Remote work is a current buzzword in tech and other industries. Increasingly, companies are hiring outside of their physical office location and adapting digital tools to connect and collaborate with their employees. To traditional companies, remote work is an unfamiliar structure: how does a company bring people in many locations and timezones together on the same projects and communicate effectively? And more importantly, how can a company maintain a cohesive company culture when employees are distributed across many locations?
Our own recruiting coordinator Lydia gives some insight into how we cultivate a great culture here at Trello, despite having employees stationed all over the map:
Here at Trello, about half of us work from our New York City office, with the other half working remotely.
But twice a year, that changes. We have a Remote Week.
While individual teams get lots of virtual face time with each other day to day, it’s also important to make time to come together as a whole company. Our culture has evolved to where our employees are based all over the world, but there’s something unique about us all sharing the same space for a while.
Faces are put to Slack avatars, the first day is filled with “_____! Hi! It’s so great to see you!” as people arrive, bagels are shared, and silliness abounds, but most importantly we gain time to refocus and reconnect. We celebrate that we make great things together. We get to know people from other teams, and we surprise each other. We learn how funny we are. We make each other tea. We hang out -- we don’t just have a Hangout.
And of course, we get to all eat lunch together, Taco Day has never been so huge.
Just barely enough guac.
Here’s how we planned our most recent Remote Week:
Trains, planes, and automobiles.
“And a nonstop afternoon flight with car service to the hotel when we’re flying in, but we need a 3 hour layover in Atlanta on our way back, and we’ll just find a cab back to the airport ourselves.”
“Also, we’re flying out on the 7th, but we only need a hotel through the 6th since we’ll be staying with friends for Saturday night..”
Unsurprisingly, we use Trello in almost all of our projects, from kitchen organization to orchestrating our occasional company talent show. In this case, it presented itself as a perfect tool for the rather significant undertaking of getting the whole team into the NYC for the holidays. With employees flying in from locations like London and Hawaii, we created a Trello board to organize everything.
We present to you... Remotes Take Over NYC: Holiday Edition!
Let’s start with travel. For each employee, we create a card like this:
All the information. One card. One click.
Do we have everything we need to get that flight booked? Let’s take a look at the checklist:
Looks like we’re all set!
Our intent was to streamline the entire process, and to remove any guesswork. Why track down assorted email confirmations and requests from 30-odd people when you can just click one card per employee and have everything you need right there? This is why Trello is so powerful. We have a granular view of the entire scope of planning, and then we can “zoom” to every detail on an employee’s card.
As we finalize each person’s travel arrangements and accommodations, they’re moved to the appropriate list. Were they booking their own flight? Did we take care of their hotel and car? Looks like they’re all good!
And we can’t forget about labels.
Labels are wonderful. Looking at the whole board, we know what each person needs at a glance. Again, the big picture, but with all the details.
We also have a small “FAQ” list, a list for the few who can’t make it (accompanied by photos of sad animals), and since the office is at full capacity for remote week, a list to request desktop computers and height-adjustable workstations.
When Remote Week rolls around, we’re thrilled as everyone arrives at the office.
Teams take full advantage of being in the same space. There are meetings, planning sessions, special breakfasts, and design sprints, to name a few. To best facilitate this we schedule all use of our conference room and library.
But wait, there’s more!
We also created a Welcome Packet using Trello!
It includes a transportation guide, extensive lists of restaurants, bars, and sites local to our chosen hotel (in Long Island City!). We also have outlines for the week’s big planned events. Many of our employees are fairly new to NYC, and this was our way of giving them their own pocket tour guide for their stay.
There’s even a link to our HQ NYC board, where New York Trellists trade tips with each other!
So how was our most recent Remote Week? It. Was. Awesome. But don’t take our word for it.
See for yourself. Naturally, we created a hashtag for the week in the form of #TrelloFC2014
We drank hot chocolate, exchanged gifts, Got Things Done, and had a rockin’ holiday party at the American Museum of Natural History, complete with gif photo booth!
Bringing your distributed team together will be a breath of fresh air to your company’s culture. Scale it to fit your own needs, and hear your employees talk about the experience for months after. The ideas developed and memories made will add untold value to your organization.
As for us, what does our summer remote week have in store? We can’t say just yet, but we know Trello will be instrumental in making it happen.
Our White Elephant gift exchange.