Over the past few years, culture has become the mantra when it comes to creating a happy workplace. The right culture is integral to attracting and retaining talented people, not to mention drawing in clients and building an engaged community.
People often tell me that ArcStone’s culture is really strong. I’m not too surprised. It’s something that we’ve worked hard to establish and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of at work. Our culture is one part deliberate, one part dream, and one part wabi-sabi.
But things are different now. We no longer chat at the coffee machine, the gong doesn’t sound when a client wants to “try it out”, there’s no impromptu popcorn and beer at the end of a long week. Maybe you’re feeling the same way? There’s a sense of mourning of what was and acceptance of what is - at least for now.
We are in our fifth month of working from home (along with the majority of you). And many of the ways we fostered our workplace culture aren’t possible from a distance. Over the past few weeks, I’ve started to ask the question, “How do you foster workplace culture when everyone is working remote?”
Here are some ways we’re exploring what workplace culture looks like remote:
I’ve talked about this before. We’ve been doing daily huddles for almost one year. Every morning, we get together on Zoom, of course, and share news, what we’re doing for the day, important metrics, blockers, and occasionally a COVID-19 confession. Thanks, Ellen for inventing that segment.
Back in March, when we were all new to this, our daily huddles were comforting. Seeing familiar ArcStone team members helped me feel more grounded and on track.
Fast forward several months, our huddles help create a rhythm.
Remembering the Core Values that Drive Us (Often)
Service, Craftsmanship, Evolution, Harmony, and Happiness are our core values. It’s (relatively) easy to come up with a set of core values but it’s more difficult to actually live them. We share #Kudos in our daily huddles and in our company chat as often as we can. These Kudos are based on our core values and help bring them to life on a consistent basis, and also allow team members to recognize each other for their hard work and service to our clients.
Long before we transitioned to working from home, we held quarterly “moots” to cover where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how we’re going to get there. Our last two moots have been re-moots (remote moots done via Zoom - thank you Davendra for coining that phrase). Moots allow us to share our “North Star’ - our vision of where the company is going. Without moots, it would be easy to feel like a lonely boat lost at sea.
At our last moot, we asked the team what we should “start,” “continue,” and “stop.” It was helpful to get everyone’s perspective while we navigate through this change. If you haven’t done this exercise with your team, I encourage you to try it.
Scaling Up calls them Scorecards. That was too sporty and punitive for us. I like the idea of Role Cards (Do you conjure up Dungeons and Dragons as I do at the sheer mention of role anything?) At ArcStone, everyone has a Role Card. Role cards identify your core competencies, goals, key performance indicators, and a native genius title (what that person does well naturally). Role cards offer clarity because everyone has a number and clear goal. Role cards with crystal clear KPIs are critical for us during this time.
Long before COVID-19, one-on-ones were part of our rhythm. David takes all of the folks working in Sales, Admin, and HR, and I take the production crew. One-on-ones give us the opportunity to check-in with everyone. They were helpful before. Now, they’re essential. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re both looking at each other via Zoom versus sitting in an office, or maybe it’s these strange times, but the one-on-ones feel more intimate and real these days.
Happy(ours), Concerts, and External Events
Early on in our remote work relationship, we had to decide whether to cancel Happy(our) on Harmony. After some careful consideration and debates on Zoom, we decided to go ahead with it. Our Happy(our) was scheduled for May 28th. Little did we know that our beautiful city, Minneapolis, would spark a revolution after the murder of George Floyd by the hands of the very people hired to protect and serve our community. Yet again, we agonized about the event. How could we host a discussion on harmony? For some reason, canceling felt wrong too. I’m not sure who said it but someone said, “Maybe it’s the perfect time to talk about harmony,” Turns out, it was.
The events we host for ourselves and the community at large give us an opportunity to put into practice what we talk about internally and the core values we hold so near and dear to our hearts, and this is especially important as we are apart from each other physically.
We use Basecamp 3 for managing projects, timelines, and todos, but it also has a Campfire chat function. We use Basecamp’s Campfire for sharing news, whereabouts, and photos of our cherished animal and human babies. We rely on this to keep us connected during our remote work.
As we mature in working remotely, I look forward to exploring what a workplace culture can look like, and fostering our own positive culture where people are happy, healthy, and fulfilled.