Building Culture in Remote (or Hybrid) Teams
After my last newsletter "First Thoughts on Building a Remote-Friendly Team", I got a lot of feedback from people who are interested in this topic. This time, I want to focus on one specific topic that comes up quite often: Culture.
Why Culture can be a Challenge for Remote Teams
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, a lot of (both work-related and personal) conversations happen in-between work tasks, for example while having lunch or walking into the kitchen to grab a coffee (related: the water cooler effect).
When you're mostly chatting about task-related things in Slack, there are potentially less opportunities for spontaneous conversations.
Why Culture can be Even More of a Challenge for Hybrid Teams
When a part of the team is co-located (sharing an office), this can become even more of a problem. When the default is to just walk over to the team member's desk to quickly discuss something, a lot of important discussions and decisions can be missed by remote team members.
No one wants to be the person that is left out.
Is Default to Remote Possible?
I'm not sure if online chat can completely replace water cooler conversations, especially for hybrid teams. I think the goal is to make it as normal as possible to communicate important (work and non-work) things through the available online channels, and make remote communication the default.
It's still quite a journey for us to get there, but there are small steps that can be taken. For example, it was one of our team members' birthday today and it would have been easy to just send a "Happy Birthday" text message in Slack. However, this would have been a big downgrade compared to "co-located" birthdays where everyone sings and congratulates.
This is why we stepped out of our comfort zone and recorded a video of us singing "Happy Birthday". And I believe there are countless small opportunities like these to build culture/relationships over the Internet.