Mary Hartberg from Maintaining culture in a remote team with retreats

When working in a fully remote company, the question that outsiders ask most often is: how do you keep the company culture alive?

We sat down with Mary Hartberg who does just that at the 100% distributed company As the Director of People Operations, Mary has been instrumental in growing their fully distributed team, now operating in 13 countries and 16 states, while finding different ways to keep the human element alive.

In today’s episode of More Beach Meetings podcast, we talk about company retreats and what does to build and maintain culture as a fully remote company.

Take a listen ?

Subscribe to More Beach Meetings podcast on:

Starting a Company with a Group of Friends

One thing that makes authentic is that it was started as a tight-knit group of friends from the same town which ultimately grew to the company it is today. Built by salespeople for salespeople, allows companies to close more sales through built-in calling, SMS and email all connected in one platform.

Remote Work as an Integral Part of the Company didn’t start as a remote company. The company headquarters was located in Palo Alto initially, but there was only one problem – most of the core team didn’t work there. Eventually, they hired their first support person in Berlin and ever since then, things started spiraling into becoming a fully remote company.

When hiring, they always ask applicants if they’ve worked remotely before, but it’s not a deal breaker that gets candidates disqualified. As Mary says, if someone’s worked remotely, they know if such a lifestyle suits them already.

“I’m grateful for remote work in that I can pursue a rewarding career while having a fluid lifestyle.”
No items found.

Retreats as Social Fibre of Company Culture

The team sets up worldwide team retreats two times per year. They’re great for productivity, but above all, Mary says she functions much better in a team once she gets to know someone in person instead of on the screen. Keeping the human element alive is important for the company, she says, and they’re in a unique space to design what that looks like.

There’s a lot of work getting done during these retreats, for sure, but there are also lots of one-on-one meetings and group activities where the team gets to know each other. Their goal is to compress a year’s worth of socializing into one week.

For their last team retreat, chose to hire Surf Office to help find the best accommodation, workplace and team activities in Lisbon. Thirty of their employees spent almost a week eating together, as well as taking part in group activities such as sailing and bike tours through the Portuguese capital.

Maintaining Culture Using a Game of Round Robin Roster

In between retreats, it’s important to keep the company culture alive. The crew at does it by hosting a weekly 30-minute meeting to keep everyone on the same page. After the meeting, they split up in teams of three for a game of Round Robin Roster. They sit together and talk about different topics (completely unrelated to work) for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Starting out as a simple game, Mary now attributes this as a huge cultivator of culture.

For more, listen to the full podcast.

We hope you enjoy and see you next time on More Beach Meetings podcast! Make sure to subscribe on iTunes, Spotify or Soundcloud to never miss another episode!

No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
budget retreat spreadsheet

Retreat Budget Spreadsheet

Are you organising a company retreat and want to make sure you have all the costs under the control?

Get a copy of our free Budget Calculator spreadsheet.

Get a copy

Interviews with more “newly-remote” companies:

CPJ’s journey into remote work

CPJ’s journey into remote work

During these times, many companies are switching to remote work. You may have heard that large companies, like Twitter, Shopify, and Slack are doing so, but we’re also seeing this shift with smaller companies, startups, and digital agencies as well. Perhaps this transition was already in the pipeline, or maybe COVID-19 was the catalyst. Either…

WeTransfer switching to partial remote working

WeTransfer switching to partial remote working

“We are not working from home. We are at home trying to make it work.” For most companies around the world trying to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, this quote probably feels pretty relatable as everyone adjusts to the sudden shift to working from home. Shared by Gwen Burbidge, the Head of HR at WeTransfer, these…

From the office to remote: Real.Digital chooses quality over the location

From the office to remote: Real.Digital chooses quality over the location

Around mid-August of this year Real.Digital announced that they will be operating as a remote first company from now on.They might not be affected by the COVID-19 in economic terms, but the decision to shift their work practices was still a significant one. Fortunately, they’re viewing it as a great opportunity to open up their talent pool to people from all over the world!

How digital product studio Pixelmatters transformed from office to remote

How digital product studio Pixelmatters transformed from office to remote

By now, you’ve probably heard the news that large companies like Twitter, Shopify and Slack are “going remote”. And recently, we’re hearing more and more stories about smaller companies, startups, and digital agencies doing the same. What were their motivations? What challenges do they face during this transition? How do they see their future? We…


How to plan your first company retreat

Get for free

With knowledge collected from:

free course partners logos

Organize your next company retreat with Surf Office

450+ retreats organized ● 8 years of experience ● 110+ retreat locations
Get a quote