building a passionate, pioneering and purpose driven team in a remote first world
By Nix Shaw
Two events got me thinking this week. As I type this, we have just hit the three-year anniversary of the first Covid lock down in the UK. A huge event in our lifetime. An event that ripped us away from those we love the most and potentially changed the way we work forever. An event to be remembered.
The second event was on a much smaller scale, but in our Happy world, it was an event to be celebrated.
Team Happy gathered in Inverness and Kuala Lumpur for our quarterly development days. For some, it was the first time in the same physical space as our colleagues. Even though the days were taking place on two different continents, with a constant flow of WhatsApp messages and videos across the miles, Team Happy managed to create a connection between the UK and Malaysia.
Why are these two events connected in my mind? Because without the first, the second may never have happened.
The pandemic had a huge impact on how and where we work. Without it, I might still be enduring a daily commute to a shared city office space, working with colleagues that live in a 20-30 mile radius.
Instead, I sit in my home office in the Highlands of Scotland, looking out at the changing skies over the tall Scots pines, listening to our friendly local pheasant (I’ve called him Phil), as he chucks away companionably, reminding me his seed feed is long overdue.
I’ve already enjoyed a remote training session this morning with my Happy teammates in the UK and Malaysia via the magic of Zoom (we appear to have finally mastered the mute button). Using Google meet, I’ve checked in with our newest Team Happy member located in the Midlands and the global team have celebrated some great news together on WhatsApp.
Celebratory GIF anyone?! Team Happy live and die by them.
I’ve worked in international teams before. Back in the days of temperamental fax machines and long distance calls on crackling phone lines. We successfully created a strong team ethos. But we were still calling in from a work office base, albeit in locations all around the world. Since the pandemic, our faces are zooming in regularly from anywhere at all with a strong enough internet connection.
So, whilst the aftermath of the pandemic left an unquestionable cost in terms of loss of life, global finances, mental health impacts and so much more, it’s well documented that it also left us with a working world that’s acknowledging choice, flexibility and a lean towards what you deliver, not where you do it from.
Despite many of us pivoting globally in 2020 to a home working model in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, opinions still seem to be varied three years on as to whether remote working is here to stay. A recent Forbes article www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2023/01/10/whats-the-future-of-remote-work-in-2023/?sh=1c0e6fa05864 suggests that despite remote working not being for everyone, we’re in it for the long haul.
"Remote working isn’t going anywhere. Companies should either already be adapting their working environments or preparing to adapt, as remote working demands will only increase from here on out”.
Which takes us nicely back to Team Happy. We’re remote first. Team Happy UK work from home in Brighton, Bolton, Glasgow, Inverness, London and Manchester. Team Happy Malaysia switch it up between a shared working space and their home offices in Kuala Lumpur.
We’re growing as a company and a team. Fast. We’re still in our ‘forming’ stage. We’re growing in a post pandemic, remote first world, across two continents. And we’re learning.
We’re learning how to create points of connectivity and opportunities to collaborate, how to communicate effectively with one another, how to knowledge share across the miles, how to harness technology to work together across two different time zones and how to acknowledge and embrace our two cultures. When Team Happy UK sign on for the day and Team Happy Malaysia sign off, we call it our ‘shift change’, a phrase coined by one of our Happy team. It seems appropriate somehow, making us feel like we belong together and we’re simply handing the responsibility baton over for the day ahead.
"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success" Henry Ford
The September 2022 Work Trend Index special report from Microsoft www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/hybrid-work-is-just-work confirms the importance of creating social connection at work. Microsoft surveyed 20,000 people in 11 countries alongside analysing LinkedIN labour trends and Glint People Science findings. 43% of employee’s surveyed felt “disconnected from their company as a whole” because of the shift towards hybrid work. The recommended action to counter this was to...
“Use in-person time to help employees rebuild team bonds and networks”.
One of the ways we create opportunities for Team Happy to connect in person is through our quarterly development days. This month we were one team, meeting in two groups, on two continents. Our plan is that one day soon, all of Team Happy UK and Team Happy Malaysia will meet for a development day or two in the same physical space together. Now that will be a celebration!
“The most important things in life are the connections you make with others” Tom Ford
So, what did we get up to during our two days together in March?
Our themes were collaboration and connection - hot topics for many business leaders in a post pandemic world. Stephanie Spangler shared in her McKinsey & Company article www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/in-the-balance/collaboration-challenge-for-2022-be-intentional-transparent-and-creative that...
“… collaborating, especially across physical distances, gives knowledge workers the chance to create better outcomes, optimize impact, and quite simply, enjoy how fun working with and learning from other brilliant minds can be”.
She goes on to share that “… a successful collaboration is built on transparency and communication”.
And so it was for us. Over two days together, we used our own innovative and pioneering tools to intentionally and creatively look at our big picture, the part we play as individuals and how we communicate with one another.
We refuelled ready for the busy months ahead. In the UK we explored our creativity with the very mindful activity of candle making and found our zen with yin yoga and a sound bath. In Malaysia, the team explored their problem-solving skills when things didn’t quite go to plan with the transportation for their day two activities (if you want to see passionate, pioneering and purpose driven people in action, chuck an unexpected challenge our way)! We ate together, we laughed together and we simply enjoyed being together.
"I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship” Brene Brown
Then we returned home. To our individual locations and home offices. With shared experiences, tall tales and new team jokes that connect us.
And there we’ll work, zooming into one another’s locations and lives, until the next quarterly development event. When we’ll be together again in person, creating more meaningful experiences and shared happiness to keep us connected.
We’re counting down the days already!
With much happiness
ps. If you'd like to know more about how to create happiness by building a thriving team in a hybrid/remote first world, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you!