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Tips for Cultivating Teaminess as a Global, Remote Company

Remote work is almost normal... but what about remote teaminess?

Balsamiq employees have been spread around the world and mostly working from home since we started in 2008. We've learned a lot about how to work remotely effectively, and continue to improve our processes as the company grows and we add more and more remote employees.

We've gotten pretty good at all the work stuff: we have the right amounts of trust, autonomy, self-motivation and just-enough structure to be able to work efficiently from our homes around the world. These days, there is a lot of literature out there to help companies reach this point.

One topic that's not often talked about though is how to cultivate teaminess — the feeling of belonging to a team — for global, remote teams. How can we keep everyone feeling like we're all working together towards the same goals? How can we be more than just work colleagues that only see each other in person once or twice a year?

When it comes to cultivating teaminess, the more you do, the better

Over the years we've found that when it comes to cultivating teaminess, the more effort you put into it, the better.

Not everyone is interested in the same things and not everyone responds with the same enthusiasm to different initiatives, so offering a plurality of choice is an effective way to increase engagement.

Below is a quick sample of things we have done in the past to try and get people closer together. Some lose steam after a while, so we replace them with newer ideas.

Note that participation in all of these initiatives is encouraged, but completely optional.

  • In our internal wiki, we have a section called Personal Pages. When someone joins Balsamiq, we encourage them to create a page to share a little bit about their personal life with the rest of the team. Family photos, pets, hobbies... anything that they want to share about their life outside of work.

  • Every month, we have a company-wide online meeting. To go with the meeting, we have a page in the wiki that has the meeting agenda on it. We also have a section of this page called Personal News, where each employee can share what has happened to them in the last month outside of work. It's amazing how many comments happen on this simple little table on the wiki!

  • Near the end of each company-wide meeting, we take turns doing what we call a Personal Pecha Kucha presentation. One employee each month volunteers to share something about their personal life with the rest of the team, using the Pecha Kucha presentation style. It can be photos from your house, or your town, or about your family... It's very informal and always fun. Some very powerful personal stories came out of this program!

  • Right after the presentation, we always end the meeting with a few minutes of Pets and Babies and all things Cute Time. We unmute everyone's microphone, fetch our loved ones, and let the cuteness overload unfold. 🥰

  • We standardized our workstation design: everyone at Balsamiq, no matter where they live, can get the same sit/stand desk, the same fancy office chair, the same lamp, desk plant, laptop, monitor, etc. And these are the same exact items that will be in our office. Basically it should feel the same, whether you work from home or from the office. I took this idea straight from Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp.

  • We use KnowYourTeam, which sends what they call a Social Question every Friday. Something like "What's your earliest memory?" or "Do you have a good recipe to share?". Everyone replies and everyone else sees those replies on Monday. It's simple but really effective.

  • Every Friday, we do something called Friday Fun Times — we pick 5 people at random from the list of employees, and schedule them for a 30-minute Google Hangout with no agenda whatsoever. This gives everyone a chance to talk to people they might not normally talk to, and to chat about weekend plans and other often trivial, non-work-related topics... just like in-real-life friends would do. I took this idea straight from Michael Pryor, CEO of Trello.

There is a lot more, but we want to hear from you!

We hope the 7 tricks above will be useful to you. We'll be sharing more in the future.

But first, we'd love to hear from you! How does your company cultivate teaminess with your global, remote workforce?

Send us your feedback below and we’ll incorporate your idea in this page!