What is an off-site?
Off-site basically means "doing it someplace else". It is a common term used in the business world. Off-site storage means you're backing up your company's sensitive information and data someplace else, in case disaster strikes at home. Meeting a client at a neutral location, say a hotel or pub which is neither your office nor the client's to have a business discussion and transaction can also be termed as an off-site meeting.
In the Corporate sector, off-site trips are quite common, and it is mainly a team-bonding and company-building experience. The entire department or team goes away for a day or two, usually to a nice secluded resort or camp.
What sets apart an office picnic trip from an office off-site trip is that, office picnic is when you go with your colleagues to a nice place just to have fun, you know, get drunk and stuff, bitch about whichever Manager or HR is not around once the alcohol hits you, only to regret it the next day. An off-site trip on the other hand, may come with the same fun package later in the night, but it is more of a workshop where the main focus of the trip is to take part in various team activities and exercises that will benefit not just you as an employee but the company as a whole.
Recently, I took part in my first off-site trip since joining Jetsynthesys 3 years ago, and I was super stoked.
Back when I was working at an Advertising agency, we used to go for many off-site weekend trips as well, but it used to be just the Creative department. It would be us copywriters, animators, graphic artists, visualizers, etc. all headed by our Creative Director, and we would brainstorm and brainstorm on many upcoming pitches and ideas.
But in the case of Jetsynthesys, this off-site trip was for our ENTIRE gaming division! That means not just us game designers, 2D/3D artists and animators but also the entire Tech team with all their programmers and developers, the entire marketing team, the QA team, the analytics team, and even the HR and admin team! And that was why I was really excited to take part in this trip.
And so, I woke up at 5 AM on the day of the trip and got ready. Koregaon Park looked so deserted at that time in the morning!
Sumeet came to pick me up, and off we went to the off-site location.
The sun was just rising across the idyllic Yerwada bridge.
Haha, our faces say it all - Too much drink and too less sleep the previous night :D :P
Now I'm surprised a lot of my friends still don't know about this new feature on WhatsApp called "Share LIVE location". Unlike the earlier "share location", live location tracks you in real-time as long as it is active. And this feature is extremely useful in WhatsApp groups. If everybody in the group share their live location, you can see each other on the same map, and this makes co-ordination and planning really easy, like for example, if somebody's taking a wrong route or turn, you can tell him right then.
We stopped for breakfast at McDee on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway since the live location showed that a few of our colleagues were still behind us.
Travelling on the expressway, especially before traffic rush hour was fun. There were times when we easily hit 180-200 kmph…
And then there were times like this where we were stuck behind four trucks trying to overtake each other at a snail's pace, urrrghhh!
We made another brief stop at Tiger Point for cutting chai.
It was SUPER windy, almost blowing us off the precarious cliffside! All the tea stalls at the area too placed heavy stones on their plastic chairs so that the wind couldn't sweep them away!
The place also brought back a lot of memories of my last visit, though it wasn't that windy back then.
Finally after around an hour of drive across small Ghat roads and many hairpin bends, we reached the first diversion from the main road, where there was a signboard of "Mawi Infinitty Resort".
The owner of that resort is apparently a Mizo lady, an aunt of a Facebook friend of mine. Hence I think the correct pronunciation should be "Mawi" as in "moi" (Mizo word) but everybody including the guides of our resort pronounced it as "Maa-Wee" so that left me very confused.
Anyway, the journey from the main road to our resort was bumpy, dusty and quite perilous, as the roads got smaller and smaller.
If you're planning to travel to this place, make sure you're in an SUV or else your car is going to take a beating. Those of us who came in sedans and other LMVs that day parked our vehicles near Club Mahindra Tungi Resort and got into 3 SUVs that belonged to our accommodation.
The route reminded me of Mizoram off-roads and I felt nostalgic for a moment…
We finally reached our destination on the banks of the beautiful pristine Pawna Lake - Lohgad Resort and Boating Club and Adventure Battalion. The tents were already set up for us.
We left our luggage near the row houses as we quickly explored the beautiful resort.
Most of us headed down to the banks of Pawna Lake immediately.
We were strictly instructed not to jump inside the lake because unlike a river or ocean, the lake was deep immediately and there weren't enough lifeguards to save all of us. And so we settled with stone skipping, competing to see who could make the pebbles bounce the most, lolz.
After a few more minutes of exploration, we headed back up to the base camp, where breakfast was waiting for us - Egg sandwich and Poha, with tea and coffee.
Once we were done with breakfast, it was time to begin our off-site workshop session. Chairs were already arranged for us at the main open-air hall.
As you can see from above, there weren't many of us for the Day 1 session as it was only for the senior staff and stakeholders of our company. The rest of our colleagues were to join us later in the night and we would all take part together on Day 2 sessions.
Sunil Shinde, our L&D (Learning and Development) Professional and Behavioral & Team Building Trainer was in charge of the activities and he told us a couple of inspirational stories and the importance of having a great team.
It was interesting to learn about the Red, Blue, Green and Yellow type of Personality in an Organization, also known as the DISC (Dominant, Inspiring, Supportive and Cautious) behavior types, coined by a psychologist called William Moulton Marston, and how each personality behaves not just within a team but also while dealing with different personalities.
