It’s time to talk about a hidden part of life at Bending Spoons. Something that’s been ingrained in our culture since the very beginning. Something that’s taken me all over the globe — on the company’s dime.
By Laura Morelli, Accounting, Finance & Legal at Bending Spoons
I’m talking about our company-wide retreats. Once or twice a year, Bending Spoons takes every permanent member of the Spooniverse to an unforgettable destination. It’s all-expenses-paid and organized entirely by our spectacular People Operations team — from flights to accommodation to visas to entertainment. So all we lucky Spooners have to do is pack a bag, rock up at the airport, and jet off for an adventure. It’s hard to top that.
The tradition started off when Bending Spoons was a little startup, with a handful of people taking a roadtrip in Australia. Then it was Japan. As the company grew, the format evolved, with thirty Spooners spending a month in a spectacular Thai villa in 2018, splitting their time between remote working and vacationing.
Zanzibar and Iceland, 2019: My first retreats
My first Bending Spoons retreat was in February 2019 in Zanzibar, quickly followed by our inaugural mini-group version in May. In the latter, we split into smaller groups, each of which could choose its preferred location. I chose Iceland, but there were Spooner squads in Mexico, Vietnam, and a bunch more unbelievable places. This time, the laptops stayed at home — these were work retreats without the work. And the bit that truly blew my mind: We didn’t have to take any unpaid time off or sacrifice any holiday allowance (actually, Spooners can take unlimited, permission-free holidays). So, not only was Bending Spoons paying for us to be there — in a sense, Bending Spoons was paying us to be there.
It’s hard to pick a preference between company-wide and mini-group retreats. When the whole Spooniverse is together, there’s an overwhelming sense of community and team spirit. You wake up and have breakfast with your fellow Spooners, then spend the day enjoying different activities. Some prefer to lay by the pool, others explore the surroundings or play sport, and most find time for a bit of all three. Then, you head back to home base for the evening and eat, drink, and be merry together. Every day brings a bunch of opportunities to bond with Spooners you don’t know — maybe someone who works remotely from another country or a newbie who only joined the company last week. (True story: There’s a handful of Spooners whose first week in the job was on a retreat. Mom, I’ve got a new job! Also, I’m going to Thailand for a month. No, don’t worry, I promise it’s not a scam!)
The mini-group retreats are different. You spend the whole week traveling from place to place, really getting to know one another. My group of 13 drove along the coast of Iceland (which had always been a dream of mine), spending every night somewhere different. And since you can drive for miles without encountering any locals (except for sheep), you have lots of time for deep, or silly, or deeply silly conversations with your car mates.
Brilliant times in Bali
In 2020, we were supposed to replicate the double retreat format. We kicked the year off in unforgettable fashion. In January, 100 Spooners descended on Bali — little did we know at the time that it would be the only window in 2020 in which we could travel! We booked an entire resort for ourselves, so you could literally live among Spooners for ten days, if you so wished (although most of us ventured outside a lot to explore the island). Bali had been on my bucket list for such a long time, and it somehow managed to exceed my already-sky-high expectations! The trip provided so many incredible memories to hold close and reminisce about for the rest of a tough year. One night, I heard clinking glasses and laughter coming from the private pool of a neighboring room. FOMO striking hard, I gatecrashed the party. Best. Decision. Ever. The five of us instantly became firm friends, and Room 225 became the place to be for the rest of the retreat. To this day, we still have an active Room 225 WhatsApp chat.
Retreats are a huge part of Spooner life. We look forward to each one for months, building hype even when work gets really intense. And, after coming back, they’re a wonderful source of shared memories and pictures to scroll through and warm our hearts. The bonds we build on our retreats go way beyond regular workmates — it’s hard to get mad at someone in the office when you’ve already made a lifelong friendship over the course of a week!