Life during a pandemic isn’t something our roadmaps or project plans could’ve ever prepared us for. And while practicing social distancing has led to adjustments in all aspects of work and life, one that is especially obvious to us is the switch to being a fully remote company. As teams around the world make this transition as well, there’s a real need for creativity and resourcefulness when it comes to keeping your company culture thriving (and your employees engaged).
So, how do you maintain meaningful connections with your teammates when your workplace norms have changed so much? Whether it’s keeping in touch with your team on weekly Zoom calls or just saying “Hey, how are you!” with a video recording, communicating via video has become the new norm.
Let’s take a look at some creative examples of how businesses are using video for remote team building. Hopefully, after reading this post, you’ll walk away with some fresh ideas for what you can do to keep the company culture you’ve worked so hard to build thriving.
Take a look at our friends at Help Scout, for example. It’s clear from their “office” culture success, that we can learn a lot from them when it comes to working remotely. Their team consists of about 60 people — 75% of whom work remotely. Help Scout didn’t actually start out remote, but hiring for talent and culture fit has helped steer them in that direction. Finding the right folks for the job was always a priority over proximity, so they decided to bake remote culture into how their company was structured from the beginning.
“Finding the right folks for the job was always a priority over proximity, so Help Scout decided to bake remote culture into how their company was structured from the beginning.”
Today, they use video in all aspects of their business. From making weekly all-hands into a “Monday video party” to Friday Fika coffee chats, team members have ways to easily connect over video during the workweek. But, of course, there’s more to life than just the workweek.
Inspired by MTV Cribs and a realization that most of her remote team would never see where everyone else in the company lives and works, Leah Knobler of the People Ops team started an “At Home With Help Scout” series.
With this series in place, team members were able to show off a bit of their home life while learning some fun facts about other members of their team. Whether someone built their own custom desk, or they happen to co-work with chickens, it’s the little details that really help people feel connected.
Here at Wistia, our company-wide meetings like Show & Tell (now attended on Zoom) are hosted by a different team member who leads an engaging game throughout the meeting. This small lift keeps folks entertained through what might have been an easy opportunity to lose focus. The first time we experimented with this, we played a game called “Where in the World is Lenny?" Throughout the game, we were led on an extravagant scavenger hunt à la “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego," and based on the reviews, it’s safe to say it was a hit!
In the end, we wound up with this gem, which is sure to keep us laughing for a while.
Now, you might not have an office dog that also doubles as a world traveler, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still engage your team in a similar way. Other ideas here include house tours, or videos of pets and kids at home, to name a few. Not only did we get to learn about the different projects and initiatives our teammates were working on, but we also had a lot of fun all together. Which, these days, is something that we’re not taking for granted.
Team members at Animalz, a content marketing agency, are also encouraged to make a short intro video when they join the team to help people get to know them better. Share a fun fact, show off your favorite pet, or give a tour of your local neighborhood — these videos showcase the unique personalities of every team member.
As their remote team grew, one thing never changed — the emphasis on their core values. Your values don’t have to be compromised just because your team isn’t structured “traditionally." Video helps you find creative ways to build your team without location constraints.
“Video helps you find creative ways to build your team without location constraints.”
Similarly, when we bring on a new hire here at Wistia, making an introductory Soapbox video is baked into their onboarding. We do this even though we’re an in-person-first team because we understand it can feel overwhelming or inauthentic to have the same first conversation with 100 people. So, the Soapbox intro gives us an opportunity to relate to folks and inspire unique conversations from the get-go.
Here’s an example from Brock, a designer who started at Wistia a few days before the office shut down:
Nowadays though, our Soapbox intros have proven to be even more helpful when introducing new teammates. Since we can’t be in the office together, it’s a really fun way to get to know new folks.
Of course, we can’t talk about using video to maintain a thriving remote culture without mentioning how we use it to have some fun just for the sake of having fun. After all, studies show that workplace fun leads to improved communication and increased job productivity. Not only that, but some of the best parts of office-life are the quick conversations we have in passing or the impromptu discussions in the kitchen about the latest show we’re all binge-watching.
And now more than ever, it’s so important that we keep those casual, yet vital, interactions up. Thankfully, video makes it easy to do so. Every week we hold various “social Zooms,” hosted by volunteers from the team. These social Zooms have included a dance party led by our VP of Product’s daughter, solving the New York Times' crossword puzzle, group Peloton rides (any indoor bike works though), and a full-on debrief of Tiger King, complete with a PowerPoint presentation and discussion questions.
Whatever your team activities end up being, make sure to stay mindful of where folks are at. Host activities that are inclusive and give people a variety of ways to participate. Maybe parents could use a social zoom to keep their kids entertained for a little bit during the work-day, or maybe they just really miss the social aspect of working out.
Whatever it is, the idea here is to bring back a little bit of the normalcy everyday life used to have. It might seem inconsequential, but clearing some mind space with stress-free activities is key to maintaining a happy and unified team, especially in these times.
“It might seem inconsequential, but clearing some mind space with stress-free activities is key to maintaining a happy and unified team, especially in these times.”
When it comes to using video, it doesn’t matter if your company is big or small, has been around for a while, or is just getting started. Video is a great way to help you communicate and build culture for remote workers. Here are some helpful suggestions to get started!
- Encourage your teammates to share their skills. This could be anything from coding, to cooking lessons, or even how to make some impressive origami. Create a community that values sharing knowledge by showing your teammates your unique skills. And maybe even inspire others to learn something new!
- Ask new hires to make an introduction video. This helps people get to know new members of the team and shows that you care about your team members beyond the work they contribute.
- Have your team members share their favorite quarantine life-hacks in a video. Who’s mastered the art of sourdough baking? Or have they figured out the best way to make a standing desk with pots and pans? These tips could end up being genuinely helpful and allow your team to feel more connected!
- Talk “in-person” whenever possible. Hop on a Zoom for conversations that might have just been in Slack if you were in the office. It might add a little time to the conversation, but the digital face-to-face conversation will be worth it.