Skillcrush is a completely distributed company, meaning that we have no central office and are located all over the world, spanning languages, continents, and timezones. With the exception of a few clusters (several of us live in New York City and we have a bustling Florida contingent), most of rarely see each other IRL—if ever. The entirety of the Skillcrush team has never physically been in one place together, leaving us to guess at each other’s heights. Instead, we do everything digitally, from meetings over Google Hangouts to daily chatter on Hipchat.
You might think that working in your house or coworking space—far away from your coworkers—is lonely. In fact, we recently talked about fighting isolation as a remote team on the first episode of our podcast, Hit Refresh. In the episode, our producer Haele commented that most of our institutional solutions for building culture on the team fall to me, our Director of Operations.
I’m embarrassed to admit that the thought had never really occurred to me. At least. . . not really. There are times where I feel like the team mom—the one who makes sure everyone gets a gif party on their birthday—but, honestly, I think that has less to do with my job and more to do with my personality. So the episode got me thinking about culture-building and how it really has to be a team effort instead of a top-down initiative instituted by managers or executives.
I often encounter skepticism from people who assume we couldn’t possibly know each other the way co-located teams do, and that a bland company culture must be the price we pay for flexibility. But we are anything but boring! In fact, in a recent anonymous survey, the five words most used by our team to describe our culture were fun, friendly, empowering, supportive, and welcoming.
On a day-to-day basis, we make a point to talk about (and celebrate!) things other than work, and to let team members take the lead on team-building activities. We chat about our weekends, our kids, and our lives just like any other coworkers. We have real friendships over our computer screens—both in one-on-one chats and in group settings.
Just as critical to our daily interactions are the special events and clubs we make happen to foster our company culture and relationships. Here’s a look at some of the things you might recognize from your own office, just moved online.