Craig Johnson, senior product designer, gives us a behind the scenes look at how the UX team planned an exciting two-day online meetup. He offers tips, advice, and insight on how your team can have fun and reconnect — all while avoiding Zoom fatigue.
Gathering is critical for our UX team members since they’re all embedded into different mission teams such as Partner Tech or Customer Engagement. As a result, our UX organization might not always cross paths in their day-to-day work. Learn how Craig and his teammates color-coded a productive schedule full of meaningful team activities. Read till the end to find out how they even made time for an olive oil tasting session from a Croatia sommelier.
In a given normal year, the UX team tries to meet up face-to-face, at least a couple of times. At GetYourGuide, the team is based in both the Berlin and Zurich offices, so in-person time is super valuable.
Like many people, in April last year, we found ourselves in a new, completely unparalleled situation. We were immensely grateful that we were all able to continue our work from home. This, of course, meant that for 2020 and the foreseeable future, we weren’t going to be able to see each other in person. We’d have to get creative with how we — during the middle of a global pandemic — stay connected, take time for ourselves, and get inspired.
So we put together a plan to take two full days to spend time together, learn from others and do some fun activities. Here’s how we approached a completely online team meetup and some things we kept in mind along the way.
The goal of this meetup was clear. We’re all in lockdown. The travel industry particularly was going through unprecedented times. GetYourGuide was continuing its mission, and we were all continuing to work hard to make that happen, but we needed a way to release some of the pent-up pressure we were beginning to experience in the team.
While we’re working from home, the interactions we had in our daily work and our mission teams can easily become transactional. So we decided to focus on having some fun during a moment of intense work, and that’s exactly what we did.
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The schedule was built around a couple of core concepts:
Zoom fatigue is real. We didn’t want this event to become yet another contributing factor. As we transitioned to working from home and a more distributed work setup, we simultaneously made a conscious effort to move to asynchronous work.
Nevertheless, the amount of time spent in Zoom calls and the need to be always on gets tiring. We made sure to take minimum 30-minutes breaks during our two-day meetup — none of this ~5-minute break stuff. We designed the schedule around three behaviors: Idle time, off-screen time, and interactive time.
🔴 Idle time is time spent in Zoom, doing nothing but listening. We wanted to keep this to a minimum because while the content itself can be inspiring, it has the highest risk of disengaging us.
🔵 Off-screen time is just that — time allocated for breaks, lunch, and so on. No laptop interaction is required. We wanted to make sure we had a minimum of at least one break every 1 hour and that those breaks were significant, ~30-minute breaks where we could rest our eyes and disconnect. The amount and length of breaks cannot be underestimated — looking at our schedule, with breaks after each hour chunk or after each session, it looked well covered, but after our two-day meetup, we’d do even more next time.
🟢 Interactive time. This is time spent in Zoom, but doing something that requires active engagement, like doing a workshop together.
During all these types of moments in the schedule, we tried to think how we could design them to include a variety of event types — some sessions were Q&A sessions, some were quick team exercises to kick the day off, some were asynchronous Slack-based activities, and some were dedicated online team activities. We made an attempt to over-index on the fun stuff too.
Our schedule for the two-days looked a little like this:
Everyone in the UX organization belongs to at least one mission team or vertical team. In the UX org, we have some team rituals together, like our UX Team Syncs and our UX Team Reviews, but there’s always a chance we don’t cross in our day-to-day paths for longer periods. During our meetup, we tried to create opportunities for us to interact and cross paths with folks we don’t usually get to. One way we did this was by using Ice Breaker to create short moments of conversations with other folks in the team. It was a lot of fun.
Having fun and staying connected were some of the main goals. When we held this particular UX meeting, we were looking to give our inspiration a boost and help us prepare for the months to come. To combine interactive sessions and keep things on the fun side, we looked for inspiration inwards — making use of the product leaders we have amongst us to run Q&A sessions, give presentations, facilitate workshops, and inspire us with their personal stories growth.
To help us prepare for future strategic initiatives, we facilitated Q&A sessions with product leaders like our CPO Ameet Ranadive and our COO Tao Tao. By including this in our schedule, we ensured the whole team had an opportunity to hear their stories and ask them some poignant questions.
For all of our executive Q&A sessions, we had a session moderator who sourced some interesting questions and discussion topics beforehand. We also made use of Slid.o to facilitate discussions as well. In some cases, we did free-form questions and discussion too, given our group was generally a manageable size for that to run smoothly on its own.
At the end of day one, we had two options for fun activities we could do online as a team. We had one group enjoying a farm tour and olive oil tasting session from a Croatia sommelier and another group enjoying an adventure into Lisbon street art from a local artist.
Heading into day two, we kicked the day off with a quick guided meditation session before a day of learning and activities.
Friday included Lightning learnings — a format of rapid-fire, five-minute presentations from each of us on a topic of choice. We learned from each other about gardening, being one with nature, and managing personal projects outside of work. Lightning learnings are always an excellent way to learn something new about a person and a topic, discover what we’re passionate about outside of work, or perhaps about a talent someone has that we never knew. It can be about sharing a personal experience, knowledge sharing, anything!
Friday also included a workshop on owning our accomplishments — creating and maintaining a Brag Doc to keep track of all the great work we do and take ownership of the effort and amazing work we produce.
We also ran an asynchronous lunch-time event called Local lunches, where we were all assigned a person in the team, learned from them where they consider "home," researched this place and the cuisine, and then cooked a meal in their honor. We shared photos in our dedicated Slack workspace for the day, and it was an exciting way to learn a bit more about our colleagues and their histories with a fun (and tasty) interactive exercise.
During online meetups, one of the main difficulties can be engagement. When you're traveling to a meetup or conference, it's perhaps easier to engage and be in the moment when you're actually co-located for that moment. In the event of an online meetup, it's a little trickier because there are all these things swirling around you — emails, Slack messages, calendar events, and so on. To help combat this temptation to switch back to work, we tried to make it really clear, with some pre-meetup emails, that this was to be considered time-off from work.
We encouraged everyone to block out their calendars many weeks in advance, and on the day, close all non-essential apps and windows. We created a dedicated Slack workspace just for this event. This helped us set ourselves as "away" in our usual Slack workspace and not be distracted by channel notifications throughout the day.
After our two-day meetup, we put together a quick Google site to document all the things we did together. This was a nice way to host some of the videos from the talks and collect images we shared in our workspace over the two-days as well.
Overall, our team meetup was a nice break from our daily work at that time of the year. If anything, next time, we'd over-over-index on the fun activities, creating even more time to relax as a team. Still, overall it was a great couple of days of being together, getting inspired, and learning new things.
If you’d like to join our Product & Design team, check out our Career page.