The Key to Maintaining a Cohesive Culture From Afar? Keep a Diverse Portfolio of Activities.

January 19, 2021
Barn2Door
Barn2Door
Kevin Bui
Onboarding Manager

Guitar Basics. Finance 101. Urban Chicken Keeping. Basic Coding. 

This isn’t a liberal arts university schedule. Rather, it’s a few examples of lunch and learns hosted at Barn2Door since the team went remote last spring. During the sessions, Onboarding Manager Kevin Bui said employees at the online marketplace for farmers share passions and expertise with each other. 

The “brown bags,” as they’re called, accompany a slew of other initiatives, some new and others longstanding, like virtual game nights and MTV-style remote home tours.

“I’ve learned to lean into ideas and to keep a diverse portfolio of interests and skills,” Bui said, when asked about the key to maintaining a cohesive culture from afar. 

“You never know when they will tether together with a project you are working on or a person you are working with,” he added.
 

What’s the most notable change you’ve seen in your company culture since transitioning to remote work? 

Working remotely, I quickly realized you don’t get those opportunities to have spontaneous side conversations with peers and new hires. Those moments were always available at the office. Working remotely, I had to learn how to find pockets throughout the day to build that rapport and connection. For example, I log onto video meetings early to chat with whomever is on. It’s important to have both task-based and relationship-building conversations. 

At Barn2Door, we’ve adapted our culture to a remote environment with both company-wide and small group activities. Some examples include daily trivia, virtual streaming cooking classes, lunch-and-learn sessions and game nights. 

And we regularly have virtual coffees and Zoom happy hours to continue to get to know each other. All of this helped alleviate the lack of organic human interaction present in an office environment and has kept everyone engaged. The solutions to maintaining human interaction were there, we just had to look at them from a different angle. Though I’m sure many can’t wait for the day we get back into the office again.

 

 

What’s one old culture-building ritual that you’ve kept or adapted and what’s one new ritual you’​​​​​​​ve started since going remote?

We’ve kept our all-company Monday meeting and department meeting, weekly all-hands, one-on-ones with managers and twice daily team check-ins. These meetings help keep everyone aware of the levers that are constantly moving behind the scenes. Our one-on-ones specifically present an opportunity for direct reports and managers to have honest talks, give timely feedback, help improve our systems, set goals and build relationships. They provide the communication structure to keep people informed and in the know. 

In the middle of all of the change, while it could have been easy to complain, we just pivoted and adapted. The culture of our teams has been incredibly respectful of each other, investing in one another’s growth. 

In terms of a new ritual, I’ve taken advantage of the extra 45 minutes I usually spend commuting to work. I’ve been using that time to read up on the industry, as well as our book club novel, which helps calibrate my mind and mentality for the day. 

Giving employees opportunities to share and shine is an easy way to build relationships across the business.’’ 

 

What’​​​​​​​s the most important piece of advice you’​​​​​​​d share with other companies that are looking for new ways to build and maintain culture right now, and why?

Your employees are multifaceted. Since we’ve gone remote, I’ve seen so many people across the business showcase their talents and hobbies. Giving employees opportunities to share and shine is an easy way to appreciate them, incorporate balance and build relationships across the business. We have employees in music bands, experts in rock climbing and fly-fishing, avid skiers and trained chefs. These teammates have shared their knowledge on topics from AI to foreign languages to cryptocurrency. 

While it may seem irrelevant, how many times have we found ourselves correlating one of our other hobbies to a similar situation at work? I’ve learned to lean into ideas and to keep a diverse portfolio of interests and skills. You never know when they will tether with a project you are working on or a person you are working with.

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