Creating togetherness in a fully distributed back to work model

How Melanie Steinbach, Chief People Officer at Cameo, is preparing her workforce to be fully distributed — permanently. 

In our first Future of Culture meeting at the beginning of April —a meeting of an intimate group of People Leaders from companies big and small, emerging and established —we had an honest conversation about the rapid evolution of how we work, and challenges and opportunities that are coming along with it. We kicked it off with a lighthearted magic show, hosted by the amazing Kevin Blake (Kevin blowing Mel's mind, pictured above), and then dove right into it, discussing hard-hitters, like: 

What will these tectonic shifts bring to company culture? What will they take away from it? How can we leverage this monumental transformation for positive change?

A fully distributed back to work model

Leaders seem to fall into three camps in terms of “back to work” solutions: all-in, all-remote, or a hybrid model.

Melanie Steinbach, Chief People Officer at Cameo, is preparing the company for a fully distributed workforce. 

Just because we're fully distributed doesn’t mean that we are waging war on togetherness. In fact, it’s the opposite: We love togetherness,” she says. “We love community and bringing people together. That's what we do. Our whole company is about connection. And we don’t need to be in an office every single day to do that.”

What makes it work? Being intentional about the changes you’re making — regardless of what they are. Transparency brings employees into the change, giving them ownership of it. No matter which model you choose, she says, you need to make each person a part of it, rather than a casualty of it. 

Change management doesn’t stop with one decision

The “back to work” decision you make isn’t one and done. 

Your choice must extend into every corner of your culture to be adopted, trusted, and believed in. Mel and her team create trust by focusing on making every employees’ home office feel like a productive work environment.

“Going fully distributed means that instead of having two or three offices, we now have 250 offices. Every ‘office’ we have an employee is a Cameo office,” says Steinbach. “How can we make people feel like they don't just work for Cameo, but they work at Cameo? Yes, you’re still going to your same kitchen table, or wherever you might work, but how do we make employees feel connected to Cameo?”

That doesn’t just happen one time. It’s an ongoing process driven by the highest level of leadership at the company, so that no matter where in the world employees are, they feel supported.

How do you make employees feel connected to the company, the brand, the culture, when they are not physically together? 

This question has become a central pillar to everything the People Team at Cameo does across the entire employee lifecycle, starting with onboarding. Says Steinback, “We focus on one day in, one week in, one month in, to really create some kind of shift in their experience.”

Cameo ships welcome packages all over the world so that on day one, employees really feel like they’re walking into a fully setup office. 

And my personal favorite — every team member films a Cameo for them, which the team sends to the new hire throughout their first week. Every day they see a new Cameo from one member of their new team. “It’s really fun. And it gives them a way to get to know the platform,” she says.

Create togetherness in multiple formats

Bonding and culture-building experiences may look a little different than they did pre-pandemic, but the idea is the same.

Cameo has essentially rebranded get-togethers.

“We’ve changed the names of our whole approach to getting together,” says Steinbach. “We're calling them Fameo Reunions. We’re the Cameo Fameo. So we have Fameo Reunions, and they'll happen in different formats.”

Mel and her team are approaching the back-to-work transition with creativity, empathy, and intention. She recommends the same approach for your organization — evaluating your model based on your business and your team. Says Steinbach, “Be transparent, think about your employees’ experience every step of the way, and build the change into the fabric of your brand.”

Create togetherness, virtually

Book an experience for your team. It means more than you think. 

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