a mile of climbing and subsequently many cans of coke and pit-stops!
Kayaking: The chance to enjoy the ocean where we got to snorkel alongside dolphins, turtles, and stingrays…
Speedboating: This turned out to be more of a leisurely boat trip as the speed had to be reduced because of the dolphins swimming in the area!
Go Karting: The crown for hotly-contested Cytora karting championship was taken by one of our Data Engineers, Blaž Jeršan.
It wasn’t all outdoor-pursuits. There was daily yoga, cooking classes to rustle up local dishes, and regionally inspired wine tasting.
Under 28-degrees of sunshine, the stunning pool areas and the beach were also popular choices!
It’s always encouraging to see our team return from these trips relaxed, inspired, and ready for the new year. Planning a company-wide retreat requires a lot of thought, energy, and organisation, but it’s a lot of fun. If done correctly, it can have a significant and lasting effect on company culture.