Furthermore, Elbstack has become a true incubator, with both an individual and collective emphasis on developing new projects, product ideas, and service lines that solve real problems.
Examples of recent products and projects that have been completed or are soon to be completed at Elbstack include, a women-focused, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) fitness application called WeBurn, a new intermittent fasting (IF) health application, a new Internet of Things (IoT) product with a focus on low energy and network independence for business customers, and even a new privacy-focused Cryptocurrency!
Distributed Team & Office-Based Structure
To balance the trio of employee happiness, client requests, and logistical feasibility, Elbstack’s structure exists squarely between being a non-remote, office-based company and a distributed company with remote-based employees.
For remote-based and Hamburg-based employees alike, the central office advantageously serves as a hub where Elbstack employees can meet, socialize, and prepare on-site project work for clients who are in and around Hamburg.
Some employees work from the office 3-5 days a week, while others work from home more often, such as Elbstack’s Digital Product Designer, Lennart Brandt, who lives and works remotely in Oldenburg, Germany, and takes a 150 km round trip commute to Hamburg from Oldenburg every couple of weeks to connect with fellow employees or to work with clients directly.
Despite having created a tight-knit, employee-centric company culture that is ahead of the curve in many respects, Elbstack still faces the same challenges that other tech start-ups with distributed and remote-based teams face, such as challenges with very regular cohesive team-building and collaborative in-person project work.
First Retreats & Experimentations
Tending to the need for more cohesive team-building, while avoiding the everyday hustle and bustle of client work and personal projects, Elbstack decided it was time to organize annual team retreats. Elbstack’s first two annual retreats in 2016 and 2017 were held on the beautiful island of Koh Samui in Thailand.
For two weeks Elbstack set out with the goal of collectively working, learning, connecting, and developing a more cohesive company culture and strategy, while also getting a chance to explore and experience Koh Samui.
Far from a relaxing two-week vacation, the team quickly learned that the effort of organizing, planning, and executing the retreat made it stressful and distracting. Additionally, despite being 9,000+ kilometres from Germany, client work remained a consistent fixture during each retreat in Thailand. Developing company culture and strategy, on the other hand, took more of a backseat.
While the retreats each year were regarded as successes overall, there were some clear lessons and takeaways used to improve future team retreats. Sentiments were echoed by Elbstack employees such as Lennart Brandt, “It’s important to not just focus on work during the retreats, but regardless, the team events and retreats turned out to be a huge motivation for everyone as it’s something special everyone looks forward to.”