One of the most frequently asked questions around remote work is probably “How do you create a sense of community and belonging?”.
It is also a question we get asked from candidates throughout the interview process a lot.
With this blog article, we are giving some insight into how we foster a great remote work environment and culture.
Passion.io has been a fully remote company since 2018. The main reason for going remote back then was that the team became more international. Out of environmental consciousness, we did not want to open more and more offices and decided to go fully remote instead. We were enabling our team members to live and work flexibly wherever it serves them.
Culture is not a building
For many people, the office is the “fallback position” for culture building. When thinking about remote work, the idea of the office being THE place to create meaningful relationships among team members and a sense of belonging often comes up.
What does Culture mean for us?
For us at Passion.io, culture is a lot more than connecting about non-work topics. It's about how we treat each other and what our values are. It’s not relevant whether we’re in the same room or not.
That’s why we have implemented our values into everything we do. Some examples are:
- Recruiting: Related to our value #passionatestate, we hire for values fit and culture add. Every new Passioneer has to prove during the interview process that they share the same values and are an impactful addition to our company culture. Being fully remote enables us to recruit a diverse workforce.
- Working Together: Related to our value #impactfirst, our claim is to take massive action, deliver in the right quality and time, and accomplish more with less. We also make sure our meetings have a clear purpose and actual impact. We use meeting guidelines to ensure we’re using our time in the best way possible.
- Growth: Related to our value #levelup, we believe regular check-ins are particularly important in a remote context. With our People Management System, we ensure alignment between Passioneers and their Career Coaches (that’s what we call “Managers”) and enable our team to #levelup their skills and career.
- Leadership: Related to our value #leadbyexample, “leadership” is not something that is exclusive to the leadership team at Passion.io. Passioneers have backbone and are accountable, committed, and reliable. That’s why we can trust each other and count on each other.
- Communication: Related to our value #speakyourheart, we communicate openly and fearlessly with each other. We believe in immediate feedback and in speaking our heart, even when it’s awkward or embarrassing. We listen attentively and treat others respectfully.
There are countless more areas in our day-to-day work where our values are the foundation of how we interact with each other. And just like we all are what we repeatedly do, we believe culture is formed by how we repeatedly interact with each other.
One big challenge of remote work though is undoubtedly the lack of natural opportunities to interact with your colleagues on a personal level. In an office, you would see and meet your colleagues fairly regularly, have lunch together or grab a coffee at the same time. The classic “water cooler chat” became a symbol of personal interaction between colleagues.
And we obviously don’t have a water cooler.
Therefore, we build conscious water coolers into everything we do. Sounds weird? Bear with us. Even if you work in an office, the majority of the time you’re spending with your colleagues is while you’re working or cooperating with each other. In most offices, meeting people is a coincidence (for instance, because you want to get a cup of water at the same time and work on the same floor).
In our remote environment at Passion.io, we don’t treat culture and connection as something that “happens”. By being proactive about it, we are able to build an exceptional, remote culture with the help of every member of our team.
How does that work? For example, by encouraging cross-functional work, Slack channels around all the important things in life (#cooking for example), playing games together, Friday Happy hours and coffee chats, and using our “Tea for Three” sessions to meet different members of the team every week, from California to China.
Here’s a little sneak peek into what we do at Passion.io to stay connected:
- Happy Friday Calls: Every Friday we meet virtually to reflect on the week, play a game together and celebrate our successes and learnings. We also celebrate birthdays and anniversaries in these calls.
- Tea for Three: Every week groups of three are randomly created to have a chat together - all topics allowed, except for work.
- Virtual Activities: From time to time we have some cool virtual activities happening, either for the whole company or organized by and for a certain team. So far we had for example “Pizza and Coding Sessions”, “Beer Tastings”, “Game Shows”, “Murder Mystery”, “Show and Tell Sessions”, “Virtual Cooking Classes” and many more.
- Org-wides: Our org-wides (or “All hands meetings”) are a bi-weekly opportunity to #levelup with the whole team. Everyone can suggest topics for the meeting. We usually discuss some inspirational customer stories and identify opportunities to serve our customers even better.
- Most passionate Passioneer who ever did Passion: Most important part of the org-wide, the award for the most passionate Passioneer who ever did Passion is handed over from one Passioneer to another. This usually comes with a beautiful speech, a lot of guessing who it will be, and occasionally, some tears of joy.
- Coaching and Mental Health support: Remote work can be lonely and it can be difficult to disconnect. We know that and we’re all in this together. So in addition to the activities, we enjoy together we also offer coaching/therapy sessions to support our Passioneers with all the small and big challenges of work and life.
- Team Sessions: Most teams organize their own “team sessions”, usually monthly, and plan different activities like game shows, beer tastings, games, or conversations.
We don’t need to be on the same floor or in the same office to build relationships with each other. One could argue, that by being deliberate about it, we are in a better position to build meaningful relationships than any office-based team that just coincidentally chats at the water cooler. We’re talking about relationships that go beyond “How are you?”, “Good, thank you”. The fact that we truly care about each other is our unfair advantage in building a thriving culture.
With all of that being said, we nevertheless believe that deepening relationships is best done in person. Again, consciously and not randomly. That’s why we’re always so excited about our off-sites - “PassionLIVEs”. This is the time of the year when we get together as a team, have fun, learn and grow together and get to know each other on a whole different level.
PassionLIVEs are designed to encourage interesting conversations, challenge each other, learn new things together and build memories that will last a lifetime. After each PassionLIVE we see the impact and importance of meaningful face-to-face communication. Collaboration becomes easier and we understand each other better because we add context to our relationships.
A fully remote organisation does not mean you should never see each other in person. For instance, in addition to PassioLIVE, we have implemented a co-working budget that allows our team members to spend some face-to-face time with their colleagues somewhere in the world to work on a project together or just enjoy each other’s company.
Remote-first and People-first is our Way
As you can probably tell by now, we are much more than a bunch of people sitting in front of their laptops at home alone. In fact, all of us want much more than that. Our values are the foundation of our culture and they frame the way we look at our internal processes and interactions. Building all of that remotely is not an obstacle but rather a necessary ingredient for us.
Want to join the team? Check out our open positions.
Looking for fun games to play with your remote workforce? Check out this blog article.