Building proximity in a time of remote work

How we did it and what you can learn from it

Darewise at the start of 2020 was a rapidly growing start-up, with new team members joining its incubator in Paris regularly and a calendar full of social events to bring the team closer together.

Building the new normal

In fact, we realized a few weeks in that the one silver lining in this situation was our growing understanding that this remote thing didn’t have to be a temporary solution, but could become an advantage. At a time when senior employees might be put off joining a start-up, or make the big leap and come to a non-English speaking country, offering to hire remotely became a perk (see this announcement for more details, and perhaps hit up our jobs page?). The plan moving forward is to meet for in-person events only once a month, with team-building activities taking place, and let people pick their own degree of onsite involvement.

Bread and games

The obvious answer was, it seemed, to just go for the tech company special and just organize a social hour. After all, you don’t need to clink glasses to toast to each other’s good health. The first apéro meeting was a resounding success, so we followed it up with a company-wide dinner party, walking in the footsteps of a Darewise tradition of eating “nasty food” together (anything covered in cheese would usually work). As you can see below, some even made pizza look fancy!

From broadcast to bespoke

Our first endeavors included attempts at making sure everyone felt included, and so we logically went the way of the company-wide event. With synchronous communication, the quickest problem to run into is scale: even with a team of relatively moderate size, our first apéro had about twenty people attending.

And now for something completely different

To be fair, you’d usually not expect everyone on the team to turn up for social hour, from the founders to the newest hire. We saw a lot more success with smaller initiatives: a game night where your colleagues would gather to play some perennial successes (the various iterations of the Jackbox Party Packs have always been a staple and only require access to a phone/tablet/computer for participants, and any streaming solution for the game host — Zoom, Discord, any number of free solutions work out) and some new stuff (Skribbl, an online Pictionary, is available in multiple languages).

Fun times during the 9-to-6

Of course, not all of these initiatives take place outside of work hours, and we still have larger company functions during the work day. However, we’ve constantly made sure to reduce any extraneous meetings, and the only company-wide meeting now happens at the start of the week, a good opportunity to welcome newcomers and see everybody’s bed hair. But it’s the only one, and it’s intentionally kept short.

Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more

More than trying to organize all of this ourselves, we sought to foster an environment where these events and get-togethers could thrive. We continue to look at what gets traction and is appreciated by our team, to see how we can signal boost these events and encourage new ones to pop up.

Do it yourself

At Darewise, remote is swiftly becoming, if not the new normal, at least a new normal. It’s a work-in-progress to get it functioning on the same level we’re used to from a human perspective, but we feel like we’re getting there. If your company or start-up is looking to make the switch or increase the share of remote work, we advise you to try the following:

  1. Diversify your team-building activities to suit as many people as possible
  2. Share your events and remind people they can take part
  3. Communicate on the good times!

We are developing Life Beyond, an interactive and socially-connected experience that goes beyond entertainment.