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Keeping that tight-knit feeling, at a distance

Alia Fite
Alia Fite, Editor, Figma

Like many of you, we at Figma have been settling into the rhythm of remote work, with Zoom 1:1s, virtual lunches, and livestreamed All Hands. Last week we shared tips for running a remote brainstorm, based on our own experience trying to translate offline meetings to an online-only environment.

But it’s not just about adapting our workflows for a distributed team; since we first made the decision to start working remotely, our top priority has been finding ways to stay connected while far apart. There are so many aspects of working together in an office that don’t feel like work—team offsites, coffee runs, meals—and ultimately make work better, easier, and more fun.

Below, you’ll find our approach to bringing those offline moments online, and what we do to keep our (currently remote) team feeling like a team.

Keeping your team close

Our office is built to foster a sense of community—the micro-kitchens, lunch area, and open floor plan all allow us to easily connect with teammates. Without those shared spaces, spontaneous run-ins are few and far between. While we can’t sit down for lunch or grab coffee in-person these days, we’ve found ways to recreate those important moments, virtually.

Be intentional

When things are business as usual, some meetings can easily be redirected to a quick email thread or Slack conversation. It’s tempting to fall into the trap of cancelling non-essential syncs, but now we’re trying to think of them as a good excuse to check in on each other. Meetings can still serve an important purpose, even when there’s no formal objective.

Get leaders on the same page

When we first started working remotely a few weeks ago, our CEO, Dylan, gathered the managers at Figma to brainstorm ways to keep the team close. Leaders across teams offered their tips, from daily morning check-ins to virtual coffees. We’ve also created a Slack channel where managers continue to share learnings, articles, and any other resources that might come in handy. While the approach to remote work looks a little for different each team (and it should!), there’s a shared understanding that we’re all in it together.

Figmanagers
A slide that one of our leaders shared with other managers at Figma

Build in moments of joy

From (optional) team-wide workouts to virtual meetups for dog and cat owners, many of us have been setting aside time to connect with coworkers outside of necessary meetings. We’ve also noticed that making subtle adjustments to routine meetings and communications can make a big difference.

During presentations, we make good use of the chat feature on Zoom—since it can be awkward to present into the virtual abyss, we use chat to applaud, plus one, and ask questions. At the end of every All Hands, everyone turns on their video for a few seconds so we can see each other’s faces instead of just names and avatars.

Every other week, we all sit down for “Show and Tell,” during which Figmates share their work, tell a story, or teach the rest of the company something they’re passionate about. It’s hard to capture the magic of these meetings online, so at the most recent Show & Tell, we decided to mix it up. Halfway through the meeting, everyone was encouraged to share their favorite Zoom backgrounds, which included everything from the Northern Lights to Guy Fieri.

Zoom
A snapshot of some of our favorite Zoom backgrounds from a recent company-wide meeting

Our conversations on Slack have become even more upbeat and emoji-filled than usual. Every morning, someone from the team pings in our company-wide channel with a prompt to kick off the day on a positive note. Most recently, we were all invited to share the shows we’re planning to binge-watch over the weekend.

We’ve long used Donut, an app you can add to Slack, and we’re making a point of keeping up that tradition. If you opt in, the app pairs you with 1-2 Figmates at random and starts a thread within Slack so you can find time to connect and get to know one another. When we all worked together in the office, we’d often do walking 1:1s. Now, some team members are using Zoom or FaceTime to go on (socially-distanced) strolls around their respective neighborhoods.

Donut
The Donut app in action

Connect with activities in Figma

As we find what works for us, we’ve been taking inspiration from the community. Many of you are already using Figma to stay connected. Here are some of the games that have been created and replicated by the community:

  • Figma Tennis: Based on Layer Tennis, the idea is to volley images back and forth, building on each other’s work to end up with something entirely different than when you started.
  • Trash Dinosaur: Work with your team to build a dinosaur with five virtual pieces of trash.
  • Virtual bookshelf: Display your favorite books, or share what you're currently reading.
  • Word-guessing game: Test each other’s drawing skills with a Pictionary-inspired competition.
Figma Tennis
Figma Tennis

These don’t need to be standalone activities—try kicking off a meeting with a quick game or reserving the last ten minutes for a team-wide exercise. When it seems like the team is far away, remember that sometimes the simplest things can make you feel close.

For more exercises like this, check out the community round-up of activities to do with your team and take a look at our remote design resources. Let us know what you’re doing to stay connected to your team—we’d love to hear from you on Twitter!

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