One of the biggest challenges in a distributed-by-design company where people work from three different regions (Americas, Europe-Middle-East-Africa, and Asia-Pacific) is staying connected. Here’s an overview of ways we tackle it both company-wide and within teams.

Throw in some fun and games

In addition to monthly All Hands meetings and a weekly recap that keeps everyone updated on the business side of Testlio, we are deliberate about providing space and time for people to engage socially with others at the company. For example, we hold regular Testlio Connections meetings where the participants are divided into smaller groups and can talk about different topics or play games such as “Two truths and one lie” to get to know each other.

At our end-of-the-year Connections meeting, we explored the theme; “the things that connect us.” With over a hundred participants, everyone got to fold their own origami TestLion, and in smaller breakout groups talk and identify at least 10 things everyone had in common. While many of the traits identified in these groups included simple things — like having plants at home, being able to ride a bicycle, or having a passion for hiking in the forest — these simple things provided a basis to start building conversations and relationships.

What do TestLions say?

“In our team, we hold bi-weekly stand-ups that help us to stay connected and aware of each other’s challenges and wins,” explained Diana, a Testing Team Manager, “We also have a bi-weekly team retro to reflect on the past two weeks.”

While retros and syncs are a classic way of keeping each other up to date, it is also important to mix things up with some casual chatter. 

“In the past, when working at the office, I always planned meetings out to keep them focused and productive because we had a lot of other opportunities for random chats. Now, sometimes I intentionally let our conversations wander off the agenda. Our daily standups usually start with a few minutes of people sharing personal stories or just having a bit of fun and some good laughs. The same is true for our sprint retrospectives — there’s room for sharing personal struggles, weekend plans, or anything really,” shared Dávid, an Engineering Manager.

Michael, a VP of Sales, starts his teamwide meetings by asking everyone a few questions. “What was the best thing that happened to you last week?” Or “what song is still your guilty pleasure?” Or “who was your high school celebrity crush?” It keeps the team on their toes; they never know what random question he might come up with next. “In sales, it’s far too easy to inadvertently create a toxic, competitive culture. Not only is that not fun to be a part of, but it also limits performance quite a bit. We all win and lose together,” he said.

Have a chat over a drink or food (or cooking?)

In real life, a lot of casual chatter happens around lunchtime or over a cup of coffee. Then why not adopt it to the virtual space as well? Testing Team Manager Keili said their team stretches one of the bi-weekly meetings into a coffee chat and lunch where they don’t talk about work. The same goes for several teams within Testlio. “Sometimes we also invite somebody from another team, to strengthen cross-team connections too,” added Dávid.

If simply eating lunch or sipping coffee is too usual then how about cooking your meal together? The Network Team made some biryani recently with Nabeel, Freelancer Enablement Specialist, taking the lead. Doesn’t it look delicious?

Group discussions and secret awards

Everyone knows it’s important to take breaks, so why not do it together? For example, the entire Americas Testing Manager team comes together weekly for a meeting called “Brain Break” to do something that is fun and entertaining. 

“Sometimes we watch a Ted Talk video that is targeted towards something that is going on with the team and discuss ways to overcome tough situations,” said Jessica, a Testing Team Manager. “Recently, we watched a video series on Leadership and Emotional Intelligence and discussed how we are all leaders even if we are not managers, and how to be emotionally intelligent in our interactions with not only colleagues but also managers, network testers and Test Leads, our family and friends.”

Dávid’s Engineering Team has also started a new tradition of having a team-building event once a month on a Friday afternoon, closing the week with fun conversations or playing a game together. 

Putu’s team of Testing Managers does the same. “We come together and ask each other various questions from what is your favorite drink to supernatural experiences,” she said.

This type of deliberate activity is also supported by the People and Culture Team and Learning and Development team. Recently, they organized an award show where each team member could recognize a fellow TestLion for something they stand out for. Awards such as “The Most Contagious and Cheerful Laughter”, “The King of Spreadsheets” and “The Best Ninja Apprentice” were handed out with gratitude.

There are endless creative ways to build connections within remote teams and bring some freshness to traditional meetings. The key is to be deliberate, add some fun and casual chatter to the calls that make people feel more included and strengthen the feeling of belonging to a community, and aim to build up and appreciate others.

Are you looking for a remote job where you can feel connected to the team despite the distance? Check out Testlio’s current openings and join our TestLion Pride! 🦁