Take the Stress Out of Social Planning for Distributed Teams

Ah, Spring in Michigan! The snow has thawed, the sun is shining, and Midwesterners are dusting off their social calendars. For our Atomic Marcruiting (marketer + recruiting) team, that means getting group plans on the calendar. We’ve got a distributed team – with one marketer (me!) working in Grand Rapids and the other two (Elaine and Lauren) working in Ann Arbor. 

When you’re separated by a few-hour car ride, social plans aren’t as easy as, “Hey, want to grab a drink after work?” It can be easy to become complacent, letting months slip by without some necessary non-work social time. Here are a few tips that keep our distributed team connected cross-state. 

Daily Stand-Ups

During the height of the pandemic, our team recognized the need for a daily check-in. What started as a way to keep up with what one another had on the docket has turned into a delightful daily connection point. We use our 30-minute meeting (always held at 9:30 a.m. before the workday has really kicked off) to catch up on what is going on in everyone’s lives and to share context about each Macruiter’s capacity. 

Every Friday we extend our typical 30-minute meeting for an extra 15 minutes. We use that extra time to try out a variety of bonding activities. Here are a few things we’ve tried over the past year:

  • Weekly Wins. Each Marcruiter shares two professional wins — one for themself and one for another Atom.
  • Questions. One Marcruiter picks an icebreaker-style question, and each person on the team answers it. One of our group’s favorites has been, “What is one thing/service that’s given you way more value than it cost?”
  • Team Pillar Work. During our most recent Atomic Con (a company-wide weekend event that happens every 1.5 years), our team got a chance to sit down and talk about our team from our dynamic, internal-context, communication, and more. We mapped our thoughts/questions across four pillars: Culture, Routine, Network, and Role. Once a month, our team takes a look at the questions we co-created and has an in-depth discussion about one. An example question is, “How can we signal when we need support or when we can offer it?”

Monthly Cross-Office Trips

Once a month, during an extended Friday stand-up, each team member shares their travel capacity for the following month. Ideally, the team would all get together in person at least once per month. We get our travel plans on the calendar and try to open up those travel days for in-person meetings and lunches. Outside of the Marcruiting team, cross-office travel allows our team to connect with Atomic makers and leadership folks in other offices.

Built-In Social Plans

As part of our monthly travel check-ins, our team is starting to implement monthly social planning. As important as it is to get much-needed meetings scheduled for our in-person time, travel calendars can sometimes look like this:

A full docket of important meetings, while efficient, can leave the social energy tank low by the end of the day. So pre-building in fun social plans (a group lunch! Post-work beverages!) can help us get a better idea of how we want to structure our travel days. 

This planning allows our team to better communicate and make the most of our time together. As humans, we all have competing priorities (family, pets, school, home renovation projects, etc.), and this makes monthly travel/social planning imperative. 

Do you work on a distributed team? What tips/tricks do you use to stay connected?

  • cluster rush says:

    At the end of each month’s extended Friday stand-up, everyone on the squad announces their travel availability for the next month. The ideal frequency for team meetings is once a month.

  • Join the conversation

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *