Team Building Remotely If there’s one thing we’ve learned and mastered since we shifted to remote work over a year ago, it’s that Zoom or no Zoom there’s got to be a way to continue to team build, enhance our internal community, and nurture our unique corporate culture … from afar. And gosh darn it, we did. All of our company-wide meetings and summits turned to virtual meetings and elaborate, well-planned webinars. And even better, we learned how to maintain and cultivate our team relationships and company interactions—and even train—completely remote. Here are some of the ways the humans from our Tech Consulting team did just that. Tech Team, UNITE! (from afar!) Our Technology Consulting division is made up of a group of brilliant developers, top-notch software engineers, marketing geniuses, detailed project managers, and strategic solutions engineers. Before the pandemic hit, these folks could team build organically. They’d walk to lunch, go grab coffee in our cafe, kick back in our lounge while playing any of the multiple gaming systems available, or simply hang out in our coworking spaces to problem solve. Due to the pandemic and distancing, we had to learn to “hang out” and recreate organic get-togethers virtually to keep cultivating those team dynamics, get to know each other, and work together—whether to mentor, problem solve, or train new hires. To do this, we had to get creative and we had to get team buy-in to make it fully effective and fun. So our leadership teams established weekly virtual events to keep our team engaged—with fun stuff—not just work-related activities. Virtual Work and Fun Spaces In order to virtually unify our tech consulting teams, leadership decided to put together bi-monthly virtual lunches for our developers, our project managers, and our solutions engineers. During these lunches, team members can sit on camera and eat their lunch while shooting the breeze (as if sitting across from each other during lunch at the office), or they can simply hang out for an hour to just chat, joke around, or talk about the latest episodes of Star Trek: Discovery. There may be different team members per virtual lunch (depending on availability), but it’s always scheduled. Additionally, we have team members in different time zones, so lunch times may not always align—but they may stop in just to say hi. In addition to virtual lunch hours, our project manager teams organized a weekly “socially distanced office hour.” This one-hour virtual environment is an attempt to mimic working in the same office space, where team members can just work, comment intermittently, ask questions, collaborate, or just work in a space with ambient office noise. Those who join in the call sometimes just put their mic on mute and work, while listening to the team discuss projects or work through collaborative solutions. Other times, they jump in and exchange water cooler chat about events, small talk, or pop culture. The most important part of this virtual environment is it’s not meant to be a working meeting; it’s just an open forum to jump in and chat or simply listen in. It’s meant to feel low pressure and low maintenance. And similar to the virtual lunches, attendance varies, so you may see different team members in each office hour. Virtual Training and Hilarious Hijinks Outside of virtual lunches and office spaces, our solutions engineering team organized a weekly team-building session that consists of either watching a movie or playing games together, such as JackboxTV. (Though this sounds purely entertaining, there is learning to be had in this session.) Before joining, each team member has to pick which team on which they’d like to be—Team Edward or Team Jacob. (I’d pick Team Jacob, but that’s just me.) And since our solutions engineers are client-facing, this session is used to train and prepare them for client interactions. To do that, they role play in the most hilarious ways possible. Team members will wear wigs, use props, and change their backgrounds to pretend to be prospective clients who want to build out a new project. Not only is this kind of engagement educational, it’s been incredibly successful and effective in preparing our newer solutions engineers for their first client interactions. Plus, this type of fun, inspirational training helps them retain everything they learn and bonds the team. Of course, making a fool of yourself using wigs and props is the fastest way to get your team members comfortable with each other. Hiring and onboarding remotely has made it difficult for newer team members to acclimate quickly; these types of events create a special type of bonding and trust in our teams—and it’s all virtual. Additionally, this type of fun exercise doesn’t feel like actual training; it feels like a game. As one of our senior project managers said to me, “It’s like tricking your kids into eating vegetables.” Virtual Life to Normal Life (Soon?) In March 2021, we crossed over the one-year mark of working remote during this COVID-19 crisis. As of right now, our plan is to integrate back into office life sometime in the summer, should vaccination rates increase to healthy numbers. When that time arrives, It’s hard to predict what will come of the virtual spaces we’ve created to help us stay connected. One thing is certain, if we can pivot like we did to go virtual, we’ll be able to pivot back to face-to-face interactions and meetings. Of course, we may need some time to reacclimate by then, but it doesn’t mean we’re not going to try. What we do know is we did everything in our power to stay connected and inspired; whether that was through virtual office spaces, virtual gaming, virtual happy hours, or virtual lunches, we got through it. And since it’s not over just yet, we’ll keep on getting through it until we’re at the other end of this pandemic. Staying Agile All The Way Similar to our hybrid dev methodology, our corporate culture is agile. We adapt and carry on. Want to know more about our unique corporate culture or need a consultation about a technology idea you’re iterating? We have teams standing by. Schedule a chat with us via this link. This post was written by Celeste A. Barron, Content Development Manager for Bitwise Industries. When she’s not declaring herself Team Jacob, she’s telling herself that she’s way too old to pick Team Jacob.