Before I joined Range my in-office work days involved a good deal of in-person communication. So I was very curious to experience being part of a fully remote working team. My first week, like most first weeks, was an avalanche of programs, passwords, introductions, and a good deal of reading. Once I dug myself out from underneath the snow, I watched, listened, asked plenty of caffeinated questions and learned a good deal.
After a while I picked up on the daily Slack work routines of my teammates. With time zone differences, the routines occur in rounds.
The days begin with friendly east coast greetings. We say “good morning,” toss out a few ☕️ ☕️ or, if we’re really tired, post a solitary 👋 as we wake up. Post-coffee, we discuss our dinners from the night before or entertaining #life updates then move into the work day. This rhythm repeats mid way through the morning when the west coast and late morning central timers wake up. Lunch breaks and water cooler work breaks cascade in similar fashion throughout the afternoon. And various days have weekly team meetings, client meetings, or one-on-one teammate chats as well. In the evening some of us close down for the day and the night owls break for dinner. We resume in the morning.
It’s a good rolling routine and it works well for our team.
So when we brought up the idea of a meetup (I assumed it meant exactly what the word implied), I was curious to see what impact getting together would have on our team culture and routines. What if, in the middle of the weekend, we discovered that our camaraderie didn’t extend past online communications? What effect would it have on the status quo? Would there be unbearable Slack silence for weeks to come?
It was possible.
Thankfully, it didn’t happen.
Rather, in the midst of fresh roasted local coffee in the mornings, sunset pontooning in the evenings, and a cosy house complete with a personal chef for any cloudy moments in between (the sunny moments were spent sunburning, of course), we learned a lot about who we are as a team.
We learned that we are flexible, and not just in terms of how many ways we can avoid being pushed into the water.
While we were together, we juggled being grill masters, programmers, idea generators, ping pong pros, cannonballers, and blog editors. Our founders shared their experience, encouraged ideas, and kayaked. And all of us collectively stepped outside of our work week roles.
In the process, we learned a lot about each others’ strengths and quirks as well.
We revisited why we do what we do, how our careers have progressed, different ways that we work, life wishlists, and the non-work obstacles that affect our daily lives. We discovered that Devin usually has an ongoing craftsman project that helps him think. Kyle knows all the best travel sites and resources and really plans to use them in the next year. Sara is a phenomenal cheese plate arranger and has to be a dog whisperer with how well she manages two grown canines plus a puppy. Pete starts a fire faster than anyone else on the team despite an impressive number of competitive scars, and I will quickly escalate a dare – especially if it involves water.
These facts, as pieces, are all really small things. And they’re not typically topics we would ever explore at length during water cooler moments in Slack.
But something we’ve realized since the meetup is that all these really small things really matter in building a great team culture. And we’re actually much better designers, developers, project managers, teammates, and leaders when we’re able to communicate, both offline and online, with one another.
It’s good for us, our projects, and our clients. And we’ve come back into our daily rounds of routines with more momentum, ideas, plans, and energy.
Which is why we’ve already started planning our next meetup.
That, and some of us still need to be pushed in a lake.