What makes community meaningful? How can you create a meaningful culture and community in a time where we are all separated while working remote?
I want today to talk about community, and how important it is to be a proactive agent in fostering a meaningful (and fun!) remote work culture. Just a smidge about me: before I was a software engineer at Eventbrite, I was on the ground figuring out how to create and grow community in various capacities – as a resident advisor in college, an event planner at Stanford, a coding teacher in various classrooms, and as a participant in various worldwide dance and performing communities. Community is my thing.
I have seen a lot of articles floating around with recommendations on how to create a remote work culture. I want to point out that I’m very specifically using the phrase “remote community” as opposed to “remote culture” because to me, community is something present and tangible and interconnected, whereas culture can be this very nebulous thing. Culture arises out of community – community is the foundation.
I am also writing this article from the perspective of a mostly remote work community, but these ideas can be taken and used in any type of community. This article is not engineering specific but can easily used to benefit any engineering community.
What makes community meaningful?
Community, to me, is about caring for people. A lot of times, community starts by happenstance – you and others happen to share an interest or work at the same job. But, in my opinion, ‘happenstance’ community graduates to being a real community when people work together to create a place that everyone cares about. That to me is where the meaning is derived – from people caring enough to want to make their community a place where people feel supported and feel joy.
How you can create meaningful community
I find that creating meaningful community is as simple as stepping up. Being proactive goes a long, long way – either on an individual level, like reaching out to someone you know who is having a hard time. Or being proactive with a broader group in mind, like creating activities that bring people together, etc.
I want to touch mostly on the latter – how to engage a broader group, with either active engagement or passive engagement. One more thing to consider – how to make things fun! For me, it’s pretty easy – I think about what I enjoy and what I want to see in a community, and then I make it happen. You can too!
Active engagement involves events or activities that require people to be present and available at the time that it is happening. Here are some ideas:
- Remote happy hour. Schedule one once a week with your department or with cross sections of the company you normally don’t interact with. Use this as an opportunity to talk to new people that you would normally don’t cross paths with.Pro tip – if you think more than 10 people are going to show up, figure out some way to create ‘rooms’ – either separate Hangouts that people can jump in and out of, or utilize Zoom’s room feature.
- Remote team lunch. Suggestion – why not every day or twice a week?
- 2pm 2 minute planks. Get stronger every day! We do this via video chat as well to cheer each other on.
Passive engagement involves activities that people can circle back around to when they have time. Ideas include:
- Daily Photo Share. Post a theme for the photo of that day (Baby photo of you! Throwback photo of your parents! Photo of you doing an activity you love!) and see what you end up learning. I have added a list of ideas that I compiled with my co-workers at the bottom of this article.
- Dear Diary chaining. Remember when email chaining was a thing? Well, my coworker came up with this idea – write a ‘Dear Diary’ entry about your day, post with a picture, and then tag a new coworker for the next day! It’s been interesting to get a more in-depth look into people’s mentality and how they are trying to stay optimistic.
Out of all the ideas above, so far the Daily Photo Share has seemed to have the most impact and been the most uplifting – I tend to post it around 12pm, and then spend the next hour scrolling and commenting on everyone’s amazing pictures of themselves, their families, and the things they love. It’s an amazing way to see everyone share what they care about.
What’s your time commitment?
It’s up to you to decide your community time commitment. It doesn’t have to be everything that’s listed above. I recommend the thought model of 2 minutes, 2 hours, or 2 months – what can you contribute? Can you contribute 2 minutes of your time, or 2 hours, or maybe even 2 months? The 2pm 2 minute plank is a great example of a short amount of time, or even commenting on someone else’s photo of the daily photo share. 2 hours could be something like deciding to throw and promote a remote happy hour.
I think that now, more than ever, it is really important to take time out of our lives to reach out, to connect, to engage – to build community, and to receive from our communities.
I want to hear from you. What ideas do you have for active or passive engagement in your community? What makes community meaningful to you, and how can we surface that more in remote communities?
(Some) Daily Photo Share Theme Ideas:
- Throwback photo of your parent(s)
- Hobby/activity you love doing
- Last meal you took a photo of
- Your family (immediate or otherwise)
- Your workspace at home
- Silly photo of you
- An item you cherish
- Vacation you recently took
- Photo you are proud of (either proud that you took, or of something you are proud of)
- Photo with a story (and tell the story!)
- Something that most people don’t know about you
- Favorite costume photo of you (Halloween or otherwise)
- Photo of you where you like your vibe
- Share a photo of a coworker that you appreciate, and why you appreciate them
- Photo of a new hobby or life hack have you acquired in the last few weeks
- Something/someone you miss (and give back story!)
- This could have been an ad for…
- Everybody should try this once
- “I didn’t want to be in this photo“