Staying Connected in a Remote World

This article is written by Athennian team member, Elvin Limpin, who represents the Engineering team on the Athennian Social Committee. The mission of the Social Committee is rather straightforward: to make everyone at Athennian feel connected, engaged, and welcome.

The Social Committee already held one heck of a duty before Athennian transitioned to remote work: we organized events and prizes for birthdays, holidays, milestones, and charitable work in our communities. However, ever since our company’s transition to remote work, we had to kick it into another gear to keep our new remote workplace social.

Drawing whiteboard art together is fun but tough to replicate in a remote workplace. Or is it?

Our office experience used to have social affordances like a foosball table, food trucks to try together, mildly awkward elevator trips, and lunchtime line-ups for the shared microwave. Now, our challenge is to foster experiences that are not only remote, but also still as inclusive, engaging, and memorable as ever before.

In this article, partly as a celebration of what the Social Committee and the Athennian team have done post-transition remote, I’d like to share my top 6 favourite remote activities that we organize. I think we’ve done a good job!

#6: Crib Tours

Every week we have company-wide presentations we call the Weekly Hoot. It’s a 45-minute meeting consisting of shout-outs, weekly metrics, goal sharing, announcements, and an exciting finale: Crib Tours.

How It Works

We spin a wheel with everyone’s names on it, where the lucky winner is invited to share their home office (and often share more, if the crib host so wishes) on video and voiceover for next week’s Hoot. We were just curious to see how everyone’s workplace setups worked, but it has evolved to become much more.

Why I Love It

Crib tours have led to memorable experiences shared across the whole team. Allow me to share some of my favorites! It turns out, we have someone who owns 3 fridges devoted solely to kimchi. Another member is working from a DIY renovated school bus. And yet another shared not only her crib but also a follow-along recipe in the style of a cooking vlog.

#5: Live Music

This comical screengrab was actually from a Virtual Karaoke night.

Circling back to our Weekly Hoots, the team usually trickles into those meetings within the first 3 minutes of the invite as we wait for elevator music. Not going to lie — it can get boring. That was until we figured out that we could use that time for playing live music performances instead!

How It Works

It’s pretty casual. Any performer can ask the Hoot Host beforehand to do live music. Oftentimes, it’s the Host themselves who organizes and performs. Remarkably, most instrumental performances work decently well on zoom calls.

So far it’s only been music, but I don’t imagine it has to be. I’m still holding my breath for a pre-Hoot magic show performance. If you do magic, please check out our careers page.

Why I Love It

I love both discovering the talented musicians on the team, and also love performing myself! I’ve done a few bass guitar covers for Hoots, including this.

#4: Outdoor Bingo

One consequence of working from home is not getting our good old daily dose of Vitamin D. Through our Outdoor Bingo challenges, Athennians got the chance (and the excuse) to go outside for some environmentally friendly activities.

How it Works

We design and share an Outdoor Bingo card and then create a slack channel where participants can post their activities and show off their completed bingo cards. Completed cards can be exchanged for prizes!

Why I Love It

Not only does the Bingo encourage healthy and environmentally friendly habits, but it also gave us a chance to take a peek at the beautiful places Athennians visited as part of the challenge. Here are some of my favourites:

#3: Discord Coffee & Chat

Slack channels and zoom calls don’t really do a good job of replicating the casual coffee and chat interaction engines that office hallways, kitchens, and water coolers are. Well, good thing Discord somewhat does!

How it Works

We started an Athennian Discord Channel with the intent of having open chat rooms where the team can lurk in between meetings while doing solo work (or collaboration!). This has been especially popular among engineering teams.

Additionally, every month or so, we block off a dedicated lunch hour to invite the team for a dedicated drop-in-and-out type of chat.

Combined, this has moved us closer to the friendly office experience we’ve all missed since our transition remote.

Why I Love It

I’ve used Discord in the past as part of school classes and school clubs alike. Knowing its ability to bridge people together, I love that I can also connect with co-workers through Discord.

Plus, as will be shown in the following section, Discord is also great for games.

#2: Games

Games need no introduction. Instead, here are some of our favorite games at Athennian (all perfect for small remote groups):

3 Minute Animal: decide on a random animal and draw it on JSPaint within 3 minutes

Gartic Phone: another collaborative drawing game where whiteboard art can live on in the remote world (We promise we only use violence on squishing bugs)

Codenames: A fun game both in-person and online

How it Works

Frankly, we play games whenever we have an excuse to do so!

We have a weekly session as an open invite, a weekly session within our small team, and also occasional sessions as part of events like onboarding. We often just select what game to play on the spot.

During the game, we join a Discord voice channel (sometimes a Google Meet) so that we can all share laughs (unmuting encouraged!).

Why I Love It

Online games, with some planning, can truly be one of the keys to the Social Committee’s goals of providing a connected, engaging, and welcoming work environment.

Many games we choose to play are intentionally inclusive for noobies in terms of the learning curve, and many do not have a one-person-wins system so that we can keep the atmosphere light and comfortable (though often still competitive!).

#1: Breakout Room RPG

Dungeons & Dragons is probably one of the first games that come to mind when talking about a Role Playing Game. However, unlike D&D, there are RPGs that can in fact be super simple and short while still fun for large groups. I’ll share a Breakout Room RPG I hosted in the how it works section called the Island Game.*

*To be honest, I don’t actually know what this game is called, but the simple name seems fitting.

How it Works

All of Athennian is invited to play right after a special abbreviated Weekly Hoot (those who have to leave early get the opportunity to do so). The steps of the game go like so:

  1. Present the prompt slide.
  2. Split the main meeting room into breakout rooms. Have them talk.
  3. Return to the main room and present the twist slide.
  4. Review the rules and return the group to breakout rooms.
  5. A nominated speaker from each breakout room discusses the strategy decided upon by the group (encourage the speaker to do the presentation in character!)
  6. Have some laughs, and vote on which group survives the longest.

Why I Love It

Some of the most engaging and most personal games are the ones where each player is free to choose their own path, expressing themselves fully. I love Breakout Room RPGs because this makes them very easy and convenient to do!

Case in point regarding what’s come from Island Game: One of the breakout groups asked what type of shark it was that was attacking. I replied hammerhead. They proceeded to devise a strategy involving using the nails from their items to distract the attacking sharks! Another group used the booze they brought to try to pacify the sharks. Yet another group just happened to bring a yacht as one of their items and thus easily escaped.

Bonus Ideas

These aren’t the only possible activities teams can do remotely, and certainly not the only ones we do at Athennian. We’ve also done virtual parties, icebreaking rituals for onboarding, submit-your-own-recipe recipe books, in-person team building, and yet more!

Feeling inspired? Well, feel free to take these activities and apply them to your own online teams. And if you’d like to be part of our super social well-connected remote team, you can check out our careers page!

Know that the remote workplace can be social too!

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