As the world has shifted from working in dedicated spaces, sitting next to their office mates to having teammates across the world (and having to take several hours in flight to sit next to them if you wanted to) it's no surprise we’ve all had to make some adjustments - and I don't mean buying plane tickets.
Our team structure pre-COVID had grown and evolved quite a bit when our company was in its early stages we had 8 people working in one small room, then it advanced to multiple offices within a building and eventually, our next evolution was building out our own dedicated space. Yup, about a year before COVID, not the greatest timing.
We had a healthy focus on activities- mid-day walks, team bike rides with the shared bike rentals in the complex, lunch outside, pumpkin painting, office parties, dinner out, group yoga, happy hour, etc. All the things you’d think about that would work if you were in person. But how do you take people on a team bike ride if we’re all remote? How silly would we all look biking while Facetiming? Needless to say, it's not realistic.
The hybrid hiccup
Everyone that worked for our company was in the office except one person who lived out of state (who had originally been in the office but moved). I’ll admit it- we got remote work wrong. We joke about it now- but we know with every experience there is an opportunity to grow and improve. (I hope these embarrassing stories help others realize the impact of making sure everyone feels included)
We desperately tried to stay connected. We started a daily huddle, we’d stand around the conference table and put the out-of-state team member on the big conference room TV- in theory, sounds ok, but in practice not so much. It was hard to hear, hard to give feedback, and even hard with the tech setup. Then we moved to have us do Zoom at our desks so we could all be face to face and hear, each person would mute until we talked since we sat next to each other and there was sound feedback. It was rigid in methodology and practice.
The big swing to fully remote
It's interesting now reflecting back on it, considering the world at a rapid pace fully adopted being remote (pretty much instantaneously when the world shut down), new technology platforms, acceptance, and juggling of the family (kids, pets, and friends) being in the background as we all figured out WFH without any other alternatives. It suddenly became acceptable at work to meet clients and teammates, kids and pets via Zoom. There was something special about that event that never before would have been socially accepted or welcomed. We fully embraced it.
For us, this shift was one of the best things that happened to our business and triggered a massive shift in thinking about truly staying connected. During this period we also began hiring across the country. Our company culture became more intentionally connected regardless of the fact that we were all geographically farther apart.
New challenges become culture opportunities
Working from home, being under different stress and new challenges (like my 2-year-old joining my calls with a loud toy chainsaw) all helped us focus on what mattered most- PEOPLE. It cut through the noise (pun intended). We’ve built a silly culture and are sharing some of the ways we have motivated and cared for each other in our WFH culture. We understand it's not about one big thing but the accumulation of all the little things.:
- Morning shout outs in huddle for moments of gratitude
- Post client "job well done" feedback in our group chat to remind us all that what we do impacts others
- Checking back if someone was upset or had something personal going on to make sure they are ok and if there is anything we can do
- Daily 5 mins of team meditation at the start of the day for whoever wants to join
- Peloton the app, through many health insurances, is free for one year
- Realizing life happens and sometimes during the day there are unforeseen events so we offer flex time to make up the hours later
- Friday happy hour with games and hard-hitting questions on if a hot dog is a sandwich. Some other team favorites:
- Zoom show and tell
- A sentimental item in your house
- Your pet
- Childhood picture
- Vision board
- Holiday pizza parties where pizza is shipped to the team so we still can eat and celebrate together
- High five board that teammates nominate each other all month long and then draw a winner and a prize (we also get a custom serenade performance from a super talented teammate!)
- Starbucks gift cards to catch up with a friend over Zoom coffee
- Send a virtual card and gift card of your choice
- GIFs in the team chat with inside jokes
- Sending flowers with DoorDash
- Edible arrangements for a multitude of events
- When someone close passes away send a tree or bush in memory of their loved one
- Inviting teammate’s kids to sing and play their instruments for the team during happy hour
- Saying good morning and good night when we leave
- Popping in to have an impromptu video hello, just to see how someone's weekend was
- Making card slideshow decks to show a teammate how much impact they have
- New puppy care packages
- Company giving to charities that have special meaning to our teammates
- Snail mailing a handwritten note
- Welcome to the team care packages
- Surprises for teammates kids during COVID
- Mailing everyone toilet paper during the shortage
- Sponsor a teammate’s kid’s sports team
- Sharing pictures of what's happening in your personal life (gardens, new recipes, kids' stories)
- Quarterly/ Annual company presentations and direction for transparency
- 1-1 meet and greet Zoom lunches for new team members
- Survey on height and guessing on who is who (along with graphs and charts) and other silly things since much of our team has never met in person
- Honey roasts
- Book club to continue to educate as a team with weekly discussions
- Personality tests (including unconventional and traditional)
- Meyers Briggs
- Dungeons and Dragons "who would your character be"
- Google hangout for those that want to work alongside each other during the day
The moral of the story
Don’t just focus on the person at work, focus on the WHOLE person. We’ve found that WFH makes our connections intentional and deeper, we mean them to happen, and we want to delight. I’m not going to say our quirky solutions work for every type of team, but many of these we’ve learned and adopted from others. In what ways has your company adopted WFH?