The remote workplace is here to stay, but building remote team culture remains a work in progress.
Keeping remote interactions exciting is challenging, while convincing people to attend in-person company events is equally tricky.
That's why the Marco team sat down with Janet Kim, Executive Assistant at Alpha Exploration Co. (AEC). With years of experience planning her team's quarterly retreats, she knows how to design exciting, in-person gatherings that build on your online team dynamics.
Below, Janet walks us through her playbook on facilitating thoughtful workplace relationships — online and offline.
"In a fully remote world, it’s tough to emulate in-person relationships. So, you have to actively invest in engaging people. That’s why we host week-long, in-person events every quarter. It's much easier to build and nurture relationships that way." - Janet Kim, Executive Assistant at Alpha Exploration Co.
3 tools to level up remote communications
Janet gives it to us straight: "Remote work is hard. Period." Almost nothing is a sufficient substitute for seeing your coworkers in person.
However, the team at AEC have developed some reasonable remote alternatives:
Slack — Slack is a classic yet surprisingly effective channel to go beyond daily work comms and get into deeper conversations with co-workers.
Clubhouse — Clubhouse is a social audio app, designed by AEC to feel like a dinner party with countless conversation topics. For Janet, Clubhouse has brought her close to people at her company, whom she never would’ve easily befriended otherwise.
Donut — Donut helps you meet randomly assigned people from your company one-on-one.
Beyond these tools, AEC explored other methods to engage the team (i.e. virtual games like Pictionary and Among Us). Unfortunately, these could only hold people’s interest for so long.
That’s why the company invests in week-long, in-person events every quarter: They’re simply a more foolproof way to build and nurture relationships.
Employees are tired of repetitive, run-of-the-mill events
When it comes to planning in-person gatherings, Janet strives to make every single company event unique. She’s not interested in repetitive happy hours or mini golf tournaments.
Rather, she wants to curate one-of-a-kind experiences that wow her team and leave them guessing what could be next. Previously, she's thrown events like:
A scavenger hunt/food tour across Chinatown and Little Italy in San Francisco
A huge holiday party with a 360° photo booth and a show-stopping magician
Team Olympics on Treasure Island against the San Francisco skyline
Genuine connection can be sparked by the smallest details
In addition to the main event and backdrop, Janet knows there is value in the details. At the core of every team gathering are the small interpersonal moments.
That’s why she creates decks of cards with team-specific conversation starters. Every card is designed to facilitate the big goal: having everyone leave the event with 5+ new acquaintances.
Sometimes employees have never met because they’re on entirely different teams or just haven’t gotten to chatting over Zoom. Regardless, the new connections formed are memorable.
External assistance in execution creates space for creative planning
After years of team event-planning, Janet admits it can get harder and harder to come up with one-of-a-kind ideas for outings. That’s where Marco has been a game-changer: offering up fresh, exciting options while taking the execution off of Janet’s already full plate.
Even then, Janet hasn’t run out of steam just yet. She's currently planning a "color aura event" where an aura expert takes photos of each employee, gives their aura a color, and provides insights on their energy — the perfect example of an engaging, unusual, conversation-provoking activity.
Ultimately, the experience that employees have in that space will lead to deeper connections, which creates a more effective team.
"Our company’s mission is helping build friendships around the world. Through our app, I actually have built relationships with people across our company, whom I probably would never have interacted deeply with — certainly not over Zoom."