As a remote-first company, Niteo invests in doing bi-annual IRLs (In Real Life) meetups to get everyone in the same time and space. Spending time with Niteans face-to-face is invaluable. The bonds we create during IRLs are strong — but our meaningful connections do not come from the onsites alone. We consciously work to develop these relationships throughout the year.
But, with the onslaught of the pandemic, all travels are grounded. We’ve started preparations for our summer IRL which would have happened in Sri Lanka this month. While the trip was cancelled, we had our first remote “IRL” – there’s a quotation in there since the two words create a paradox.
So, how to run a successful virtual “IRL”? Get yourselves some awesome people.
A virtual party is only as good as the attendants so if everyone does not engage, all you’ll see are dead eyes staring back at you on your screen with some crickets in the background.
We followed our usual IRL template – there’s work, there’s fun; there are beers and some good stories. We are all over the world so the crucial part of the preparation was finding the viable time – where it’s not too late for those in Asia, and not too early for those in the Western hemisphere, specifically the United States. And we did manage to find the block of time that works for everyone, so off to a good start!
We played online games – and there are a plethora that teams can enjoy together out there. Everyone showed what they were having for lunch/dinner (remember, we’re on different timezones) and showcase their favorite drinks (alcoholic or otherwise). We took advantage of virtual team building events like playing murder mystery games. Kahoot! was definitely a team favorite. We dressed up (or funny) for our Socials Night, just to break the monotone of daily Zoom use.
The O’RLY was probably successful only because we had years of foundation already. We’ve hanged out in real life plenty of times so there is history there that seeps through black mirrors and effectively break any non existing ice.
We’ve found IRLs to be vital especially as we’ve grown. True, teams can get a long way with just online communication, but if you can build quality relationships in real-life between the people at your company, then that makes a huge difference when they disperse and go back to being distributed.
It means that even when we’re remote, we no longer just see someone as an avatar. We’ve build up some background context and empathy for that person and that means we’ll be much better at working together and helping each other out.