Let’s face it! 2020 has been a year of huge change! One of the biggest changes is with how we work. Like many other companies, Eventbrite has transitioned to a fully remote work environment with engineers and managers located across the globe. We have development centers in San Francisco (USA), Nashville (USA), Mendoza (Argentina), and Madrid (Spain) with teams spread across all four locations. The challenge for managers and individual contributors alike is to build/maintain cohesion for remote teams!
This is for sure one of the most common topics in management these days. How do you keep cohesion when your team has transitioned to fully remote? A group of Eventbrite managers decided to try a few strategies and to document the process.
At Eventbrite, our mission is to bring the world together, and in a pre-pandemic world it was through live events, these days it’s more about connecting, somehow, with people.
Building a team is more art than science, nurturing the culture, the bonds, and, most importantly, building trust between the members needs time and dedication. Doing all of this is difficult even when everyone can be at the same place, make jokes, laugh, and work side by side. In this new COVID-19 world, we lost many of these tools. We decided it was time for some new tricks!
Daily standup meetings
Right from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, one of our Engineering Managers (Nacho) suggested that we try to sync every morning. Before COVID-19, we wouldn’t do it regularly. We gave it a try and it worked! Since then we talk everyday, we are very active on Slack, and it’s not always about work. It’s helped us both professionally and emotionally as we shared problems, frustrations, … We make the daily standups a top priority as these virtual meetings are a perfect chance to build rapport with our teammates.
It was super hard to get everyone onboard, but eventually we were all there, always, every morning. It’s great to think that I have my team when I need them, available and willing to help.
Weekly Board Games
Starting in April, we set up a board game meeting for 4pm every Tuesday. We play Settlers of Catan on colonist.io while chatting over video conference. It has become a weekly ritual for one of our teams in Argentina, with between 3 and 5 people playing. It lets us spend some time together, have fun and socialize.
- Versión en línea de juego Basta!, Tutti frutti, Lápiz quieto, ¡Mercadito!, Dulce de Membrillo el que todos conocemos. 8 players
There’s always time for a coffee break to talk about anything, work or non-work related stuff. We created a Slack shortcut (!cafebreak) to easily share the meeting details for anyone to quickly jump in. These short spontaneous recesses provide distraction and allow us to relax from the daily hustle.
Keeping the Culture alive
The Eventbrite’s company culture makes it a unique place to work! The challenge is to continue to foster this culture while functioning as a fully remote team. It might be easy for a team that is accustomed to spending 9 hours a day, 5 days a week together to forget what makes them unique when everyone is scattered, without interaction besides Slack or Hangout calls. Knowing what makes your team unique is a key thing to understand.
On our team, it is our love for problem solving. Thus every Friday afternoon, we stopped our work earlier to take some time and play around Hackerrank for a couple of hours, solving different exercises and sharing our solutions. It was an incredible way of having fun and learning from each other by checking how each one of us approached the solutions. It helped us remember who we were as a team.
Engineering Development Academy
Every day at 9:00 am, we start with breakfast/chat about things that do and do not work. Movies, news, etc. The first talks we looked for topics to share because the whole team was new, and thus forced everyone to speak. We also do afternoon checkpoints for 30 minutes at 2:00 PM for both technical or non-technical questions, to help make the training as positive as possible.
Emilio (Principal Engineer) organizes Lightning Talks on a weekly basis. These are open talks about anything that is important to an engineer and she/he is interested in sharing with others. What we have learned during COVID-19?
There are often times where discussions are better in 1:1 or group meetings rather than discussing in Slack or collaborating via a Google doc or email. We encourage our team members to create a Google hangout or Zoom session at any time if it helps resolve issues quicker.
Quick text messages (via Slack) are great for clarifying simple matters. Often a more detailed discussion is required and this is when a Google Hangout is preferred. It’s important to recognize the distinction as too many calls can burn engineers out. But you can also waste lots of time exchanging messages when a five-minute call could provide answers to multiple questions.
Virtual Meeting tips
It can be challenging to connect with teammates during virtual/online meetings. Simple things such as keeping your camera on and using verbal and non-verbal cues (such as head nods or thumbs-up) are great ways to make a connection during virtual meetings. Also, go out of your way to recognize teammates who have gone above and beyond during online meetings. While working remote it is often easy to bypass/miss the great work that others are doing.
Many of the virtual meetings will start at 5 minutes past the starting time. Use this time to show personal interest for the other participants. Ask them about their weekend? Break the ice while you’re waiting for all participants to join. It’s a great way to learn more about some of your co-workers who you may not necessarily know very well.
This article’s co-authors are Henry Lyne, Gabriel Flores, Ed Presz, Emiliano André and Juan Pablo Marsano. Reviewed by Rainu Ittycheriah.