We Asked Twitter How To Build a Family Atmosphere at Work—Remotely—and Here’s What We Found Out

Published on January 4, 2021

While we’re seeing more and more memes every year, the meme culture really stepped up its game in 2020, as people had more time on their hands and they’re stuck at home. I’ve been particularly enjoying the work-from-home memes because to many of us, myself included, they’re so relatable. According to Gallup, remote work in the U.S. has doubled since the start of the pandemic and 58 percent of the workforce will be working at least partially from home through the end of 2021.

We’re joking about the WFH memes now, when a global pandemic is forcing us to stay home, but the Gallup survey also found that 65 percent of people currently working from home would like to continue to work remotely in the future. What’s so attractive about the home office life? Well, 92 percent of remote employees say that they save some amount of money and, according to Global Workplace Analytics, an average of 75 hours per year in avoided commute time. 

Your business can also reap some crazy benefits from remote work as well. Global Workplace Analytics predicts that on average businesses can save $1.4 million per 100 employees per year switching to remote work long term. Cutting down on commute time and half of the distractions that are in the office lead to increased productivity. In fact, 70 percent of employers say that their teams’ performances are as great or even better than they were before switching to remote work.

So far on paper working from home looks like a solid long-term business plan, but there are downsides to it. In Terminal’s Remote Leadership Report, only 27 percent of respondents said that their organization still has a strong work culture. Many people rely on the social environment and in-person collaboration that working in an office provides on a daily basis, which is reflected in the report, as 19 percent say loneliness is the biggest challenge when working from home and 17 percent say that they find it difficult to properly collaborate and communicate with other team members.

Even with the potential downsides, many companies have decided that the positives outweigh the negatives and opted to continue working remotely—forever—including Adobe, Twitter, and, yes, my company, Hawke Media. If you’re planning on keeping your company fully or even temporarily remote, you can’t ignore the downsides, though, so figuring out how your employees can connect and build relationships when they can’t just hang in their lunch area or grab coffee will be key to your company’s success. 

Because many of us, myself included, are new to the remote work life and I don’t pretend to have all the ideas, I took the question of how to build a remote community, a “family,” for your company when you’re working remotely to Twitter. Here’s what I learned. 

“We are having a ‘tailgate lunch’ tomorrow. People drive in, open tailgates, and sit there. We have a lunch buffet catered: sandwiches, chips, cookies, and drinks, all packaged. Close enough to talk, plus some cornhole for fun competition.” ~ Liza Fox, Senior IT Manager at SanMar // Seattle, Washington // @LizaFox

“Create multiple group chats in Teams or Slack, work-dedicated and non-work-dedicated, and you need to be proactive in those chats, in a similar manner to friend chats in SMS.” ~ Don Baumgartner, Business and Integration Architect Specialist at Accenture // Iowa City, Iowa // @donbaumgartner

“I have loads of ideas around this. Have a read of @MarkCCrowley book ‘Lead from the Heart: Transformational Leadership for the 21St Century’ and my own ‘Are You Ready to Change the World?: Thoughts on Technology Leadership for the Future’” ~ Sarah James, Partner at Data Exchange, Inc. // Perth, Australia // @GeoSuperGirl

“Look to the online communities that have been doing this for years before the pandemic hit. For example, find any robust fandom or gaming group.” ~ Suburban Changeling // Ottawa, Canada // @SburbChangeling 

“The place I work has maintained team dynamics really well. I think the key is communication, even if it’s to share something mundane or plans for the week. In team chats, it doesn’t hurt to say what your weekly goals are, what you’re currently working on, and what is already done.” ~ Norepi Walt, Author // @SugaredOffal

“Go on a ‘field trip.’ Find awesome things online like museum tours or an exercise group with a trainer. Send lunch for a virtual team lunch.” ~ Janae // Draper, UT // @claireandjanae

