The Crema Bunch Lunch
One of the toughest challenges facing remote teams today is staying connected. We have team members who work out of Phoenix, D.C. Indiana, and Kansas City, so we know firsthand how difficult it can be to keep everyone on the same page and feeling included. Many employees also take advantage of Crema’s relaxed work-from-home policy, so a lot of communication is taking place between Zoom calls and Slack channels throughout the day.
What we realized though was that we weren’t fostering personal connections the same way we were fostering professional correspondences. Though remote team members were kept up-to-date on what was happening at Crema, they weren’t able to build the same personal connections. With a ton of new hires coming on at the beginning of the year, remote team members just didn’t feel like they were getting to know the newbies on the level they would like.
One of our developers, Kiley, came up with an idea to solve this problem: Distributed team lunches over Zoom
Every Crema employee received a Google Calendar invite with a Zoom link that allowed them to join the room. The lunch was scheduled for about 40 minutes, and Kiley included an ‘ice breaker’ to help ease the awkwardness that comes with new communication methods. Feedback from employees indicated that this ice breaker idea did a great job encouraging conversation. If you want to steal our’s, we used:
“What’s the funniest thing you did as a kid that your parents/family still talk about to this day?”
Not only did employees love the opportunity to chat about non-work related topics and learn more about their cohorts, but it also helped improve Crema’s culture. It was such a hit, that we decided to give a name to this activity and make it an ongoing event. Due to the screen’s resemblance to the Brady Bunch intro, the ongoing (weekly) events were dubbed “Brady Brunch Lunch”.
Here’s some feedback we got from our distributed team lunch launch (tongue twister!) that will hopefully help you fine-tune your own iteration:
- A lot of people were on mute, which impeded the natural part of conversation. I think this is an education/experimentation learning though: Zoom does a good job at not picking up subtle background noise, food crunching and stuff (unless you are maybe wearing a headset). I think this will get better with experience and become more natural for those who participate.
- I think if we want to talk and have structured chats, it'd be better as a coffee/tea event.
- I think 13 people is the max I'd ever want on one call. It felt a little busy, but everyone made it work.
- Create consistency - anything repeatable can become a habit!
- Create smaller discussion groups so we can cover 2-3 questions and also expand on them.
- Keep in mind that different time zones may make this tricky!
How you Can Replicate This
If you’d like to bring this idea to your team, we’ve included screenshots of our Slack channel to show the proposal process, reminder, and follow-up. We sent out a Google Sheets invite after the launch to gather feedback on what worked and what didn’t. This info was then used to shape the 2nd lunch. We’ve also included a screenshot of the Google Calendar invite we used, so you can reference the setup and language.