Over the past 2.5 years, CampBrain has transformed from the inside out. We were an almost fully in-person company where everyone came into the office. Our culture, traditions, and cadence all revolved around weekdays in the office together. We loved seeing each other, playing with the office dogs, sharing home-baked treats in the kitchen, and walking for coffee to our favourite local café: Black Canary.
In March 2020, that changed abruptly as we spent the next year and a half working from home. When we re-opened the office in September 2022, we had some decisions to make.
We decided to launch our Hybrid Office, and a year & change later, here is where we are:
Brainers have the flexibility to work & live wherever suits them best
We work in Eastern Standard Time
We support Brainers’ set-up and upkeep of a home workspace
We provide welcoming desks in the office for anyone who wants to use them
Brainers are enthusiastic about the flexibility, much better-suited now to meeting their life outside of work. We can spend more time with family, live outside Toronto, and easily work from home when needed – or pop into the office whenever we’d like. We also widened our hiring pool and now hire people from coast to coast!
As mentioned, this is all new to us; establishing our hybrid office raised some questions and challenges, especially around how & when we gather and connect:
How often will we all see each other?
How can we provide opportunities for Brainers to build the kinds of bonds we cultivated when we saw each other every day, and connect Brainers across different teams?
How will we adapt our traditions & culture to the hybrid workplace?
WHAT IS OUR HYBRID CADENCE?
Just last week, we launched our Hybrid Cadence initiative, to answer the first question.
We will gather twice/year for State of the Brain, where we reflect on the past 6 months, and look forward to what’s coming – these will be chances for team-building, training, and fun together.
We will also support Brainers who want to travel to camp with us twice/year – families & dogs are welcome to come along!
Stay tuned for more on what’s to come for BRAINSTORM, our user conference, which we dearly miss.
The hybrid office poses unique challenges for our newest team members. Transitioning an existing relationship online is different than creating one from scratch! It is important that Brainers feel welcomed right from the get-go and can easily get a sense of who we are. We re-thought our entire Onboarding process, to focus on welcoming people who were not able to be in the office with a bunch of colleagues. Our changes included:
Culture Buddies: Assigning each new Brainer a Culture Buddy, to show them the ropes – someone from a different team they would connect with and learn from.
Virtual Welcome Wagon: Getting the team to contribute photos, videos, GIFs, and messages to an online greeting card to welcome the new Brainer. We used to send cards via snail mail, but now we can ‘say it with GIFs’!
Office Tour: We have developed a Virtual Office Tour, to give new Brainers who have never been to the office an idea of what it looks like, and what to expect.
New Brainer BINGO: In a new tradition, we dedicate one of our regular Company Huddles (all-hands meetings) to getting to know our newest Brainers in a somewhat unique way – they choose some questions from a long list, and we turn their answers into BINGO cards! As we play BINGO, we get to hear the stories behind the answers. Everything from your favourite fictional world to the most memorable meal you’ve had. Chaos always abounds, as do jokes & connections, and Julia usually wins.
ONLINE & IN-PERSON EVENTS
The experience of completely changing how we worked together prompted us to think intentionally and creatively about the Art of Gathering. How & when would we gather? How could we make it special and get the most out of our time together? Here are a few of the ways we have started:
Shorts: ‘Shorts’ (or ‘Long Shorts’) are 15-30 min presentations by anyone across the company – on topics both personal and professional! They started in the “Before Times” to provide a space to share a team win, interesting learnings or tools, or anything Brainers were passionate about; an opportunity to practice presentation skills + connect with people from other teams. Now, they are even more important as a place to hear from different voices and get to know each other through the news we choose to share in this way – from useful tools to pasta-making tips, or photos from parental leave. All Brainers are welcome on this stage!
CB Catch-Up: Once/month we get together online to “run into each other in the kitchen”! Everyone who joins ends up in a breakout room with 2-3 Brainers from other teams (generally), and has a chance to just catch up for 15 minutes.
Kitchen Table Huddles: We meet online regularly for an all-hands meeting we call our Company Huddle. About half the time, this is classified as a “Kitchen Table” Huddle, which is all about connecting with each other, as if we were all sitting around our office kitchen table, telling stories. These have evolved over time, and sometimes involve Brainers telling stories on a theme, or just playing games. Whatever the topic, we get to hang out, and that’s the best part.
Social Events: Our Social Committee has been dreaming up a calendar of awesome events to bring us together this year – online & in-person!
Office Days: Once/month we organize a catered lunch in the office, for anyone who happens to be in that day. Brainers sign up in advance so we can see who else will be around – and whether one of our out-of-town Brainers happen to be visiting!
All these new initiatives and ideas are still in the process of evolving, of course. That will always continue! We will keep trying new things, and iterating on what we’ve done before. While we don’t expect to replicate our past culture, we are excited for what we’re building now, and how much more flexible and inclusive it will be.
We look forward to keeping you in the loop, as we do!