Addie Levinsky
Edited on 12/5/22
Created on December 5, 2022 at 5:57 pm
Edited on December 5, 2022 at 5:59 pm
How to build culture and foster team relationships in a digital-first world

The notion of culture in a digital-first workplace can feel elusive. When we think about company culture, our minds jump to tangible, interpersonal variables: the vibe and atmosphere of an environment, gathering around the water cooler (or in most cases, the espresso machine), sharing lunches and happy hours, petting office dogs...

These can all be parts of a positive culture and experience, but what happens when your team is digital-first? Can you still build culture and foster team relationships through little video squares, when separated by state lines, or even an ocean?
The answer is an unequivocal, resounding
In fact, we'd wager in some cases you can build an even stronger culture because everyone's individual needs are being met by having the flexibility to work from wherever they feel their most productive.
We may have overcorrected in the beginning with excessive zoom happy hours, but the pandemic taught us a lot about not only how important it is to build and maintain culture. And how it's very possible to build something better than any in-person office experience.
Communication is
Any positive relationship starts with communication. Establishing company culture is no different.
  • Use chat for social chatter, DMs, ice breakers...
  • Workplace discussions should be async
  • Not only is async communication more focused and intentional, but it makes the workspace more inclusive by honoring timezones and not favoring the loudest person in the room.
  • Have company/team wide meetings sparingly following a few parameters:
  • Respect timezones
  • Have an agenda
  • Keep meetings on schedule
  • Have company-wide "meeting free" days
  • Make it fun!
    Mix up your 1:1s
    Building individual relationships with your colleagues, teammates, managers, reports, etc is incredibly important and rewarding.
    This is a time when we do think video or audio calls are best, but we also believe in making it fun! Your 1:1s shouldn't feel like a chore (frankly, we don't think meetings should feel like a chore, either!) and we have some tips for building a positive culture around 1:1s.
  • Go for a walk
  • At Threads, we love walking 1:1s. Mimic this by scheduling a time that both parties can get some vitamin D and have a phone call. Ideas and conversation can often flow more freely when in motion, so take advantage of that no matter where you are.
  • Have lunch together
  • The "eating on Zoom is awkward" excuse is over. Sharing a meal together, even virtually, can offer a much needed break to the busy work day. By eating with a coworker or group you naturally carve out a break in your work day since we're guilty of eating in front of our desks, crumbs covering the keyboard.
  • Be spontaneous
  • Scheduling recurring 1:1s is a great way to ensure you'll connect with your team, but it doesn't mean that's the only time you can chat.
  • If you/your teammates want to have a quick chat, the same way you might ask to grab a coffee, hop on a video or phone call! It can make the relationship building feel less rigid and scheduled. Just be mindful of your coworkers' focus times.
  • Build an intentional tool stack
    We've talked about tool fatigue, and we are not immune to it either. We tried every tool under the sun during the pandemic to help build connection and culture.
    After a few years, and growing our team across timezones, we've developed this stack for staying connected:
  • Threads
  • Zoom
  • We have our water cooler banter with Threads lightweight chat (and voice chat), we hang out face-to-face on Zoom (and throw down in Trivia). That's it. Say goodbye to tool fatigue.
    Dedicate time for team building
    We mentioned the overdone Zoom happy hours earlier, but there is a time and place for dedicated team building.
  • Off-sites
  • Even if your company is distributed, coming together in person a few times a year can make an enormous impact. Just a few days spent together as a team can propel months of positive culture.
  • Games over Zoom
  • Happy hours may be overplayed, but you know what never loses its fun? Games. We love a good, competitive game of Trivia at Threads, but there are tons of games you can play virtually.
  • Ice breakers
  • Have you ever asked your coworkers what kind of meat they would use as bed sheets? If you haven't, we highly recommend starting team meetings with this. Or perhaps a less obscure icebreaker if that's more your style. Either way, we love icebreakers and we've learned so much about each other and fostered some hilarious memories through 3-5 minutes of chatter
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