People and Spaces

Teams want more than a meeting room

April 23, 2024

The needs of distributed teams have changed, and we aren’t talking about the post-COVID shift. Teams have been working remotely for years and want more from the organizations that hired them. It is no longer good enough to offer workplace flexibility and a home office set-up. Distributed and remote workers are clear about what matters most to them - connection. 

The overwhelming reason employees want to go into a physical office is access to high quality spaces specifically designed for hosting team workshops, events and immersive collaboration. Bean bags and ping pong tables have long been archived. New solutions require far more creative thinking and need to be aligned to the culture that organizations want to create.

The positive impact of in person experiences

Research has proven the profound impact that in-person experiences have on distributed teams. The Atlassian 1000 Days of Distributed Working report is a standout example of how employee demands and the relevance of meeting them have evolved. The study reveals that Atlassian's distributed teams now gather approximately three times a year to foster team cohesion and propel critical initiatives forward. In 2023 alone, they hosted an impressive 1,600 team gatherings, with an average of 16 attendees at each event. This helped them jump up 40 spots on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list for “leading the charge when it comes to employee flexibility in the new era of work

Delving into the impact of these gatherings, Atlassian's research showed that intentional team get-togethers resulted in:

  • A 27% increase in feelings of connection, particularly among new hires and recent graduates. 
  • A connection surge which endured for 4-5 months following the events. 
  • 67% of attendees interacted with at least five fellow Atlassians who belonged to different teams, presenting a significant opportunity for cross-team collaboration, enhanced business engagement, and improved connectivity.

The power of design in shaping culture

Design is crucial for elevating the in-person employee experience. Although employees are clamoring for a high quality experience, traditional office layouts can fall short in delivering the type of engaging, experiential work settings employees now seek. The panel all agreed that the design of event space and workspace amenities continue to grow in quality and are moving towards a luxury hotel-level experience. The cost of delivering this level of design and experience is high, but it's still considerably less than providing everyone with a desk full-time. 

Atlassian used the metrics from their distributed working report to inform their decision to close some office space in 2023 and reallocate those funds to innovating other spaces and opening new offices to meet changing employee needs. For example, their Austin offices, which opened in September 2022, were specifically designed and optimized for team gatherings, featuring several spacious meeting rooms and a conference center where employees can connect and collaborate. This shows that optimizing workspace for collaboration and flexibility can actually bring a net benefit to the bottom line.

Supporting your team to deliver high quality experiences

While positive for the business, delivering a meaningful in-person experience for distributed employees can also demand a lot of time, training, and experience. Putting on events is a complex and time-intensive task, with many elements to manage, and without support could bring a lot of additional pressure for workspace and people teams. 

Earlier this year we launched Desana Events to ease this pressure by providing a single platform for  global companies tasked with organizing team events to source, manage and pay for event space. For Desana customers our concierge team is on hand to remove the stress of finding the perfect location

It’s also important to ensure plans are aligned with expectation, and so team level agreements (TLAs) that set clear expectations around purpose, outcomes and responsibilities are invaluable. With TLAs, you get built-in group support for company events. People understand why they're happening and their role. This drives engagement. With seasoned event experts armed with TLAs, you get peace of mind that your company events will drive the in-person connection, collaboration and culture your distributed teams need to thrive.

Connecting global and distributed teams

Some companies have gotten creative with solutions like traveling roadshows, regional hubs, and virtual components, to help bridge the distance between global teams. For example, a software company could host a quarterly roadshow that travels between its main office hubs in San Francisco, London, and Singapore. Each location would host the 2-3 day event for a couple of hundred employees so more team members can participate in person. 

Setting up regional hubs can also be powerful in helping distributed teams meet up periodically. A company with staff distributed across Europe could designate hubs in London, Paris, and Berlin where local teams gather regularly for meetings and events. Employees appreciate the ability to connect face-to-face with coworkers in their region. 

How leading organizations are delivering exceptional workplace experiences

Companies around the world are finding creative ways to bring distributed teams together for meaningful in-person experiences. As 98% of executives agree, when surveyed by Atlassian, where teams work is no longer the problem, it is how they work together.


Often cited as a leading organization, GitLab publicly shares meetings and their handbook, which goes into detail about the importance of social interaction within remote teams. This is how they describe their meet-ups:

“Meetups serve as incubators for what could come next, and provide a safe space for feedback to flow. Not only do they allow customers to put a face to a company they are engaging with, but it creates opportunity for team members to travel and meet each other while supporting a company initiative.”

GitLab connects teams both IRL and online to ensure connection opportunities are available to all in a format that works for them. This includes, but is in no way limited to:

  • Conferences
  • Local coworking
  • Subsidized travel to visit colleagues 
  • Excursions and retreats


The exceptional Elastic Camp involved 51 separate team events and intimate team dinners. This global collaboration highlights the importance of consistently building connection through programming. 

Elastic is ‘all in ‘ when it comes to office transformation. Adopting a modular approach, with everything on wheels, lets them adapt quickly to the different needs within one space which allows them to deliver  town hall meetings, conferences, or traditional desk work all within the same square footage.

Looking towards the future 

The needs of distributed teams will likely continue to evolve as technology advances and new ways of working emerge, but there is no doubt that the fundamental human need for connection will remain. 

Companies must stay attuned to employee sentiment and regularly gather feedback. Annual surveys are no longer enough. Regular pulse surveys, focus groups, and candid conversations will reveal how distributed teams want to interact and what types of experiences they find meaningful.

Whilst virtual reality will improve, leaders shouldn’t get distracted. The emphasis must remain on designing IRL experiences that bring people together in a meaningful way. Moments of laughter, shared challenges, and in-person interactions have an outsized impact on the health of distributed teams. This is supported extensively by research, but we also know this first hand from the feedback we gather at Desana.