“If you are like me, it’s the same either way because 100 percent of my team and associates have always been on the other side of the world. It’s just now the new normal for other people due to COVID-19.” ~ Ayane Yawa, CEO of Rackemrac Global // Johannesburg, South Africa // @ayaneyawa

“One idea could be to give employees permission for 30 minutes per day to spend simply calling/conferencing teammates to just chat, creating a ‘virtual water cooler.’ That or encourage this chatting during ‘normal’ breaks during the day.” ~ Jeff Markham, Process Engineer & Systems Analyst // @GeekWizard

Ask a question on Twitter, and you shall receive. I’ve even taken some of these ideas to heart when I’m considering how Hawke Media is building our remote work family. While there’s still work to be done, we’ve come a long way since March.

In regards to some of the comments above, we were Slack superusers before the pandemic. The familiarity with the platform really helped with the transition to remote work. We’ve obviously increased our Slack usage, though, and added in features. We now have water cooler conversation questions, which all of our employees are encouraged to answer in a thread, and virtual coffee-donut meetups, where two employees are randomly paired up in a video session for a half-hour of non-work-related banter. We even built another Slack channel for our jam-packed Quarantine Conference back in early April 2020. We used it again for our inaugural eCommerce Week LA in the beginning of October 2020, which drew just shy of 8,000 attendees. We continue to use it today, as even after our extremely successful virtual events people are still joining and sharing ideas in the channel we titled “Brand Club LA.”

Team communication really is the key to a thriving AND happy company. Our company has always had team stand-ups every morning for employees to communicate their individual efforts for that day to their respective teams. We’ve taken these meetings to video chat and added a few more personal twists. For example, before getting down to business the Hawke Media internal marketing team likes to start their Monday morning meetings with an icebreaker question. The questions range from asking teammates to go get an item from their living space for show-and-tell to what they wanted to be when they grew up as a child.

For us, transitioning to fully remote work has been a lot about taking our old, in-person processes that worked and turning them into fully functional online processes. Not only have we created a more robust Slack communication system and beefed up the morning team stand-ups for socialization purposes, but we’ve also turned our Friday morning company-wide meetings and Friday evening happy hours into very effective and enjoyable Zoom calls. Some of our teams used to do Secret Santa holiday gift exchanges on their own, but this year, we opened up one large exchange to the whole company instead.

While we’ve been adapting and re-inspiring some of our old team-building ideas, we’ve implemented some entirely new ideas into Hawke Media remote work life as well. We created a Hawke Media Spirit Week, where each day was a different themed dress-up day. Our people operations team created a trivia game along with a Pictionary-style game, appropriately named “Sketch It Don’t Catch It,” that they run every week at designated times. For both games, with each correct answer employees win a $5 Amazon gift card.

It was also a blast to create Night Hawke, a free biweekly entertainment series with events ranging from cooking classes to workout sessions, for not only our employees but also our clients and partners to participate in. With Night Hawke, just like with Quarantine Conference and eCommerce Week LA, we started building a community outside of just our company and into the greater Hawke Media ecosystem, which is how our company functions and succeeds, both in-person and remotely. 

What I’ve learned from the Twitter community, other business owners I’ve talked to, and my own experience with Hawke is that a strong interpersonal environment leads to success in your business. While you’re working remotely, even if you see productivity rising, don’t forget to check in on the mental well-being of your employees and their relationships with their team members. Some of your Internet office team-building initiatives may seem trivial, but they can really make all of the difference.

Erik Huberman is a Columnist at Grit Daily. He is the founder and CEO of Hawke Media, the fastest growing marketing consultancy in the United States. As a serial entrepreneur and marketing expert, Huberman is a sought-after thought leader in the world of digital marketing, entrepreneurship, sales and business. Prior to Hawke, he founded, grew and sold two successful eCommerce companies. Huberman is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including Forbes “30Under30,” Inc. Magazine’s “Top 25 Marketing Influencers” and Best in Biz North America’s “Marketing Executive of the Year.”

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