Posted on August 2, 2022
A lot has changed since the coronavirus pandemic sent all of us back home. Before we know it, the habit of turning to our deskmates for help turned into email queries, the spontaneous catch-ups in the pantry evolved into random social calls, and the witty office banters found their ways into the online group chats.
For us here at Infobuilder, the shift to remote work hardly posed any obstacle to our operations. Digitization is our specialty, after all. Yet, just like all other employees stuck at home, we can’t help but sometimes dream of the office culture we took for granted. Relationships, after all, mature and develop through the help of nonverbal communication cues, such as gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, and physical touch. That’s why, as one would expect, when the news of a face-to-face Team Building Outing finally reached us, a mix of emotions came rushing in.
For long-term ITI employees, the announcement about the face-to-face Team Building Outing came as a flicker of light, a signal that we’re nearing the end of the tunnel someway, somehow.
“It was an ‘at last’ moment,” shared Mr. Edson Lopez. He has been working as a System Administrator for Infobuilder for almost four years now. “I normally am a social person, but I’m more into face-to-face interactions than virtual ones,” he admitted.
When asked what he misses most about working full-time in the office, Mr. Edson made mention of the early morning breakfasts he used to share with his colleagues before starting work. “Before the pandemic, I usually arrive early at the office, so I built a habit of eating breakfast in the pantry. The space was quite small, but that’s also what made us close since it made it easier for us to interact with one another. I also miss my colleagues who used to bring joy to the whole office just by hearing them laugh,” he shared.
Meanwhile, for employees like Ms. Judy-Ann Balita and Ms. Elaine Aquino, both hired during the pandemic, the news of the outing made them excited and tensed at the same time.
“I was excited but also somewhat nervous since it will be the first time that I will be meeting my co-workers in person,” said Ms. Judy. She and Ms. Elaine joined the company as Business Analysts at the time Infobuilder already transitioned to the remote work setup.
“We did have a number of online engagement activities before, which helped us become familiar with each other,” recalled Ms. Elaine. Yet, despite this, she knew meeting her colleagues in person is a different experience in itself. Such a thought made her excited and a little fidgety all at once. “I’ve been in the company for nearly two years now, but this will be the first time I’ll get to see my colleagues face-to-face,” Ms. Elaine explained.
Interestingly, despite the differences in our expectations about the Team Building Outing, the first in-person meeting actually turned out better than we could have imagined. Sure, there’s the short “Hello”s and shy smiles at first, but these little interactions eventually evolved into lengthy talks and comfortable series of laughter as we went through the days.
“I was really excited to meet each of them,” shared Mr. Philip Batang, one of our Business Analysts. Similar to Ms. Judy and Ms. Elaine, Mr. Philip joined ITI at the height of the health crisis. The outing gave him the chance to know the personalities of his co-workers — something one cannot just simply grasp through virtual meetings and chats alone.
The same sentiments were echoed by Mr. Raymond Debuque, also a Business Analyst at ITI. When the big day for the meetup finally came, the presence of the crowd made him remember just how much he loved being with people. “It made me realize how much I missed having in-person interactions after years of spending time talking to black screens,” he confessed. “It feels much more human to be in front of the person you’re conversing with.”
Meanwhile, for our System Administrator, Mr. Dave De La Merced, the two-day trip served as a “breather” from the isolation and monotonous work life that accompany the remote work setup. “The whole trip was an unforgettable experience,” he began. “The physical activities we did were a fair surprise considering I’ve been stuck at home for so long, barely moving my body more than necessary,” he shared. Interestingly, his team still managed to win and conquer the tedious games.
“At times, I felt like something was missing when I remember the people that weren’t able to come, but at the end of the trip, when we were all packing and getting ready to go home, I thought to myself that this was a great trip. Plus I got to bring home a bottle of wine, so that was nice,” he added.
When asked what they couldn’t forget about the two-day outing, the ITI members each had their own stories to tell.
“For me, the time we spent at the bonfire was simply unforgettable,” said Ms. Camila Sandoval, one of our Business Analysts. Indeed, sitting out there, holding the marshmallows over the fire, and sharing stories in front of the enigmatic fire is a moment to remember. “That’s when we got the chance to really converse intimately with each other,” she recalled. Everything was warm and gentle – a feeling that has since become so alien after the coronavirus forced us to maintain a cold distance from each other.
Meanwhile, to Sir Edson, the whole outing was like a walk down memory lane. “My trip to the office was very nostalgic since I haven’t done that for almost 2 years. I used to commute daily going to work from the province so experiencing it again brought back a lot of memories,” he shared. Yet, strangely enough, his feelings of nostalgia were also accompanied with the same feelings one often gets when discovering something new. “Since I’m not very active online, I was able to catch up to my old colleagues and got to bond with the new ones after seeing them face-to-face. It was nice to finally put a face to the voice that I always hear during online meetings,” he explained.
Of course, while there are those who dwell on the calm, intimate moments we’ve shared as a team, there are also others who take refuge in the vibrant, lively occasions during the trip. Our Social’s Night, in particular, left us with a whole bunch of unforgettable memories. The event was marked with live singing from our talented colleagues, happy drinking, and a series of catching-ups.
“I did a lot of funny things when I was drunk,” recalled Mr. Philip. Although his memory of that night is quite hazy from all the drinking, he can vividly remember being able to make our boss, Mr. Enrico Ibana, and our Project Director, Ma’am Charity Santiago, take a few shots. Indeed, that was a moment worthy of remembering for everyone.
“Funnily enough, there were videos and pictures showing that I was dancing in the middle of the room making everyone laugh,” he added. “Though I am really ashamed of those things I have done, it was a great experience making everyone happy that night. And I really hope for another gathering in the future.”
Interestingly, for Ms. Judy, the best part came a little while after that. “I must say the most unforgettable part of the outing was during the after-party,” she began. “Admittedly, it was the first time for most of us to see each other in person, but soon enough, without us realizing, we were already sharing some of our secrets with one another until dawn. Teas were spilled and background stories were thrown out in the open. In the end, all these made us know a little bit more about each other,” she added.
All in all, the two-day Team Building Outing served as a great experience to us all. Although only for a short while, we had the chance to take a time off from the screen, immerse ourselves in the moment, and rediscover why despite the changing demands of the time, we still continue to move forward as a team.
When asked what they gain from attending the outing, everyone in ITI gave brief yet heartfelt replies.
“To be honest, I was too busy trying to enjoy the trip than learning anything from it. If I had to say one thing, it would be that everyone is very amicable,” shared Mr. Dave.
As to Mr. Philip, the outing made him realize what type of work culture surrounds Infobuilder. “I learned that everyone in the company is really approachable, even the higher bosses.”
To Ms. Elaine, the whole trip ended with some self-realizations. “I realized a few things about myself — i.e. things I want to improve, like my perspective and the way I handle things,” she shared. “The words of our boss, Sir Rico, really struck me. Indeed, we should not be afraid to discuss things with our teammates, take action, analyze, discuss again, then take action again. The cycle must continue,” she ended.