The Best Way Remote Teams Have Fun
August 3, 2021

The Best Way Remote Teams Have Fun

by Brian de Haaff

Kids laughing. Pets lounging. Delicious looking home-cooked meals. The Aha! team is always posting photos and sharing snippets of our daily lives with each other. This is a vital way that we stay connected while working remotely. Whether discovering mutual interests or bonding over a perfect moment, we grow closer as a team when we make time for each other.

Small talk is not small — it helps hold the team together and leads to more fun.

Research has shown the benefits that small talk has on team performance, productivity, and well-being. Making light-hearted conversation actually increases feelings of friendliness and gratitude. It builds rapport and even helps spark collaboration.

If your company has recently gone entirely or partly remote, you might be missing the organic encounters and impromptu conversations that happened easily in an office. Or maybe you are relieved that you do not have to make small talk anymore — it can feel a little forced.

But small talk is essential to building camaraderie. And there are ways to make it enjoyable. I know this because Aha! has been entirely distributed from the beginning. Our leadership and People Success teams are purposeful about creating space for casual conversations to happen. We have group channels for people who share hobbies, regular game breaks that anyone can join, and a monthly program that randomly pairs folks with cross-functional teammates for an informal chat.

All of these interactions make us a stronger company — allowing us to achieve in a meaningful way while building genuine team spirit. And when we meet in person for our onsites (or more recently, offsites), we are simply picking up right where we left off.

I know our team also likes to connect with one another in more casual and creative ways, outside of the structured activities I mentioned above. So we asked the team to share what they do to encourage small talk. Here is what they said:

Greet the day

"Say good morning every day. Because I live in the earliest time zone in the company (GMT+1), I feel like it is my duty to welcome my colleagues as they wake up in their respective time zones. This spurs conversations in our team channel about highly important matters such as weather and slippers." — Tom Bailey, Customer Success

Communicate nonverbally

"Slap emoji and gifs on everything. Most of my chitchat happens over direct message — the perfect avenue for casual banter. I cannot count the number of belly laughs and inside jokes that have come from riffing with teammates." — Erik Johnson, Marketing

Dedicate time

"Take five to 10 minutes in each 1:1 meeting to chat about your personal life. Yes, we usually have so much work to talk about. But I never regret this time with the team. Connecting over families, pets, and current events is not just enjoyable — it actually helps us accomplish more together." — Melissa Hopkins, Customer Success

Crack jokes

"Reveal your sense of humor. I try to regularly update my status on our instant messaging tool with a bad joke or pun. I hope that it will brighten people's days when they read it. A recent example: Do you know why filling your tires at a gas station costs more now? Inflation." — Yuko Takegoshi, Engineering

Embrace spontaneity

"Have impromptu video calls. For years I shuddered at unexpected phone calls. But now I love jumping on a quick video call to work through an issue or catch up with someone. The immediacy makes it feel like my teammates are right here with me in my office." — Ashley Borg, Marketing

Get competitive

"Play games. Every so often in our weekly PM/UX team meeting, we take a few minutes to step back from work and just be silly. We have shed quite a few tears of laughter playing games like Pictionary. I believe laughter is the special ingredient to our team’s success." Julie Price, Product Management

Break bread

"Share the minutiae of your daily life. Sometimes the marketing team posts photos of what we cobbled together for breakfast or lunch. You never know where those conversations will go. And the asynchronous nature allows more people to join in when they have a minute to contribute." — Rose Thompson, Marketing

Debate often

"Make time for random discussions. Pizza happens to be a frequently debated topic in our team's channel — particularly the question of pineapple on pizza. We also love arguing about the exact definition of a sandwich. For example, is a hot dog a sandwich? We ask the deep questions." — Andrew Vit, Engineering

Schedule celebrations

"Carve out time to celebrate your wins after a big launch. It is all too easy to move on to the next big item before enjoying what you have accomplished. Our conversion team recently spent an hour over video celebrating the launch of the new drawers and details views in Aha! Roadmaps." — Tyler Knappe, Engineering

Work should be a joyful experience — it is a pleasure to share day-to-day life with your teammates and make a real impact together.

Whether you are a company leader, team manager, or individual contributor, you are responsible for creating a more close-knit team. Invest a few minutes each day or week into building connections with your colleagues and having fun. Participate in discussions. Offer ideas for new ways to get to know one another. If you have not heard from someone in a while, reach out to them to see how they are doing. And do not be afraid to crack a joke — you never know when you will brighten someone's day. How do you find new opportunities to have fun? Work anywhere and be happy. Aha! is hiring right now.

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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