These past few weeks have presented our team with a challenge no one could quite anticipate.
As the Culture & Experience Manager, it’s my job to bring our people together in ways that demonstrate our values and reinforce our purpose. My team drives initiatives that create a sense of community and ultimately provide consistency and stability.
So, how do you bring people together when they are miles apart? How do you create a sense of stability when the world seems to be unstable?
Start With The Basics
Culture is built on values and brought to life through experiences. While working remotely, maintaining those foundational elements is especially important.
Here at Torrent, we begin each day with an all-hands stand-up meeting. All 103 employees across 5 states, 2 countries, and 3 time zones join a Zoom line for 15 minutes. It’s these fifteen minutes that create space for empathy and trust — empathy that enables rapport and trust that facilitates collaboration.
In addition to our daily stand-ups, each of our five hubs hold a weekly huddle. Now a fully virtual experience, we kick off every meeting by sharing stories of Torrent Guides living out our core values. Whether it’s an employee’s pursuit of excellence on a complex project or passionately celebrating milestones in one another’s lives. It’s in sharing these stories that we stay connected to the values that have built our culture.
Maximize Physical Distancing, Minimize Social Distancing
Meaningful human connection is by no means a new territory for us. The way in which we experience this connection, however, needed to be carefully thought through.
The goal was to create a virtual space our Torrent Guides would typically have available within their office. Think I’m – waiting – for – my – lunch – to – warm – up – in – the – microwave – and – I – get – a – quick – chat – with – my – coworkers kind of experience. While some may feel this small talk is trivial, it’s actually the cement that builds rapport.
So, through a little out of the box thinking — and a lot of Zoom — we’ve been able to recreate those small moments and maintain these intentional ways of connection.
Here are a few ways that we have found to be helpful:
Coffee breaks: Short breaks throughout the workday are always a healthy practice. These scheduled breaks give our team an opportunity to connect on non-work related topics. From hilarious icebreaker questions – like “If you were a wrestler, what would be your entrance theme song?” – to show and share photos of your favorite vacation spot. This time creates off the wall conversations, memorable moments and welcomed distractions from our four walls.
Themed happy hours: A healthy company culture is comprised of individuals having a sense of belonging – and that’s established through meaningful relationships with one another. Weekly happy hours get our people connecting across all 5 hubs with conversation starters in our break out groups or whole group trivia games.
Virtual yoga sessions: Being confined to our apartments and homes has its challenges physically. We didn’t want our active Torrent Guides to struggle with their physical well-being more than they already were. One of our employees worked towards her certification last year and now is able to offer a variety of practices for our Torrent Family bi-weekly.
Shared Spotify playlists: Music is played in the background of each of our hubs. There’s always an entertaining conversation that comes from which playlist is selected for the day. To simulate a similar experience, we organized and made public the top played playlists for people to enjoy from their homes.
Connect Torrent’s Kids, Support Torrent’s Parents
Aside from building virtual employee connections, the elephant in the room was the kids whose rhythms were also interrupted. We knew that having children at home during the workday was not a challenge that we could solve but we could find a way to help support our Torrent Guides through it.
As a parent, you are more than likely bombarded with resources for your kids on your social platforms. Our goal was to take and organize as many bi-lingual ideas and create a working document filled with options. It also helped that several of our employees came to us from the education system and had resources to offer when we began to brainstorm.
Organized by age and subject matter, we were able to provide a variety of activities and resources to keep our Torrent kids engaged. We’ve even had a few creative Torrent Guides lead virtual art or learning activities.
Even in this small way, we are happy to provide a bit of order to the chaos and give our hardworking parents a few moments of peace.
An Opportunity to Transform
All of this to say, company culture isn’t installed with bean bag chairs and an office kegerator. But rather, culture is formed by meaningful experiences, intentional connections, and authentic relationships. So, while remote working and shelter-in-place regulations have presented us with a unique challenge, we like to think of it as an opportunity. An opportunity to build even stronger social connections, more meaningful relationships and in-turn create ideas that can transform the way we work.