One of the exercises we had to do was this interesting case-study about two families who live right next to each other. Let's call them Family A and Family B. They became really good friends throughout the years, going on group outings together and even their kids play together all the time.
Family A had a mango tree in their backyard, which grew across the fence into Family B's compound. The leaves and branches from the tree would occasionally fall down on Family B's property, and Family B had even informed Family A about it. And then one fine day, a huge branch fell down and it damaged Family B's car which was parked on their drive yard. The amount of repair cost was significant, so what should Family B do?
Option 1: Family B should park their car someplace else so as not to have any untoward conflict with Family A, as they were going to continue being neighbors for many years to come.
Option 2: Family B should discuss the matter with Family A and suggest chopping off the tree and that they should both split the cost of cutting the tree and damages on the car together.
Option 3: Family B should demand that the tree be cut down and Family A should pay for the total cost of the damage on their car, as they had mentioned about their concern many times before.
As you can observe, the above scenarios are pretty much what happens in the Corporate world. It's about how you behave with your peers and colleagues, and your reactions to different situations. We were asked to stand in groups depending on the choice we selected. Most of the people were equally divided between option 1 and 2.
And then, there were us, lolz. Only the four of us chose Option 3. And funny thing is, all four of us sit together in office right next to each other, lolz.
Yeah, we're ruthless :P
All jokes aside, the reason why I selected option 3 (make the neighbors pay for everything) was not because I was being a mean SOB or somebody looking for a conflict. It was actually an unwritten rule that we follow in Mizoram - We all have trees and gardens growing in our compound and many of our trees grow over our neighbors' territory. It is my duty to trim my trees, and so is my neighbor's. If the branches of my tree destroy my neighbor's property, I will pay for the damages without even being asked, and he will do the same. And we co-exist like that for many years, having a very close relationship with each other. Most Mizos, if not all, follow this rule in Mizoram.
But then of course, that was me taking the above situation literally. The case-study was just supposed to be a metaphor on real Corporate life. We had to defend why we selected the particular choice and argued with the other two teams on why their choices weren't as good or logical as ours. It was great fun debating with each other, and it was also a real eye-opener on how simple things like this could break relationships and trusts within a functioning team.
Even though there wasn't a clear correct answer, the experience of arguing and counter-arguing with the other teams made us realize the different methods of dealing with our colleagues and the different outcomes each method can have. We headed for lunch after this fun-filled exercise.
The menu for lunch was veg, but we were assured that dinner and the next day's lunch would be non-veg. We didn't complain because the food was awesome, especially the dal.
After lunch, we rested for a bit and then headed back to the main open-air hall again.
This was the most important part of our workshop. We were divided into four groups and all of us were separated from each other for a discussion.
Now I really can't disclose what we did during this part of the workshop as it is about our company's growth projection and long term strategy and goal, including a postmortem of our existing games and discussion on upcoming game genres and user behavior.
Let's just say all of us contributed really well to our respective group discussions.
By the way, in the above pic, I wasn't scratching my butt :P I was hiding a cigarette behind my back because I have a deep urge to smoke whenever I'm in a middle of a deep brainstorming session. Since the above photo could appear at our company's website, I didn't want the ciggy to show.
After an hour of a fruitful group discussion, all four teams then presented what we discussed to each other.
There were counter questions raised and more in-depth discussions followed each presentation… Like I said before, I'm not at liberty to talk about what we discussed, but it was not a competition or anything, it was an open platform for all to voice their opinion.
Hehe, me too did the talkies :P
More presentations and discussions from the other teams…
As the sun slowly bid farewell to us, we closed our extremely productive session.
Maybe it was because of the hills surrounding the lake, the place got dark immediately as soon as the sun disappeared behind the sprawling hills. The rest of our colleagues arrived soon after that and we were busy allocating rooms and tents.
Nice logo of our resort.
Yayyy. Dwinks time. Its 7 thirsty!
As promised, our hosts served us awesome BBQ and tandoori non-veg stuff.
Even the paneer and potatoes were dillu.
More campfire fun…
We had great fun singing a couple of songs, guided by the awesome guitarist Akshay.
I made use of the head-torch I bought from Decathlon, lolz.
Here is me taking a pic of my colleagues with my head-torch on.
And here is Sumeet taking a pic of me taking a pic of them with my head-torch on. See, my pics came out so well because of the lights, haha.
Puja, Surabhi and Raheen, three sporty ladies who came along for the off-site trip. Missing in pic is Prerna, the mother of all sportiness.
Akshay, the lonesome Romeo, entertaining us with yet another awesome rendition of a popular rock number.
Last few pics by the campfire…
And with that, we all called it a night. What an awesome experience indeed.
Don't miss my upcoming post on Day 2 of our Off-site trip, which is even more fun with more activities including outdoor games, trekking, and an incredible experience of going RAPPELLING down a precarious vertical 10,000 feet cliff! All thanks to our awesome HR and Engagement team of Jetsynthesys, including our hosts Lohgad Resort and Boating Club, Adventure Battalion, and outdoor event management team Hike 'n' Fly. Do visit their Facebook pages [Hike 'n' Fly | Adventure Battalion] for more info.
Until then, cheers everyone.