The struggle of team-building

Hi there everyone!

I want to talk about a struggle that we’re dealing with at Codacy, and that I assume many others are also facing right now.

We’ve been isolated for one year now, without our amazing off-site days where all the company would go out, make cool stuff, drink a lot, and have fun. We always kept on working together and talking to each other, but now we’re more limited to our circle of contacts, unlike at the office where we would casually meet each other in the corridors or the kitchen and a normal interaction would follow.

All of that is absent, and it’s a problem. People are isolated, the team spirit begins to fade as we’re focusing only on our work, and our day-to-day becomes increasingly boring.

As a company that was already incentivizing remote work we had lots of time to find the best solution for this problem and we have worked on it, trying to always make it better.

First, we recognized that not everyone likes team-building activities, maybe they find them boring, or they simply want to spend that time with their families, or maybe they simply want to use that time for something else. Whatever the reason, and all of them are more than reasonable, we knew that we couldn’t have everyone on board.

The first we tried was to make sure we had a remote office and a weekly happy hour. A remote office is a virtual representation of an actual office and the purpose is to have everyone login at the start of the day and just be there. People can be in the same room as someone else and just talk with them, as it would happen if we were still in the office or they can just go to another room and talk to other people. We tried several platforms and ended up just creating a discord server, which has worked pretty well for us. Each team has its own room and there is some interaction between teams when someone just goes to another room to say “Good Morning” or “See ya tomorrow”. It’s not perfect, but it helps to maintain a feeling that not everything is different and horrible.

The happy hour is just a zoom link where people join at the end of the day on Friday to have some fun and relax from the week that is ending. We tend to just talk to each other or play some party games. It’s all good fun and it also helps a lot to remember that other people are working with us.

We also tried to set up some team-building exercises using homewerk but we ended up encountering some bugs on the application and the activities themselves were very hit or miss, with some being liked by everyone while others no one really liked. We dropped it after about 3 months to try something else, but do keep in mind that back then the platform was still in beta, so some bugs are to be expected. We are in talks about trying it again in the future.

This brings me to our latest experiment. The good folks at Cracking The Cryptic have two treasure hunts completely free for everyone to use and we gave one of them a try. We split the all company into 5 random teams and the game was on. It took about 7 weeks for the first team to finish and soon the others follow. It was great fun and we received really cool feedback from the experience, which forced people to think outside of the box and work together to solve all the riddles. The feedback was so positive that we are about to start a new one this week.

This was it. I just wanted to share what we have tried out up until now maybe help someone out there that is facing the same problems and was searching for some cool ideas.