Culture

Fostering Community Within a Distributed Team

What is a Distributed Team?

A distributed team is typically made up of team members who work in different offices or work remotely. With the increase of remote roles opening up at companies (including Seer!) and as companies expand into new and different locations, distributed teams are popping up more and more.

In fact, one specific distributed team popped up for me last summer when I became a Team Lead at Seer. My (amazing) team is made up of nine team members: five in Philly, three in San Diego, and one in Fort Worth.

While we are always learning about how to best work with each other from other offices (some good tips here!), the team and I have had success with a few easy (and fun!!) ways building our team rapport and community – whether we sit two feet or 2,000 miles apart.

Tips For Creating Community Within a Distributed Team

Create a Team Chat (or Slack, Trello, etc)

My team chat is easily one of my favorite chats to see that little red notification button next to (might only get beat out by the Seer Furbabies chat).

Chat is my favorite way to communicate team-wide because it provides a low-pressure and accessible platform to talk about anything – from a quick question about a new PowerBI template to a survey of everyone’s favorite brunch spot (see below for inspired answers).

Our team always likes to use chat to do QOTD (Question of the Day ← which I usually sing as a jingle). While always fun due to questions like “What are you most likely to impulse buy after having a few drinks” (h/t Kara for the question and Hoa for the best answer: “More drinks”), but it also helps us get to know each other better through fun Q+A that typically would be covered during hallway chit chat and happy hours, events we don’t always get to partake in as a distributed team.

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Work From Home

While I have four team members in other offices, I still have five team members who I share an office with in Philly (largest Seer office). This means I still find myself falling out of touch with full empathy for my team members not working in the Philly HQ.

I’ve found that working from home 1-2 days a week ensures that I keep remote interests top of mind throughout the week.

All. Remote. Meetings.

This is an easy, but a super important one (h/t Jeff Haas who does this with his weekly meetings and I copied). We all know that video conferencing is always better than a phone call. And having everyone turn on their laptop camera individually is even better. But what’s better than both of those things? All remote meetings.

Having everyone call in from a different room for team meetings ensures that everyone is on even playing field for the meeting. Sound issues are everyone’s issue, not just the remote folks. Conversation isn’t dominated by those in the same room and it’s easier for team members to jump in to contribute.

Ice Breakers FTW

This one may seem silly – probably because it is, but trust me. Starting our all-remote meetings can be awkward sometimes. A bunch of people joining the video conference, still waiting for others to join, trying not to all talk at the same time, the usual “how’s it going” type greetings – or worse – my personal nightmare, complete and total silence begging to be filled.

To combat an awkward meeting commencement, I borrowed the perfect solution from Ally Malick – icebreakers. It may seem like a team that has been working together for a year might not need icebreakers, but with a distributed team who often doesn’t see or talk to each other often outside of our weekly team meetings.

Icebreakers (our team prefers Buzzfeed quizzes such as “find out which type of bread you are based on what sport your mom played in middle school” ← h/t Sarah Weber for this amazing joke) create a fun and common topic to discuss for our first few meeting minutes.

Plus, I get amazing team emails like this every week:

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Have more tips for building community within a distributed team? Leave ‘em in the comments! Or, apply to join one at Seer!