When I started working remotely, one of the questions I was worried about was how we would manage to create and maintain a culture. Culture is a tricky and elusive topic in itself, so how in heaven will we pull it off without sharing an office space?
Even though we spent a decent amount of our lives at work, we rarely think about the impact of company culture. Many studies have shown the correlation between a good working environment and employee happiness and satisfaction, so why don’t we talk more about it? What is culture in the first place? As Floyd Marinescu recently said in the HackSummit:
“Culture is the emotional feeling you get when working with a team.”~ Floyd Marinescu
I want to share with you an interesting dynamic that we’ve been practicing at Junto. Every Friday, we meet up for what we call “Culture Friday”. It’s our only scheduled meeting throughout the week, and a pretty awesome one that I always look forward to. It kicks off with what we call the VEP and it’s as random as it gets: one member prepares it, the others enjoy. We’ve done everything, from sitting in the grass watching cloud formations to meditating to creating impromptu drum music with chairs and tables. Then, we move on to a bonding activity that another member has prepared. “Bonding” often involves writing, and it’s more personal than the VEP. It makes us remember that we are a team and we care for one another.
After those two activities, we move on to the GPS, where we talk about the goals and metrics of the company as a whole. We’ve found that it’s a great way of involving everyone in the big decisions of the company. Everyone is empowered to contribute their thoughts so we reach better decisions. After a short break, we sit around and begin my personal favorite activity: The Dialogue. A topic generally unrelated to work is set by a team member, which is then discussed over an ample period of time. We’ve talked about space travel, discussed books and talked deeply about education. Last but not least, we reflect on how things went in the Culture Friday and during the week, and give each other feedback about how to be a better person and tackle the next week with even more enthusiasm than before.
I know that having the weekly CF disqualifies us as a fully remote team. However, we’ve found that the CF has been central for building the Junto culture we now cherish. It has brought us together, enabling us to work remotely without sacrificing the human element, and thus creating a unique culture of learning and a great working environment I’m proud to be part of.