We’ve previously mentioned how DevResults has worked from home for over a decade, but we wanted to share some of our secrets for building relationships and staying engaged with little to no in-person interaction.
There are lots of fun and interesting ways to cultivate deeper relationships and gain shared understanding with your co-workers, even if you can’t have regular lunches or pizza parties. Here are some of our go-tos for team building:
Remote Water Cooler
We’ve instituted a regularly scheduled video meeting (we use Zoom) that our team members are free to join to get some face time and discuss random topics. Attendance is 100% optional and there is no agenda. Oftentimes the folks attending will continue their work as usual and chime in to the conversation as they see fit. It’s a small step in trying to replace the break room banter and interactivity that’s missing from remote work.
This one was born out of a conversation about the music being played at a venue where we were hanging out after an all-hands in-person meeting day. We realized that since there wasn’t an office radio to try to control, we actually knew very little about the musical preferences of our team. After some discussion about who liked what, we decided to implement an opt-in program of sharing music on a regular basis. Straight from our company wiki, here’s how we play:
Tunesteenth falls on the 17th of every month. If you’re playing, you’ll typically share a Spotify playlist of music you like. This could be music you’ve discovered recently, stuff you have on heavy rotation, or whatever. If you’re not into music, you’re welcome to submit something else you’ve discovered lately (a YouTube video, a website, a book). There are no consequences for not participating.
The purpose of Tunesteenth is to allow us to share our personal enthusiasms with each other, and to get a sense of each other’s personalities. It’s partly a way of compensating for the lack of personal interaction that comes from being a distributed team
Rule #1 of Tunesteenth is not to sneer at your teammates’ choices, even jokingly. People are entitled to their enthusiasms.
To promote more face-to-face interaction we’ve instituted bi-weekly, randomized pairings. Every other Monday we’re each assigned a team mate to spend some time with. It’s up to each pair to decide how and when, but for the most part this ends up being a video call that lasts 1-2 hours and typically has no agenda. The participants are encouraged to discuss their personal lives, their hobbies and interests, and even work collaboratively on something of their choosing. We have no restrictions on how the pairings are assigned and we’ve found that time spent with people outside of your immediate team or department can be particularly beneficial as people get to “see behind the curtain” and get a sense of how others work from day to day.
Though usually reserved for birthdays and the winter holidays, who says you can’t throw an office party without the office? At DevResults it’s not uncommon to throw fully remote, video-based parties either after hours or even during the work day. Nothing lifts people’s spirits and helps build relationships like playing a couple rounds of “guess the drawing” on sites like sketchful.io. We’ve even made a tradition of doing a digital gift exchange, in which everyone is assigned a random target and you have to create a cost-free digital gift to present to that person during the party. Just remember to be kind, not everyone is Pablo Picasso in Windows Paint.
As you can see, we’re fully committed to providing a flexible and fun culture and we believe that strong relationships are a key to our success, as a product and as humans. We hope that some of these ideas help you and your colleagues get to know each other more closely too!