Two years ago, our team’s Zoom All Hands were pretty dull. We dialed in. Taylor and I laid out some direction and shared some announcements. We flashed some metrics. We went around the room and shared what we wanted to get done. And that would pretty much be it. It was a pedestrian, low energy, and top down way to start the week. It was a waste of precious synchronous time spent together.
Now, in September of 2022, our Zoom All Hands look quite different.
We log on. Suddenly I’m whisked off into my first round of speed networking, where I am matched with Santiago, one of our engineers who lives outside of Buenos Aires. A prompt on the screen says “Show me your neighborhood,” as a Zoom App sidebar opens. The app, twine for Zoom, tells me I am in a 3 minute long Breakout with my colleague. I see a countdown clock and a virtual table.
We take turns pulling up Google Street View and walking around our respective neighborhoods. I show Santi the corner store where I grab my coffee, the park where I walk my dog, and then the front of my daughter’s school where I drop her each morning. For just a moment, we were two working dads excited to show each other our daily routine. After a few rounds, we come back to the main room smiling, as do our teammates.
It’s only after we’ve spent a few minutes connecting with each other do we get on to the content.
Using twine for Zoom at the beginning of every team all hands is just one of the things that our distributed team is doing to maintain connection, despite living and working in different parts of the world.
We have not yet found a single silver bullet to recreate the connection that happened organically in the office, but we have found a patchwork that is working for us. As a distributed team, you have to be intentional about creating space for connection to happen. Here are some of the big things we do to keep our connective tissue strong:
It’s this drumbeat of consistent connection that maintains the connective tissue in between our offsites.
Is it working? I think so. Nobody has ever chosen to leave us, and we are shipping and executing at a tremendous rate compared to the “in office” companies I’ve founded.
Personally, I love the connection that I feel amongst our team, and that we all know what’s happening in each other’s lives; I know the names of our Josh’s four kids, and that Zola is considering a fried pickle crawl for her birthday, and everyone knows that I just got an MRI on my knee and I’m really stressed about it, and that Taylor has a boat race coming up, and that Sam’s dog Moose had gotten into trouble again.
And then there is the other side of the coin; on those weeks that we are too busy to pay attention to our connective tissue, we always end up paying the price. The batteries wane, the motor hiccups, and we end up not producing as much as we would have.
If you are looking for an easy, lightweight efficient way to strengthen the bonds among your team, try this:
What are the strategies your remote / distributed team are using to stay connected? Are they working for you? How does your team culture compare to your in office experiences? Please share in the comments.
With remote work becoming more prevalent, leaders are struggling to figure out how to provide both flexibility and connection, and there's a strong case to be made that #eventprofs should be paying attention to this problem.
Running an alumni virtual speed networking session on Zoom is easy with twine. Match alumni for timed, back-to-back conversations on Zoom.
Teams that use twine see higher engagement, increased productivity, and strengthened connections amongst employees.