Building Culture in a Remote World

November 11, 2022

Company culture

“Take the time to leverage your asynchronous communication platform in a way that helps your team to feel connected and valued.”

Search the Internet and you’ll quickly find a plethora of articles about building project teams and connecting remote and on-site employees, with topics ranging from “theme” days to Zoom get-togethers. With different personalities comprising a company, it can sometimes be challenging to find the right balance between activities that everyone is comfortable doing but are fresh and new for more extroverted employees. This is especially true in terms of business cycles—sometimes it’s just too busy to be social at work.

So how do we meet the challenge of bringing together our team in Portland with our remote team members distributed across seven other states? We use our company Slack to facilitate communication AND build culture.

In addition to each project having its own Slack channel—where teammates share ideas, notes, and work—we have developed “topic” channels where employees may share what interests them, beyond the usual work-related matters. We encourage everyone to engage in those conversations with comments, memes, and emojis—we love positive emojis! We appreciate humor, as it is part of our culture, but we couple it with respect for one another. We cheer each other on with hobbies, interests, and encourage each other whenever possible. These conversations are not viewed as unproductive distractions, but instead as a way to recharge, relate, build connections with others, and foster our culture: all of which also benefits the work we do. This allows people who may only see one another at a monthly company meeting on Zoom to have opportunities to interact meaningfully on a regular basis, as well as give those working remotely more opportunities to interact with management.

Additionally, we encourage praise and thoughtfulness amongst everyone. The team—everyone and anyone—gives pineapple emojis (🍍) to others in appreciation for helping on a project, sharing knowledge, or in some way going above and beyond during our day together. We also use Slack to share positive client feedback on projects.

“If you build it, they will come,” is the line whispered to Kevin Costner in the movie Field of Dreams. And that philosophy holds true with Slack and culture building: creating channels and encouraging people to participate has proven to help build trust and connectedness. As someone who works 3,000 miles from the majority of the team, I feel appreciated not only for the work I produce for clients, but also by other team members as I go about my work day!

Topics that Build Connection

Topics are started and driven by our team and range from a wide array of subjects and interests. Here is a small sample of channels we utilize to bring people together:

  • Pets: For the love of dogs and For the love of cats. We understand there are cat people and there are dog people!
  • Disco Dance Party: Each week a new topic is introduced and employees find song titles and artists to match the topic. Examples include Halloween theme songs, Elvis covers by other artists, popular songs that reference classical music, and many, many others.
  • Cinema: Utilizing an online game, people see if they can guess the movie title in five guesses. Often our film buffs share their obscure favorites too.
  • For the Love of Plants: Sharing and caring for our plant-based co-workers.
  • Healthy Inspiration: Sharing ways to improve our health and wellness, and cheer each other along on their health journey.
  • Water cooler: Topics range from the TV show The Office to new Artificial Intelligence to a local parade. It’s a virtual potpourri every day!
  • Away Team: People share information from conferences or a vacation photo if they are comfortable doing so.
  • Record Club: Yep, old school records and sharing our latest vinyl finds!
  • Trivia: A chance for pop-up trivia games because sometimes you just need a fun mental break.

I would encourage you to take the time to leverage your asynchronous communication platform in a way that helps your team to feel connected and valued. Yes, these platforms exist to streamline workflows, but they can also be a means to build stronger relationships. If you’ve got great ideas for new channels for us to try, please share those with us on social media.