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These Startups Help Hybrid Remote Companies Build Culture
For the love of God, no more Zoom happy hours please
When culture is right, magic happens. When it’s wrong, things are not so rosy. Everyone can sense when it’s off kilter, but it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly is going wrong because culture is such a finicky thing.
That said, when COVID hit the cause of culture erosion was clear for formerly office-based companies: they suddenly went remote. When culture “lives” in a physical location (the office), it can be a nightmare trying to rejig that culture to work remotely - especially when there is no opportunity to plan and no opportunity to consult with everyone and get buy in beforehand.
In the case of the pandemic, survival-mode took over in the short term and people just focused on getting through. Now, as we figure out what’s next, more and more companies are opting for a hybrid approach. Back in February, I wrote that COVID would be a horrible thing for remote work because it associates remote work with stress, anxiety, and a global pandemic. But at the same time, many people forced to try remote work realized they liked it (and those that wanted it anyway finally got a company-sanctioned chance). So now companies that have learned the business benefits (and continuity benefits) of remote work are considering what’s next, and it’s going to be a hybrid reality (something I wrote about in my 10 year remote work predictions).
And that’s how we arrive at today’s topic. I found some really interesting startups that are helping hybrid remote companies build culture. Of course these are not all of them - so if you know of others, leave them in the comments!
Team building is crucial for culture building. What used to take place in the office (in both organic and contrived ways) now needs to be done remotely. Since all remote communication requires intention, it’s not enough to expect casual Zoom and Slack chats to replace coffee machine chats. In a word, it’s just different. With that in mind, these two startups are doing some cool things.
A Canadian company, Wavy is a virtual events agency powered by technology. The company’s focus is on making really impactful, engaging events for teams. That could be a bespoke cocktail making class, yoga, cooking, or some other creation from one of their “Wavy Experts.”
Unlike Zoom webinars, Wavy is involved in the whole process, like a professional onsite event manager would. This means Wavy experiences can also blur the virtual / physical lines, sending event prep things ahead of time (like cocktail ingredients) so everyone can feel part of the experience.
Thriver provides a range of culture-building features for remote and hybrid teams. The platform can help you host virtual experiences, but can also empower other benefits that companies have started providing to their hybrid teams. One example is the “Treat Card,” a prepaid credit card that companies can top up for a specific use (such as $20 a week for a team lunch). Thriver also delivers care packages, making remote onboarding and team building a little more personalized.
Remote work does not mean working from home all the time. As more companies go hybrid or focus on work flexibility and location freedom, they need actual spaces to do creative work, quiet work, private work, and more. While working from home is a great way to get things done, it may not work for everyone (or for every kind of work). That’s where physical space startups come into play.
Initially a global network of coworking spaces you can drop into on a daily basis, WorkFrom evolved to add a “Virtual Cafe” for remote workers. If you like working from home, WorkFrom can give you virtual colleagues to work alongside for motivation or similar. If you want physical space, the WorkFrom network is pretty large.
FlexDay focuses on “workspace freedom.” With their app, you can drop into a number of coworking spaces (right now, their network is in Toronto and the surrounding area, but they are expanding). Even as COVID continues, they are able to provide safe working spaces for when WFH just isn’t cutting it anymore. The app offers both an unlimited plan and a pay as you go plan, making it easy for remote workers to choose their own adventure.
Virtual team infrastructure
I know, “infrastructure” does not exactly sound like culture building. But let me explain: a huge part of culture is empowering people to do their best work, right? That’s why we do team building events, it’s why we care about employees (beyond, you know, them being humans deserving of care and all). In this same vein, a huge part of culture is making sure that they are able to onboard, get paid, and feel connected both to their home country and to your company. That’s where virtual team infrastructure comes in.
RemoteTeam does payroll, HR, time stamps, check ins, and more - all the nitty gritty parts of hiring and working with people. The app also helps with expense reimbursement and other features, so you can facilitate a lot of culture-building plans through their platform.
If you want to learn more about RemoteTeam, check out my interview with its founder Sahin Boydas where he shares his views on Silicon Valley, building remote companies, and the future of offices.
Perhaps grabbing the most valuable URL of 2020, Remote.com is a platform that powers global HR, payroll, and compliance (among other things) for remote teams. The company helps hybrid and virtual companies hire globally, making things much easier around global employment laws and benefits.
I interviewed Remote.com founder Job van der Voort and he shared his views on face to face meetings, building a remote company, and the power of asynchronous work.
Know of another startup I'm missing? Add them in the comments!