Celebrating culture together, alone

Karen Rayner
Karen Rayner | April 21, 2020
Engagement
Celebrating culture together, alone

Like many workplaces, Joyous has had a few team milestones since we’ve been in lockdown. Team lunches, birthdays, customer wins, award nominations, anniversaries… and it’s obviously not as easy to come together and celebrate those as it once was. We’ve lunched together over Zoom, we live-Slacked the awards announcements, we play party games on Friday afternoon, but it’s not quite the same. We’ve had to put just a little bit more effort into making things work.

Re-imagining milestone celebrations

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For the first couple of two-year anniversaries this year we were in the office. There were (amazing) animal balloons. Virtual balloons just don’t have the same appeal. :(

Luckily, we’ve got this thing about art: we may not be particularly good at it, or even OK at it, but any excuse to break out the crayons and we’re all in. We started by drawing pictures of each other last Christmas, and now it’s just one of those things we do.

Because milestones are important - and we want to lighten up the lockdown a bit - we’ve amped it up: we’ve gone from drawings for Mark’s first anniversary, to miscellaneous crafts for Kai’s, to photo recreations for Kevin’s second anniversary. We’re escalating. We may be running out of crafternoon tea activities. We could end up with Joyous topiaries at this rate.

Why celebrating culture matters

We’ve all read plenty of articles about the importance of staying connected and engaged while working remotely in ‘these uncertain times’. It is important, but we all know that already.

Here’s why celebrating milestones in a culture-consistent way matters to us.

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Joyous culture was a big focus of the first part of 2020. As the company continues to scale, we want to make sure we don’t lose any of what makes us, us, and one of the things we want to hold onto is a sense of playfulness we’ve built over the last two years.

We take our work seriously, but we try to keep a sense of child-like delight - joy! - in how we approach everything else. We play games, we take terrible photos, we hide soy-sauce fish on each others’ desks (which we also decorate when people dare to go on holiday). While it was still open, our office was filled with balloons we blew up for Anna’s baby shower and couldn’t bring ourselves to get rid of.

So we want to hang on to that playfulness. It requires just a little bit more effort while we’re separated. We don’t have impromptu donuts or seagull-watching, but we do have Slack shout-outs, Zoom shenanigans, cats and crackers and the world’s creepiest dog to bond over.

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Tips for celebrating culture at minimum safe distance

You don’t have to over-think it or make a massive song and dance. Even the little things matter when you’re building culture remotely. The celebrations that tend to work are:

Inclusive. If you organise Zoom-karaoke, it should be because your team loves karaoke... Art works for us because we're all very OK with being very OK at it.

Fun. Celebrations are something you do to have a good time with your team. If it feels like work, you might as well just do more work. We use these times to have a laugh with each other - it's good for the soul.

Voluntary. Nobody feels good about forced participation, especially when they may already be feeling a bit fragile.

We've found the celebrations that work for us in isolation - have you found yours?