Fog Creek

Random Meet-ups to Maintain Company Culture with Remote Workers

Company culture is really important. It’s something we know you have to actively work on to build and maintain. This is especially true when you have remote employees. More than half of Fog Creek’s staff now work remotely. This change has come about pretty quickly, with the move to allow remote workers being less than two years ago. Since then we’ve taken on many new hires and existing staff have moved to working remotely too. It has forced us to re-think a few things. The old bag of tricks, like private offices and catered lunches etc. don’t help remote employees. So we set about coming up with new ways to make sure everyone still feels involved and part of a great company.

Meet and Greet Random People in your Organization

One initiative we’re trying at the moment is CoffeeTime. CoffeeTime is an app, created in less than a day by Daniel, one of our developers. It works by pairing people up randomly, to meet and greet each other, often with someone you may not normally interact with. It doesn’t matter what level in the org chart, or role each person plays. Anyone can be matched up for a 30-minute chat (though people can choose to opt-out, of course). It aims to encourage the cross-team communication and serendipitous learning which otherwise happens naturally when co-workers share an office.

At its heart is the idea that the most important things to learn are often those you didn’t even know you needed to. By making more connections with the people you work with, it increases the likelihood that you’ll have access to someone who can help you further down the line. Maybe that person is having a similar problem or has experienced it before and can point you in the right direction. Or maybe you just end up making a new friend!

Either way, once a week CoffeeTime runs and you’re matched up with someone else in the organization. Each of you receives an email telling you who that person is. You then take it from there and arrange to meet in person or over a Hangout, to eat lunch or just chat.


So How is it Working Out?

Well, it will take time to tell if it works and whether it is something we’ll stick with. But the initial feedback has been positive. It has resulted in a bunch of meet-ups between people who hadn’t previously had the opportunity to speak to each other much before.


Try It Out – CoffeeTime is Open Source

Interested in trying it out yourself? Sure thing, we’ve open-sourced it. It’s written in Ruby, runs on Heroku and uses Redis with Mandrill to handle the emails. Daniel says that the implementation is not the prettiest, but as a quick way to test out the idea, it works well. If you give it a go, let us know how you get on at @FogCreek.