Video hangouts with no agenda [remote work inspiration]

Hi 👋 I’m Jason. I’ve been a remote worker since 2016. Full time remote since 2017, and managing a team remotely since 2018. With people across the world suddenly finding both themselves and their teams homebound, I thought it might be a good opportunity to share some of the things I’ve found helpful as a remote team lead. I work at Culture Amp, a software platform that helps organisations take action to develop their people and their culture. We have a collection of “inspirations” – ideas you can copy in your organisation to improve its culture. I’ve followed the basic format here.

Basic idea:
Book in recurring video “hangouts” where a group of people have a chance to catch up with no set agenda.

Examples:
  • A team “wind down” each Friday afternoon.
  • A monthly “remote workers lunch”.
  • A fortnightly “engineer hangout” for engineers from across the organisation.
These hangouts should be optional to attend.

Why?

When teams aren’t in the same physical location, a common trap is only talking to people during set meeting times, and to only talk about the current project. Having a time to chat about anything, whether or not it’s work related – like you might in an office lunch room – is a chance to build better relationships and foster a sense of belonging.

Instructions:

  • Pick a group of people who would benefit from a stronger sense of community and belonging. It might be a team, a demographic, or a group with a particular role.
  • Find the appetite for how often people would like to meet, and for how long. In general, a range between once a week and once a month works for most groups, meeting more often the more important the relationships are. Meeting times can vary between 30 minutes and 2 hours, depending on how much of a “drop in / drop out” vibe you want.
  • Schedule a time! Try to find a time that is unlikely to be interrupted by other meetings, and unlikely to be highly focused time. Make sure it is within regular office hours to show that you value this type of connection enough to dedicate company time to it. For some groups it may be appropriate to book over lunch
  • Send an invite! Make sure attendance is optional.
  • During the hangout:
    • As the facilitator, make sure you’re online the entire time.
    • Greet people as they join, and introduce people who might not know each other.
    • It’s okay if people talk about work. It’s okay if people talk about life outside of work. It’s okay if people don’t talk and seem to be doing work on their laptops. 
    • Ensure there is only one conversation going on at a time. If people want to start a splinter-conversation, they can start a separate video call.

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