Lessons in Remote-First Culture: What We Learnt from Our Team Week

July 26, 2021
Udi Klein
Lessons in Remote-First Culture: What We Learnt from Our Team Week

We’re a Remote-First team. A small one (for now), but spread far across Berlin, London, Paris and Dublin.

Last summer we were fortunate — we found a gap between travel restrictions and brought ourselves together for the first time. It was our debut Team Week — a chance for us to connect and socialise with no webcams in sight. But this time around we weren’t as lucky. We had to adapt.

It wasn’t unexpected — adaptation has been the theme of the last 18 months — and if we’re completely honest, I think all of us in HR are still learning to roll with it.

For me, the secret to coping is to never expect your new plans to be perfect. Instead, we need to see them as an opportunity to get incrementally closer to what’s needed, by being open to feedback and listening to how they’re received.

Fortunately, we’re a team that believes strongly in feedback (we’re literally building a tool for it!) so I’m confident we’re taking big strides towards “better” all the time.

The other factor is balance. Our Remote-First is culture is new to almost every member of our team, and so we’re all learning what feels “right” for each of us for the first time. There’s no template to follow — we’ve just got to try something and then ask ourselves “did that feel like too much, or not enough?”

We’re already planning a longer, in-person Team Week for August 🤞🤞🤞 — but here’s what we got up to (and learnt) from our two-day, remote interaction this July.

Hopefully the following itinerary will inspire you to do one of two things:

1. Try one of these remote activities with your own team
2. Apply for one of our many open positions (hint, hint — we’re hiring 😉)

Day One: Getting Pumped with a Team Workout 💪

This was a really successful start to our first day. So much so that it sparked demand for a regular weekly team workout (coming soon).

We wanted to get everyone up from their desks for a change of environment, and to begin things with something as far removed from sitting in a team meeting as we could get.

Those of us with gardens topped up our tans as we lunged, and we all worked up a healthy appetite for later…

Day One: Getting Focused with a Strategy Session 🎯

To cool down and regroup, we turned to our co-founding team, Jakob and Sebastian. It was important to begin Team Week with a conversation about our mission and goals, but this wouldn’t have worked as well without the workout beforehand.

Starting the morning with a Google Hangout strategy workshop seemed too heavy. Endorphins followed by inspiration was a much better recipe. Speaking of recipes...

Day One: Refueling with a Mexican Cook-Along 🌯

A shopping list had been shared the week before, so in theory we had everything we needed for an easy-breezy team lunch. What we didn’t account for was the Masterchef-style pressure that comes with cooking on-screen.

We shared smashed plates, and minor burns. The lesson: tortillas-from-scratch is a bit too ambitious. Maybe next time we’ll stick to the microwave? 🤔

Day One: Getting Inspired with Guest Speakers 🙋

With bellies filled, muscles stretched and goals aligned, we rested for an afternoon with two inspirational women.

Candice Lo, Venture Partner at Moonfire, spoke to us about her passion for HR tech, and experience growing Uber’s China operations from a team the size of ours, to a business operating in over 200 cities.

She was followed by double-olympian Lina Taylor, who spoke to us about her sporting dream, and how drive and goal-setting can help you achieve the seemingly-impossible.

Day Two: Getting in the Zone with Group Meditation 🧘

We condensed out remote Team Week into two days because we felt any longer period of time on webcams would be too much. To address the possible intensity of it all, we wanted to slow things right back down at the beginning of day two with an hour and a half of guided meditation.

Honestly, this was the most well-received activity of the whole schedule. It gave us a rare opportunity to be in each other’s company without the need to interact or be “active”. And our guide Eddie’s infectious laughter carried us through the rest of the day.

Day Two: Getting Creative with a Hackday 👾

To bring us home, we loosened the reins and let our creativity and collaborative streaks run wild. In a matter of hours we’d built a new product feature, released a new marketing campaign and… revamped our careers page (another, not-so-subtle hint)

Ironically, what we took from this was to be less outcome-focused, and not constrain ourselves to projects with a direct application to our day-today roles. But it was a good lesson to learn, and gives us something to improve on for next time.

Join Us for Our Next Team Week?

So there we have it — an outline for a two-day Team Week that I hope has inspired you to try something similar. It’s definitely inspired us to build on its successes and create something even better next time.

Speaking of next time, did I mention we’re hiring? 😅

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