Working with a Dispersed Team – Part 7 of 7

How to Build Community in Your Dispersed Team

People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. The identity of your team hugely influences that. Some teams discover shared interests or hobbies. Others share a sense of humor to cope with challenging customers. Camaraderie makes all the difference for workplace satisfaction. When that happens, people will work harder, work more smoothly with each other, and be less likely to leave. It’s great news that distance does not have to get in the way of your team’s community.

Welcome New Hires

  • Each person says two positive things about each other teammate. When Paul Robinson’s team did this, “The new person learned a lot of great stuff about all the other people. At first, people were a bit nervous about the process, but by the end they enjoyed it.”
  • Have an “ask me anything” session. When the new hire arrives, formally introduce him or her to the team. Discuss their role/responsibilities and let people put a face with the name. Have 30-45 minutes for a freeform session when the new hire can ask the team questions and vice versa. Paul Frields’ team does this, “Invariably, it becomes a humorous kind of thing which only encourages the camaraderie.” This activity can also lessen future communication conflicts; “It’s [otherwise] hard to establish the tenor of a communication if you don’t have a pre-established relationship with that person. If you get a message that might otherwise raise your hackles, that really helps smooth out that effect. If you don’t know that person, it’s a lot harder to do that, for many people impossible. Having that Q&A conversation early helps lubricate that onboarding process.”
  • Send them to orientation at the company headquarters. Even if the team isn’t on site, let the newly hired remotee spend a couple of extra days working from there. Jacob Watts, a recent remote hire at Red Hat, had this opportunity, “Even if the new hire doesn’t have team members in the nearest office, to be able to spend an extra day or two to feel the culture and vibe of Red Hat and shake hands with the locals is worth it.”

General ways

  • Read the earlier post in this series on 10 Fun Activities to Engage Your Dispersed Team.
  • Set up an IRC channel for fun. Let it be a social space to share videos, pictures, jokes, etc.
  • Create a peer award. One department has a Minion of the Month peer. As it is passed, the giver tells the team about the recipient’s great contribution. It’s a way for people to stay attuned to what others are doing behind the scenes and to celebrate successes.
  • Complete associate bios. You could have the group complete it all at once or spotlight two individuals each month. Provide a template with basic questions and a place to add pictures. Mark Raaz recalls, “Once they read the bios, you could see the IRC light up because people realized commonalities and started talking about them.” This is a great way for the team to put a person with the name, especially for those with common names.
  • Use team meetings for solidarity. “We can sing, or scream, or drink champagne in a meeting if we need to,” says Genevieve Simard.

Create your own community

  • Engage with the nearest satellite office.
  • Create your own remotee mailing list for networking, camaraderie, and support.
  • Host events for employees who live near enough for a day trip.
  • Host a problem-based hackathon for a few hours or even a whole day.
  • Join or create committees such as awards or recognition, super users, or training.
  • Hang out in your video chat room and share the link with the team with an invite to join you.
  • Start a leisure or professional book club.

My previous posts on this topic cover:


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