Cultivating Connection in a Remote World

The pandemic has been difficult for all of us. Finding moments to connect is so necessary as we adapt to the blending of remote and local team members. If we mostly talk through a screen, how do we grow and maintain relationships at work? Underbelly, like many, doesn’t have all the answers, but in the act of trying, we strive to show how we care for our people.

Summer Retreat 2021 - Group Picture-min

Last month, the Underbelly team escaped to Strawberry Bay, a marina and campground in Heber City, Utah. Many brought their kids, dogs, and caravans while others pitched tents or booked lodging nearby. We spent the mornings making scrappy pourover coffee in light chatter followed by a visit to the glassy marina for boating and wake surfing. The afternoons were filled with different activities — games on boards, grass, and around the campfire. We shared tasty tacos, juicy brisket, and thick cauliflower steaks, and held an official Cast Iron Cooking Competition with, arguably, the judges as the true winners. It was a love letter to the elements and the team connections we fight to protect.

Summer Retreat 2021 - Food Prep-min

As a remote team member, I can attest that video calls do not replace in-person conversations. Though I love the nature of remote work, I do miss the casual, silly moments that unfold from sitting across my coworkers. I learned how competitive people get over Kubb, a game of throwing sticks and blocks... how talented some are at wakeboarding as they glide cinematically to music… and how loving and creative their kids are, especially the aspiring Youtubers. The way we riffed, teased, and explored each other’s past lives was effortless (dare I say, magical), and missed as I write this from my West Coast apartment.

Our team learned how important it is to spend time together. These bonding moments do more than bring us closer, but they also make us work better together. We learned what makes each other tick, passionate, and giggly, making it easier to collaborate and share feedback. We also brainstormed ways of bringing these moments back to our hybrid remote/in-person culture — through scheduling regular check-ins, finding ways to share skills, and planning more inclusive bonding events.

Summer Retreat 2021 - By Campfire-min

If you are fully remote or have fully remote team members, explore how you engage at work and find ways to grow those relationships. If a company retreat isn’t possible, then how about a coworking hour? If a coworker is burnt out, how about sending a gift card for a small treat? If someone did something exceptional, why not send an internal video praising their efforts? With the earth spinning as it does, it will be the intentional, magical moments we cultivate that keep our spirits alive.

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