I take the word “friend” very seriously. To me, a friend is someone I can be wholly myself with, ugly parts included. They have to get me, and I have to get them. With a friend, I won’t have to think of what to say next – it’ll come automatically. I count myself lucky for having multiple people in my life who fit this criterion. In school, college and university, I made a bunch of friends who continue to be immovable parts of my life today.
As a child, I never imagined myself working in an office (I would mostly fantasise about being a “pop star”, thanks to Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel – 90s kids will know what I’m talking about). Therefore, I never imagined making friends in office either. Now, as part of Bee, I work in a remote office. Common sense tells us that its harder to make friends in a remote setting, especially if everyone lives in different parts of the country. But if the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that the virtual world can offer a lot more opportunities than we ever thought it could. We can mould it to our needs and desires, if we make conscious efforts. Does that mean I’ve triumphed at making friends in a remote setting? Nope, not at all. Since I joined Bee, I can’t say that I’ve reached out to my colleagues to try to get to know them, and develop work-friend bonds that can make remote work a little less isolating.
This is me confessing that I can do better (and turning my guilt into an article). I can make more of an effort to engage and interact with everyone at Bee. Bee does make the process pretty simple-
We’ve got Campfire HQ, which is a feature on Basecamp where all of us can talk to each other like a group chat, share photos, gifs and other attachments, and also “boost” each other’s’ responses (as in, give them a sign of approval). It’s a straightforward tool that can make you feel like you’re part of a bigger collective, even though you might be working by yourself in a room alone all day. On Campfire, which Karina calls the water-cooler of the remote office, we get the chance to engage as a community, exchange information as well as jokes and anecdotes.
We also have Google meets scheduled once every week for half an hour, where everyone gets together to catch up, discuss problems they might be facing, or just say hi. These meetings are the only time when all of us get on the same call at the same time and verify that we are indeed all human beings, not bots. Remote work can sometimes be stifling – you might feel like you’re in solitary confinement (ok, it’s not that dramatic, but you get it), and these catch-ups can be a refreshing break from text-only communication.
Weekly-check ins are another great way to keep track of what everyone else is up to. On Friday, we answer an automated question about how our week went, and if we need help. On Monday mornings, we answer automated questions about what we want to accomplish this week and share updates on anything interesting we might have done during the weekend. All answers are accessible to everyone on the team, making it possible for each person to have a basic idea about what others are up to, even if they’re not working together directly.
And last but not least, we have Ping, on basecamp, a direct messaging tool that helps us connect with others one on one. So far, I’ve used Ping sparingly, but I’m using this opportunity to let everyone on the team know that I’ll be reaching out to them sooner or later to interview them for this blog (stay tuned!).
All in all, Bee has a variety of tools to help make work friends. A little bit of enthusiasm and intentional action can work wonders and make work-life even more cheerful.
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