Before the pandemic, we sometimes had a few people “Working From Home” on any given day, but most of our collaborative work was done around one of our meeting room tables. We would gather to eat lunch in the kitchen, run into each other at the coffee machine, and visit each other’s desks with ease to talk through a problem or catch up.
Moving from that work environment to 100% remote was a massive cultural shift. Our usual touchpoints were gone, and we needed to adapt not only for our work together, but for our feeling of togetherness. Our homes became our offices, which for most was not our intention when choosing a home. The isolation was difficult, especially for those on small teams. We needed to find new ways to connect.
Shortly into the pandemic, we began running a weekly full-company meeting, informally called Company Huddles. The name was off-hand, but it stuck. These were optional, and always recorded for those who could not make it. We started with the goal of staying on the same page about how CampBrain would navigate the challenges of the pandemic, and what was next. It became clear that connecting with each other was just as important as knowing what was going on. We started highlighting 2-3 Brainers each meeting and giving them airtime to share stories and reflections, which evolved into a rotating schedule of Business Update Huddles, and what we call “Kitchen Table” Huddles.
What happens in Kitchen Table Huddles? Almost anything goes, as long as different voices are heard, and fun is had. We start with an energizer like “Stand Up & Shout”, and end with some sort of virtual high five. We have shared stories about camping, played games like Get It & Jet It (a speed scavenger hunt in your home), shared photos of past Halloween costumes & pumpkins, listened to Dan play guitar, and talked about “Working From Home During A Pandemic” or: WFHDAP. At least 75% of the company can usually make it out, and it is always a highlight of my Thursday to see everyone on Zoom.
Most companies have some sort of tradition around recognizing individual milestones. We are used to gathering to honour the contributions of Brainers at their 5-, 10-, and 15-year mark. While we can’t get together right now, to us, these moments are too important to delay indefinitely. Instead of waiting until we can get back to our traditions as we know them, our leaders have transitioned with creativity and style to honouring these milestones on Zoom.
If you are reimagining a tradition, make sure to use your new platform to its max! We have intentionally asked people to unmute, so their laughter and applause becomes part of the experience, coordinated our Zoom backgrounds, themed games around the Brainer being recognized, showed many photos (current and from way back when), and used slideshows to demonstrate their impact and contributions.
If you’ve been on a social Zoom call you know – it’s not always a smooth experience. Sometimes it can be more fun to get together for a shared activity. Thanks to the creativity of two of our team, we began getting together for a regular CampBrain Trivia Night! Trivia transitions very well from the pub to Zoom – we’re all together, but teams are chatting with each other as the questions are asked. Swapping sheets (Word Online or a Google Doc work just fine!) for scoring can get a little hectic, but the honour system has been working for us lately. Exploring other games that work well on Zoom, Luke organized a Games Night where you could pick Code Names or Euchre, and play in different break-out rooms.
There really is no substitute for seeing each other though. While the weather was warm, we organized a couple of socially distanced meet-ups in Toronto parks. Everyone brought their own masks and hand sanitizer, and blankets to keep us comfortable. It was a literal breath of fresh air to catch up, laugh together, and enjoy the sunshine.
When your usual points of connection disappear, it is important to find new touchpoints to meet the challenge of disconnection. Sometimes those new approaches bring unexpected advantages – they can be more accessible, highlight gaps you can then fill, and bring out your creativity. Making room for the new can be a good thing! However, it is also important to acknowledge the losses, and grieve the changes, especially when we did not choose them. We think back on how lucky we were to share a space, and to enjoy our Fall Potluck. We talk about how hard this is. We continue to check in on each other.
We look forward to reclaiming some of our “before times” traditions and bringing with us the new traditions we are building, in the now. We hope that you are also learning new ways to be together and welcome your ideas!