Flo Alcasas | Head of HR at Yodo1 Games
Having a company all hands is far from the only way to engage people in a fully remote company. They can be a great tool, of course, but with a team that includes well over a hundred people across more than 30 countries—in time zones ranging from Vancouver to the Gold Coast—getting everyone together in a Zoom room isn’t something we at Yodo1 do more than a few times a year.
And yet finding ways to meaningfully engage and connect within and across teams is vital to the way we operate. How? Here are seven ways we’ve worked to keep our fully remote team engaged and prospering. Feel free to crib or tweak them to help you achieve the same!
Collaborative learning is a great way for teams to connect and share knowledge, skills, and feedback with each other. By focusing on input (learning) rather than output (work results), team members can explore new ways of working and develop skills together.
Making learning together a habit and deeply rooted part of the culture also helps companies stay on top of industry trends and innovations, and identify new opportunities for growth and development. Plus, it helps build strong, supportive, and resilient teams that can adapt to any challenge and achieve great things together.
Let’s take, as an example, good communication. It’s essential to success in any organization and becomes even more important when working in a fully remote, globally dispersed, and culturally diverse team.
To help people at Yodo1—regardless of their position—improve spoken communication, presentation skills, confidence speaking in front of an audience (often in English as a second language), and ability to inspire others and gain support for their ideas, we’ve been running multiple chapters of Pitch Club for over four years.
Besides live online events, learning together can be done asynchronously—why not try a chat group dedicated to reading together or sharing knowledge on a certain topic? You could pick one book to read each month and encourage people to share their thoughts, takeaways, and favorite quotes in the chat group as they go.
From Pitch Club
While it may seem counterintuitive, being able to goof around and crack jokes sometimes might be just what your people need to pull out of a slump and get some real work done. Humor can help the team re-engage the work at hand with fresh inspiration, and it’s a great social habit to build into your communication—be it by cracking jokes in a meeting or sharing memes in your team chat.
You can also build connection into your daily routine with habits like sharing fun photos or spending the first five to ten minutes of your weekly team meeting on a non-work topic where you can learn something new about each other.
One of our most active chats at Yodo1 is a company-wide group called “WFA Share Your Day.” Here, people share pictures from their vacations, family activities, or a new location they’re working from. Other examples of fun company-wide chat groups include “Games We Play” (we are a gaming company, after all!), “AI Best Practices” for sharing cool ways to use AI, and a planned “Duolingo Leaderboard” to compete for the longest streak.
There should never be pressure to participate, but if you diversify by having chat groups on a range of topics, people will find something that clicks and that they want to be a part of, and that’s the key.
3. Pepper the company calendar with some virtual sessions–that aren’t just work meetings
Experiment with different standing sessions on the company calendar that give people a break from their usual routine and a chance to connect with others. Here are a few we’ve had fun with–you could try out a couple for say, six months, and see which resonate best with your company.
All Staff Workshop: A 30 to 60-minute event that all staff are invited to but not required to attend, where we invite one person to teach us something they know, with a short presentation followed by live discussions and Q&A.
Meet & Greet: When a new person joins the company, organize a welcome session on their first day with members of their department and other stakeholders.
Coworking Space: A simple virtual room people can drop into to work alongside someone new. You can use your company’s meeting software of choice for this, or look into some of the other options out there designed to create a fluid virtual coworking environment.
Friday Happy Hour: A casual session people can join to hang out and chat with coworkers before signing off for the week.
Of course, you don’t want to overdo it. But having, for example, one or two sessions like this on the calendar in a given week gives people options to connect and engage if and when they want.
Milos and Roberta in Amsterdam
In any company, the salespeople are likely to be out a lot, meeting people and attending events. But they’re not the only ones who can do so! Your engineers may want to join an online or local tech community. There may be local or virtual conferences that are particularly relevant for a department that doesn’t get out much.
As I entered a new role in HR early last year, it was helpful to find communities I could network with and learn from, and I discovered a combination of online and offline events I could join. The Women in Games community on Discord, the Quan Wellbeing community for people leaders on Slack, and a host of webinars and AMAs by remote work and HR tech companies are just a few of the communities I’ve benefited from over the years.
In short, you don’t have to be in BD to network. Encourage all of your people to join communities where they can connect and learn from people in their fields of expertise, and consider a budget for these types of events, especially when they involve ongoing learning.
5. Encourage local, offline coworking
Not putting any geographical restrictions on your team means they can–and often do–end up anywhere in the world. But if you find there are local or regional clusters where it doesn’t take too much to get people together in person, why not go for it?
Encouraging people to get out of their usual environment and co-work with nearby colleagues or simply spend time at a co-working spot or cafe can be a great way to remind your team to break their routines and engage with others IRL. Providing a way for relevant expenses to be reimbursed is a simple way to encourage this, without forcing anyone to participate.
Simply changing your environment on occasion can be refreshing and stimulating for creativity and productivity. It also provides an opportunity to engage with others face-to-face, which can be a welcome change from collaborating on screen and help foster a sense of community and collaboration.
Since we introduced “Coworking Day” at Yodo1, we’ve had meetups in places like China, Vietnam, Amsterdam, and Pakistan, and traveling Yodies often stop along the way to meet people in the areas they pass through, be it New York or Hong Kong.
Yodies Coworking in Vietnam
Yodies Coworking in Amsterdam
If someone isn’t located near anyone else in the company, going to a co-working spot can provide similar benefits, and a chance to network and build relationships with other professionals that may lead to new ideas and opportunities.
Keep in mind that different people have different needs. One person may love the peace of working from home and having lunch with their family every day; another may crave being in a bustling environment surrounded by other professionals. In the future of work, there are ways for fully remote companies to accommodate both.
While the above tips and tools can do wonders to help your remote teams bond and prosper, you’ll likely find it important to organize opportunities for teams to meet and work together in person—even if it means flying some people halfway around the world sometimes.
How often your team can or should meet up in person is completely up to you—and them—of course, but it should be well planned with a specific outcome in mind and not just because you feel it’s something that “should” happen.
There’s plenty out there on why in-person team building is (and isn’t) important. In short, can you build an amazing, well-functioning team without meeting in person? Yes, absolutely! Are there specific benefits to relationships, teamwork, and outcomes when you do meet in person? Also yes!
LinkedIn’s 2022 report The Reinvention of Company Culture highlights the ways that what employees want and need has evolved, and it’s clear that companies that are in tune and moving with these changes are the future of business.
Last but not least, don’t force things; make engagement opportunities available and optional. People are different and at different points in their lives; some will be looking for more ways to engage with their coworkers, and others for more time to focus on non-work relationships. When you have to participate in work events that aren’t relevant to you, it’s pretty painful. But if you want to be there, it’s great.
At the end of the day, engagement isn’t as simple as how many people join a session or react to an announcement. It starts at a personal level—Do people care about what they’re doing? And at a team level—Are they trusted and supported by their team? Do they know they’re trusted to do their job when and where they prefer and that they can get help when they need it?
Focus on building and empowering great teams and giving people meaningful work, and the rest should be the icing on the cake. In the HR department, we might have a tendency to think we have to make engagement happen. Sometimes, it can be more impactful to empower teams to do their own thing in their own way, checking in and providing support when needed. Then stand back and watch what they can do!
If you’re looking for a career in the mobile gaming industry and value the freedom to work from anywhere in the world, we encourage you to explore our careers page and see what opportunities may be right for you.