Why we finish our week playing together

Florentina Petcu Oct 13, 2021 · 4 min read

Working remotely already before 2020 proved to be a blessing for Chargetrip in the current pandemic situation as we experienced little to no disturbance in our activity from a technical point of view. On the other hand, working remotely set people apart and made them struggle with the concept of team spirit.

A few months ago, I - Flori (Product Owner at Chargetrip), realized we were working together but apart. And it was normal when we have, in some cases, up to 8000km between us.We all did our tasks but somehow failed to act as we understood that “it’s the collective responsibility of the entire team to collaborate on and deliver the tasks on the board.” Or it was never very clear for all of us.To get there we needed to create ownership and responsibility for the process, as a team.

Creating a team from individuals set between 2m to 8000km apart was even harder, so we needed to work on making the common goal more visible and relatable.

Bringing people together is pretty difficult to do online, but not impossible. Members of the team had different histories together: some knew each other for years, others just landed in the team during a pandemic and never met their colleagues in person even after 3–4 months. This created a discrepancy in relating to other people’s needs.

In Kanban, the development process has to be a team effort that should be unblocked by anyone available. Thinking of the team’s goals is a must in this methodology but it can’t be achieved if members of the team don’t understand and work by this principle.

Since we're all in this “boat”, I assumed we all wanted to leave this world a better place and, in my opinion, empathy is one of the keys to this dream (together with education and innovation but these are subjects for many more articles).It is easier for people to be empathic and think about someone else’s needs when they know personal details about them. It does not have to be intimate knowledge, it has to come from a place of comfort and trust.

While looking into it I also found that it was “even more imperative to proactively engage the team as an antidote to the inherent loneliness of remote work — which unaddressed, can cause a drop in motivation and overall productivity.

So, I created a list of tools that would make it easier for all of us to open up, share our experiences, and to build the connections we might lack in order to function as a team with one goal. While some of the tools were already used in our daily work, others were new and exciting.

The aim was to build trust between team members and make sure everybody is heading in the same direction following a shared set of values. After all, the courage of speaking up your mind without fearing the consequence should be part of every high-performing team's base. That is the place of comfort where trust and constructive criticism are born and build.

Atlassian found the safer we feel taking risks and being vulnerable in the presence of our teammates, the more we will admit mistakes right away, ask the “stupid” (but necessary) questions, challenge assumptions, share information, and propose ideas that are so crazy they just might work — all of which are key ingredients for creating a high-performing team.

One of the changes we made was to add a twist to our weekly demo sessions.That is the moment we all come together with curiosity, looking forward to seeing what others have been up to, but also to show what we struggled with during the week. Having that mindset makes it the perfect moment to share more about ourselves.

So, for the past year, we've been using the last 15 -20 minutes in the Friday demo sessions to play a different game each week. CharadesTaboo, meme contests, quizzes, GeoGuessrSkibbl or GarticPhone are now part of our time together, create connections and rivalry and guarantee we finish the work week with a smile (unless you lose the game, of course, but that’s also fine).

The bottom line is to socialize and get to know each other outside of work, in a fun, relaxed, entertaining environment that might even include a cold beverage from time to time ;)

The saying goes “you can learn more about a person in one hour of play than in a year of conversation”. Do you agree? How does your team cope with the challenges of remote work?