Nov 22, 2022
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How Our Remote-First Team Stays Connected

Jean Yang
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Many people, my former self included, believe that being remote-first means that you can’t be as connected with your colleagues. After all, you can’t walk over to their desk or take an afternoon ice cream break together.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much our team has been able to get to know each other and stay connected virtually! In this post, we share some of our favorite virtual routines, traditions, and memories.

(Note: many of our memories have taken place in our virtual ohyay office. ohyay is shutting down December 31 and we are in the market for a new virtual office. Thank you to ohyay for providing us with a great office.)

Our remote-first routines and traditions

"Starting our daily standup meeting with a personal update. It’s one of the things we can do that ‘doesn’t scale’ but it is always interesting what people bring to our morning meeting. One of the ways to make remote work is being intentional about making connections and this is a small thing we do that gives me a better sense of my co-worker’s whole lives." -Mark

"As a member of the Akita Social Committee, I share the all-important task of scheduling social events for Akita. Birthdays are always a fun time for this: we usually schedule serious-sounding meetings that turn into surprise celebrations. I eventually added a secret button to our normal conference room in our virtual office. With the click of a mouse, everyone is whisked away into a hidden birthday room! The initial look of confusion on the birthday honouree’s face is always great!" -Jed

Mark's surprise birthday meeting.

"I really appreciate our Slack channel #dogs-and-sometimes-cats, where people share the animals in and adjacent to their lives. One thing we all seem to love is a cute cat or dog (or chipmunk), and sometimes we even get links to adorable animal art or wildlife facts. It is the remote version of everyone stopping to ‘aw’ over a dog walking by." -Lauren

Animals of the #dogs-and-sometimes-cats Slack channel.

"It sounds small, but my favorite routine thing we do as a remote team is to be present in our virtual office.  We use ohyay, where we each have a virtual room along with a few conference rooms, kitchen, and karaoke room.  It makes it easy to see who is free to chat or in a meeting. Starting a meeting is as simple as ‘knocking’ on someone’s door.  It adds a surprising level of connectedness." -Cole

And my favorite one that nobody has said yet: once a month, we have a scheduled “Mark story time” where members of the team rotate telling 15-minute stories from their lives. The tradition started with Mark saying things like “well there was that time I almost had to forge the signature of a billionaire” and cutting himself off with “but that’s a story for another time.” Once Mark told all of his queued stories, we started taking turns.

Our favorite virtual memories

"We ask new people to the team to organize a social activity. Because I joined when there were just four people in total, I could teach the team how to play Chinese Poker! But my favorite activity is actually a more recent one; Lauren booked an hour-long online session with a shark biologist. It was fascinating to hear about his research first-hand, and was not something I’d have done on my own. I also got to break out a craft project I’d done with my family that was topical." -Mark

Mark showed up as craft shark one day.

"Mark already mentioned the new-hire tradition, and my favorite memory comes from that! Versilis ran a murder mystery game that we all dressed up for and moved through different rooms in ohyay to play. I’ll be honest, going in, I did not think that style of game would work remotely, but it worked extremely well and was very fun." -Lauren

Versilis's virtual murder mystery party.

"Not all board games translate well to online play, but we found a few that do.  Coup is my favorite by far – gameplay moves quickly, no need for a board or complicated state, and everyone talking at once makes the game better, not worse.  I also discovered that you can only bluff and say, ‘Oops, pushed the wrong button’ so many times before people stop believing you." -Cole

"One of my duties is to maintain the Akita Minecraft Realm. (This job consists solely of me not deleting the Akita Minecraft Realm.) When we first used it, we all split up for 30 minutes to create our own virtual houses. Mark and Versilis constructed beautiful bungalows, Jed built an imposing floating obsidian palace, Cole designed a gleaming glass house, Jean crafted an avant-garde collection of marble blocks, and Lauren got motion sick." -Paul

Versilis's Minecraft house.

"I enjoy my 1:1 time with Jean every week to get caught up on all things NBA." -Versilis

My favorite memory that nobody has said yet: at the height of the pandemic, we used to host happy hours in our virtual office. Karaoke in the virtual office became very popular and sometimes people would stay for hours singing and chatting past when the happy hours were over! (Now that I think about it, we should really resurrect this tradition…)

We’re always looking for new ways to stay connected as a team, so we’d love to hear yours!

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