Building a Unified Culture for Remote and Hybrid Teams

Author's avatar People & Culture UPDATED Sep 4, 2023 PUBLISHED Aug 30, 2023 10 minutes read

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    In today’s dynamic corporate landscape, the traditional concept of office spaces and localized teams has given way to a new era of remote and hybrid work models. Despite the many advantages of remote and hybrid teams, we can all acknowledge that challenges come hand in hand with this dynamic setup. One of the primary hurdles is maintaining consistent communication and collaboration across geographically dispersed teams. Differing time zones and communication preferences can sometimes lead to misunderstandings and delays in decision-making. Moreover, fostering a strong sense of belonging and inclusivity for remote team members can be challenging, as they may feel disconnected from the in-office culture and interactions. Adding cultural differences or contrasting preferences related to work into the equation can quickly result in misalignment in the company culture. 

    To overcome those challenges, the power of shared values, a compelling vision, and identifying core principles of a people-first and remote-first culture come into play. As companies embrace the flexibility and adaptability offered by these approaches, they start fostering a cohesive and unified culture that transcends geographical boundaries.

    With more than half of our team working remotely, we are aware of the importance of establishing a remote-friendly environment and a unified culture that allows all members to contribute and collaborate at their full potential. This blog shares our efforts to nurture a unified culture that thrives across our remote and hybrid divisions.

    Cultivating Unity Through Shared Values and Vision

    First, a quick backstory. Our 130 Databox Playmakers live and work at 18 global locations. Over 60% of them work remotely; the rest are based at our HQ in Ptuj, Slovenia. We have adopted a hybrid work model since our cultural landscape is defined by diversity and collaboration across two divisions.

    Our Go-to-Market teams (Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, and RevOps) operate remotely and rely heavily on our communication tools and practices to keep the information flowing and move forward in the same direction. Our Product and Engineering teams combine in-office and remote days, which eases fostering a tight-knit community that is driven by face-to-face interactions and collaboration. The physical proximity of our in-office teams has often translated into stronger bonds, making it imperative for us to be mindful of building a cohesive culture where everyone feels connected and equal.

    Central to our efforts in nurturing a unified culture is the power of shared values, a clear mission, and a compelling vision. Our six core values serve as a moral compass, uniting the teams. Moreover, our vision and mission provide clarity and purpose to our work. They illustrate the impact we strive to make, helping team members understand how their efforts contribute to our collective success. 

    Fostering a Culture of Inclusivity and Belonging

    In our quest to foster a unified corporate culture, we recognized that clear, transparent, and inclusive communication forms the bedrock of our success. Having an international team includes different time zones. While that sounds scary at first, the challenges of time differences can be easily overcome by transparent communication, use of project management & communication tools, and committing to regular stand-ups and check-ins. 

    Playing ping-pong with emails won’t cut it. Being part of a remote team means being on the same page and being able to reach out to colleagues quickly and easily, so committing to using a business communication platform is a must. Our weapons of choice are Zoom and Slack. Since Databox is a growing company, we quickly learned that we also need dedicated channels for individual teams and regular Zoom meetings that make daily or weekly check-ins easier and more personal. Our favorite ways of keeping our work communication organized include using a Slack bot (we named her Lucy) for daily standups, respecting each other’s time and work process, and transparently communicating in team channels so no one feels left out. We prioritize virtual meetings, instant messaging, and video conferences to ensure that all team members, regardless of their location or work setting, are well-informed and connected.

    We also document everything: ideas, project plans, updates, obstacles, outcomes, quarterly reviews, and postmortems (evaluating the success of a finished project). Access to all information is crucial for all team members, so writing it all down can benefit team progress. It makes transitions to other roles, onboarding, discussing strategic goals or addressing challenges much easier. By making information is readily accessible to everyone, we foster a sense of ownership and belonging. 

    Leveraging Technology for Cultural Integration

    In pursuing a unified culture, we leverage various virtual collaboration tools that facilitate seamless communication and information sharing. Platforms like video conferencing, instant messaging, and project management software enable real-time interactions, ensuring team members from different locations can engage effortlessly. These tools not only encourage open dialogue but also nurture a sense of camaraderie among team members, regardless of their current location.

    Collaboration tools we’ve been using since day one

    🔹 Confluence is our main documentation tool. We use it to create, comment, and store all kinds of company and team documentation.

    🔹 Slack is our internal communication and collaboration tool, and everyone on our team uses it.

    🔹 Asana is our project management tool that helps us manage projects across teams. Depending on the team, we use Asana for recording individual tasks and projects about implementing new functionalities, maintaining our product at a high level, and resolving bugs or support tickets reported by our customers.

    🔹 BlogIn is an internal company blog where everyone can post and share company updates, news, and knowledge. We use it for posting regular team progress updates, future plans, and introduction posts of new team members.

    🔹 BambooHR is an HR tool we use to manage our time off, hiring processes, and all employee information.

