Cultivating culture when working remotely

23 April 2020
Nadja Toft

Author: Nadja Toft

Service designer. I love imagining what doesn't yet exist.

At Spotless we have a Culture Club. A team occupied with culture and ways of working. We observe, come up with ideas and test out new ways of collaborating, how to learn from each other and how to have fun while doing it.

Since working remotely, we have been trying out some new things. Here are some ideas and learnings from the Culture Club.

 

The principles we’re working from are:

 

Daily stand up

Back at our office at Old street, we used to have a daily stand up to discuss projects and possible blockers. We still do that now – sitting down and dialing into Google hangouts.

What we’re doing
We find it’s important to stay connected whilst working remotely and to be honest, the non-work related chat is just as valuable, if not more so, as the talking through tasks and projects. Keeping the stand up short and sweet and making time for random stories starts the day off right.

Daily stand ups starts the day off right

 

Cinema and guest speakers

Last week we tried something new: Spotless cinema! We watched a TED talk together and had a quick chat afterwards. It was a nice way of spending some time together. One of our service designers’ husbands is also going to be giving a short presentation soon.

What we’re doing
We’re already in a lot of video calls each day, so activities like these should be kept short and fun. In the first edition of Spotless cinema, Graham Shaw taught us to draw. An instructional video worked really well, but we’re thinking of trying out different subjects and formats. Sometimes it’s nice with a new input that has nothing to do with the field you’re working in.

Spotless cinema – Graham Shaw taught us all to draw in this TED talk

 

Virtual white board

One challenge we’ve been having is moving from an office with whiteboards, wall space and desks that showcase what everyone is working on, to many individual offices with no way to peek into your colleagues’ offices (and let’s hope it stays that way), except for the occasional video calls.

What we’re doing
We considered turning a Miro board into a virtual version of our office, but it hasn’t quite come to that yet. For now, we’ve been using Miro as a space where people can input and become familiar with the virtual whiteboard tool. To start things off, we’ve asked everyone to post a picture of their home office setup and add 2 post-its: one challenge about working from home and one good thing about working from home.

Spotless miro board – a virtual whiteboard for collaborating

 

#kitchenchatlive

On the subject of turning a physical environment into a virtual one; we miss the casual watercooler talk, running into each other in the kitchen or grabbing a coffee at Fix. Without the office, these spontaneous conversations don’t seem to happen as often.

What we’re doing
We’ve always used Slack and rely on it heavily now, since going remote. But even though Slack is great, it doesn’t necessarily foster a real-time conversation, because people tend to post something, leave and check in later. We’ve added a #kitchenchatlive channel, where we encourage people to stay and have a chat with each other.

The slack channel #kitchenchatlive in action

 

Virtual lunches, drinks and birthdays

A lot of the things we love to do together now happens remotely instead. Picking up food from Whitecross Street Market and having lunch together has turned into the informal ‘lunch and chat’ on Google hangouts (no loud chewing, please). Our very own Nour used to make incredible birthday cakes for everyone. She made her own birthday cake last week (seriously, look at that!) and the team surprised her with silly hats and a birthday song. On Fridays, we used to go to the pub, but Friday still means having a drink and wishing everyone a good weekend. We often play a game and recommend trying the drawing and guessing game skribll.io

Virtual birthdays is good and all, but we miss your cakes, Nour!

 

All the above are really just different ways to stay connected with each other and talk about something besides work. We hope it might inspire you to try out different things with your team and don’t worry if the experiment fails – usually, you’ll learn something new about your team.

If you’re looking for tips on how to make online workshops work you can read our blog post right here.

 

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