At NerdWallet, we work tirelessly to provide our consumers with clarity for all of their financial decisions. We work as small teams to build the tools that will empower our users, giving them confidence to make informed financial choices. Some of our best features have come from solving real financial challenges that we have encountered ourselves. Sometimes brainstorming at a whiteboard in our downtown San Francisco office is the best way to perfect our product experience. Other times, it takes very serious user research to help us find the right feature. But regardless of how we build features, stepping away from the office is a very necessary step so we can collect our thoughts and connect as a team.
After a very successful start to 2018, I wanted to take my team on an offsite to unwind, get out of the office, and bond with everyone. In my personal life, my favorite way to connect with friends is to spend time around a fire, tucked away in nature — removed from cell phone service and the internet. I was excited to try the same type of experience with my team, and thought it would make for a very different type of work offsite.
I was looking for a camping experience that was approachable for everyone, regardless of prior camping experience. I didn’t want anyone to have to worry about what they needed to bring, eat, or drink, and I didn’t want a place that required any hiking (though optional hiking was preferred). I’ve used Hipcamp in the past as a way to explore the amazing outdoors in northern California without feeling like you’re bumping your elbows with your camping neighbors. I reached out to my team to make sure that everybody was open to sleeping outside, and willing to have an overnight offsite that cut into their personal weekend. They were all thrilled.
Spending time together in nature was different from our previous offsites in a few ways:
1) Everybody was present.
We didn’t have cell phone service, so everybody was in the moment. No texting, or email-checking, no on-call, and no instagram. Aside from the shared Spotify playlist we created ahead of time, nobody was on their phone. Instead, we chatted. We naturally broke into small groups to collect fire wood, explore small hikes around us, and scope out the best spot to stare at the stars.
2) We actually disconnected from work.
Sure, there was the occasional work conversation, but it was surprisingly limited. Some people built fires, some people helped cook the food, a few people played instruments, and others observed and had great conversation.
Camping in the woods can feel intimidating for those who haven’t done it before. But it’s much more approachable when the only thing you need to do is show up, and be willing to sleep in a tent. There was a lot of coordination on my part, but I think the outcome was absolutely worth it. I won’t necessarily do a camping trip for all of my future offsites, but this certainly won’t be the last. Several months later, we’re still laughing and reminiscing about our camping adventure.
Featured Hipcamp: Salmon Creek Ranch, Redwood Camp.
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