Creating Team Identity and Wholeness in a Remote Company

When working remotely, it’s important to maintain a sense of team identity and for people not to feel isolated from the rest of the company. For an organisation like mondora, which has both an office and people working remotely, this becomes even more important as we sometimes run the risk of having two separate levels of interaction, in which remote workers may feel excluded from office-based happenings. Over time, we have experimented with various ideas to help people feel connected and supported in the workplace, wherever they are working from. Here are some of the ideas we have come up with to keep the :m team whole and happy.

Pair Work

One of the fundamental best practices of the company is that of working in pairs. When handling a complex task, learning a new technology or just working on a project it is always useful to have someone to share ideas and doubts with. Pair work is a great opportunity for two colleagues to work on a task simultaneously, either solving complex problems or coaching one another on unfamiliar technologies. It allows confrontation and sharing of ideas and information and can be done regardless of where the two team members are working from. Tools such as Google Meet or Lifesize, used with screen sharing, enable any two team players to work together, even if they are not in the same location. In mondora we often see people in the office who spend part of their day pair working with a remote colleague, and sharing some office moments with them too!

Virtual Coffee Breaks

organising a virtual coffee break in Slack

A very nice activity that was invented by two remote colleagues, Anna and Aureliano, is the virtual coffee break. It’s a real coffee break with real coffee, but it’s shared through a Google Meet or Slack call with whoever wants to take part. The :m team has a Slack channel in which people get organised for the break (it’s often at 11 am, or at 4 pm) and it has a built-in reminder to make coffee 10 minutes before the break. People then virtually get together to share a 10 minute break in which they drink coffee and have a chat. It’s a nice way to involve remote colleagues in the classic Italian coffee break that usually happens at the local bar for people who work from the office. And everyone is required to have their webcam on so people can actually see each other and interact face to face, which creates a very different atmosphere compared to a chat or voice call.

Failure Parties

Another activity that routinely takes place, regardless of where people are working from, is the Failure Party: when someone makes a big mistake or messes up on something, we celebrate by organising a small aperitivo and discussing what went wrong, what circumstances brought about the failure and what we can learn from it so that we can grow as a team. Whoever is in the office buys some drinks and snacks, and people who work from other locations do the same. The party is then held “live” for everyone (webcams on!) and we share thoughts and ideas together, without blaming anyone for the failure, but trying to figure out how we can use the situation as a base point for improvement and growth.

Out of hours activities

Not all interaction needs to happen in office hours. Often people in mondora get together after work to play football, go climbing or just go out for drinks. Depending on where colleagues are located, there is usually some travelling involved, and sometimes a few people will combine a visit to the office with these evening activities. In winter we occasionally take a day to go skiing and work from the slopes and this is sometimes done in two separate locations simultaneously, so that more people can take part even if they live far away. Whenever someone is travelling for work, for example to visit a customer or attend a conference, they always make an effort to connect with colleagues living near by and meet for dinner or even just a quick coffee together at the train station. Weekends are not excluded either: we often see people sharing their plans on Slack and getting together for a day of skiing, hiking or cycling for example. In mondora we try to promote the idea of bringing your whole self to work, not just your professional side, and this helps to create connections outside of work too, which in turns strengthens relationships within the company team. It’s a win-win situation for both the person and the company!

Ski Thursday at Prato Nevoso – location #2

Music sharing

People have many interests they enjoy sharing with their peers and for us one of these is music. Many people listen to a great deal of music at work so we decided to open a Slack channel where we share what we are listening to, new tracks we have discovered and so on. Over time this has created a habit of music sharing in which people make suggestions and discover each other’s interests. We also have a shared company playlist on Spotify that everyone can contribute to. And sometimes colleagues also get organised and travel to a gig together — again this is about being whole at work as you are out of work, which greatly enriches overall company culture.

These are just some of the ways that we stay connected and involve everyone in the company, and we are constantly trying out new ideas and looking for inspiration from other companies. Next on the list are yoga classes and coffee meetings with a philosopher!

Over to you! How do you keep people connected in a remote or part remote team? What are your best practices and cool activities? We would love to learn from you!

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