    Additionally, we conduct remote team-building workshops and seminars, encouraging skill development, personal growth, and mutual support among our remote team members. These initiatives strengthen our team bonds and enable us to celebrate the uniqueness of each individual, creating an inclusive and vibrant work environment.

    The Power of Face-to-Face Interaction

    As advocates of a unified corporate culture, we understand the irreplaceable value of face-to-face interaction in fortifying our connections and fostering a sense of unity. While technology enables seamless collaboration, we recognize the significance of periodic in-person team-building activities. For smaller teams scattered across different locations, we dedicate budgets for localized team-building events that offer opportunities for deeper bonding and collaboration. These gatherings provide a unique platform for team members to build lasting relationships and share experiences beyond the virtual realm.

    In addition to smaller team gatherings, our commitment to face-to-face interaction culminates in our annual team retreat. This grand occasion brings together our entire Databox family from around the world. The retreat is a pinnacle moment in our cultural integration efforts as team members reunite, strengthen bonds, and collectively celebrate our shared accomplishments. It is an amazing opportunity to bolster our team spirit and reignite our shared sense of purpose and enthusiasm for driving Databox forward.

    Team workshops at Databox Team Retreat, Tenerife, Spain

    Leadership’s Role in Shaping Unified Culture

    A culture of inclusivity begins at the top. As cultural ambassadors, our managers are vital in bridging the cultural divide between remote and in-office teams. We make sure to regularly build on our leaders’ effective communication skills through workshops and trainings, so they can help facilitate cross-divisional collaborations, addressing challenges and open dialogue, fostering understanding of different perspectives and encouraging knowledge sharing. 

    By bringing diverse viewpoints together, individuals have the opportunity to drive innovation and contribute to our business strategy, ultimately improving our products and bringing them closer to our users. 

    Databox Leadership Team

    Highlighting Collaborative Initiatives Fostering Synergy 

    In pursuing a strong and unified corporate culture, collaborative initiatives such as cross-functional projects, shared objectives, and inclusive activities play a pivotal role in fostering synergy. 

    OKR Groups and Initiatives:

    To align our teams and drive collective progress, we have 7 OKR (Objectives and Key Results) groups that spearhead initiatives supporting the company’s OKRs through cross-functional teams. Our leaders collaborate cross-functionally and pitch ideas on initiatives that support the OKRs. Working with your OKR Group marks a significant step towards formally establishing cross-team collaboration at Databox and is vital to our company’s success.

    Quarterly Plans and All-Hands Meetings:

    Our quarterly planning sessions follow the direction set by the OKR initiatives and lay the groundwork for cross-divisional collaboration. Through cross-functional meetings and brainstorming sessions, we formulate clear roadmaps that outline shared priorities and milestones. Our quarterly all-hands meetings are intended for celebrating achievements, discussing challenges, and reinforcing our unified vision by inspiring every team member to contribute to our collective success.

    Guilds and Ask-Me-Anything Sessions:

    Our guilds serve as informal forums for team members with similar interests and expertise to come together. These communities of practice foster knowledge sharing and professional growth, transcending divisional boundaries. Moreover, our Ask Me Anything sessions provide opportunities for team members to ask questions and gain insights from leaders and experts across different areas, promoting a learning culture and mutual support.

    Book Club, Podcast Club, and Development Programs:

    To encourage cross-functional connections, we host book club and podcast club sessions that bring team members from various divisions together. Engaging in thoughtful discussions on diverse topics, team members actively drive their personal development and build their business acumen. Additionally, our development programs create opportunities for skill-sharing, empowering team members to learn from one another and grow both personally and professionally.

    Virtual Team-Buildings and Annual Team Retreat:

    Our commitment to team-building transcends physical distances. We organize virtual team-building activities that foster camaraderie and strengthen bonds among our remote teams. Additionally, our annual team retreat serves as a pinnacle event, uniting our entire Databox family from around the world. This grand occasion allows team members to interact face-to-face, further solidifying our unified culture and sense of belonging.

    Virtual Holiday Activities and a Space for Acknowledgment:

    During the festive seasons, we spread joy and goodwill with virtual activities such as the Gratitude wall that allows Playmakers to build a virtual bulletin board and share what they are grateful for. This inclusive celebration enhances the festive spirit, despite geographical distances. Additionally, our Quickwins acknowledgment slack channel celebrates individual and team achievements, fostering a culture of appreciation and recognition.

    Fostering “One Team, One Spirit” 

    Our commitment to nurturing a unified culture is an ongoing journey. As we strive toward fostering inclusivity, collaboration, and belonging, we understand that building a cohesive and inclusive culture requires continuous effort. While we are proud of the progress we’ve made, we recognize that there is still much work to be done. Every company faces its unique challenges, and Databox is no exception. We embrace the idea that our company culture is dynamic and ever-evolving. To stay ahead and create a meaningful impact, we actively engage our employees through thoughtful activities and initiatives. 

    We believe that by continually learning, adapting, and improving our processes, we will grow stronger together, embodying the essence of our motto: “One Team, One Spirit.”

    Author's avatar
    Article by
    Špela Jurič

    Content writer at Databox

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