Happy work Humans team

Embedding Culture in Remote Teams

colourful wellington boots lined up
Tracey Foulkes
Written by Tracey Foulkes

Just over 12 months ago I was given a challenge to build a high performance remote team from my home office in the small town of Wellington, South Africa. Spread across multiple geographies, this young team needed direction to navigate the intricacies of tech startup land (read: not for the faint hearted). I took the challenge with trepidation, ever the optimist, I was determined to succeed.

And here I sit, about to go on annual leave, mulling the year that was and the team that’s emerged. Despite hurdles the size of houses, we’ve pulled through the past 12 months largely unscathed (I use these words cautiously as in honesty there have been moments where I doubted we’d make it). Reflecting I realise that this is largely because of our company culture. It’s unique and infectious for all humans that search out purpose and meaning. It’s different, real, authentic.

So recently we found ourselves meshing out our year end celebration. No budget for bonuses, we needed to come up with something interesting to honour our team. With limited resources and a race to close off our year with excellence, thinking inside the box was simply not an option. So we launched a “20 Days to Christmas” campaign in our IM stream and our hearts have lit up as a result.

Here’s how it works:

  • With 20 days in the bag, a team of 28 and 3 incredible investors, we needed to pull together a celebration calendar that would allow us to honour each individual in a unique way.
  • Thanks to the interwebs, searching for fun photos was an easy task. We chose ones of them in fancy dress, posed with their partner, or laughing with their kids. This was a super fun exercise.


ME >> acting silly in the office (what’s new)

johannes Markert

JOHANNES » 2 months without shaving in Gahna I believe heehee


BEN » with Elliot Graham


BRADLEY … Pretty sure this was your most special day this year!


JENNA » Your t-shirt and hat is SO you!

  • Next came writing a short piece for each profile. What we think they’re really good at, how they’ve made a massive difference to the team this past year and our wish for them in the new year. We’d make these live daily together with the photo, but needed to be prepared upfront. We said things like:

I know I’ve said this like a million times, but @SimoneBrusa, you absolutely most positively have to be the nicest guy on earth. You are such a pleasure to work with, creative, sincere, humble, talented. Your commitment to the team is so appreciated and your cost cutting contributions and IT backup plans (with execution) are invaluable. Thank you for making all our jobs easier. Over the festive season we wish you many happy hours eating sushi + enjoying nature with your lovely. May 2017 be a successful one for you with brilliant study results and endless happiness. #Saluti


Where do I begin … @nicoledt you have brought your very best work to the deployment team these past months and truly have made such an impressive contribution. We appreciate your critical thinking, organised brain and action. Your most recent efforts on TW package design (and pending re-design) will set us up for success. The team rely on you like ten billion percent. Thank you. May 2017 be a year full of wonderful adventures, love + exceptional health. PS: Tell us more about your pending trip so we can get excited with you.

  • Next step was to open up a new feed, give it a name, and pop through a message in anticipation. We called it “20 Days to Christmas” … why not!

TEAM, we’re launching something cool on Monday. I’m excited. Just planting this here for now … #anticipation

  • And then the fun began … 10 days in and this has proven the most awesome way to close out the year with our wonderful peeps. The channel literally exploded. Colleagues, most of whom you’d never met, sent through the most brilliant notes. Wishes and praise and showers of love ensue with each new posting and having already had my turn already, the joy in being the receiver is priceless.

I have something extra special planned for the final day of the campaign which for now remains TOP SECRET. Now more than ever I believe that culture is a state of mind. It’s a sense of being. I belong.

Wishing you and yours a flipping awesome festive season. BE GOOD. DO GOOD.

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