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Re-imagining Team Retreats

If you have been following the Emerging ag blogs, you may recall that twice a year we bring our international team together for a week of meetings, team building and fun. Between the twenty team members we cover nine countries. This past March we were meant to gather in Nairobi but, like so many others, due to the COVID-19 pandemic our plans were changed.

While the team building and group dinners would be missed, it was the substance of the in-person meetings that would be missed the most. At every retreat, the whole team sits together and brainstorms ideas for the future of the company, new ideas for clients, and have a general back and forth which gains momentum for larger projects. On top of these, we also have mini-team meetings. These are client specific meetings which would only include members of the team who work on this specific project, examples of these include World Milk Day, Administrative, or Target Malaria. A couple hours of in person time can be invaluable when doing immediate and long-term planning. So, how did we make up for this lost time? MANY conference calls!

As a way to have some of the brainstorming and informational sessions, the team conducted three two-hour long calls which included roundtables and show and tells. As an added interactive piece each, each presentation included a quiz or song that wasn’t directly work related but gave all the participants something to be engaged with rather than just listening to a computer screen and becoming distracted by the stream of incoming emails and chats. As a way to make up for some of the mini team calls, we have worked hard to add additional calls into everyone’s schedules. Whether that be increasing the duration or the number of calls, the Emerging team is working hard to make up for a lost week.

Why are these increased numbers of conference calls making a difference for a company that has already been working remotely and uses conference calls as a norm? We are turning on our cameras! This was not an Emerging norm, and personally in three years with the company I don’t think I had ever turned on the camera function during a call. But in an age of physical distancing people everywhere are craving a connection to the people around them, even if it is just to see them with messy hair and in a parade of hoodies. In addition, client calls with physical viewing have increased for people who may not be used to a remote work environment. It does allow for an additional sense of engagement when you can see the person on the other end is paying attention to you and not refilling their coffee cups.

These are challenging times, and one I’m sure we never thought we would be in but adapting and connecting with those around you has never been more important. From everyone at Emerging ag, we hope you are staying safe and staying home and we look forward to physically seeing all our clients on the other end of this pandemic.

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