From Meals to Video: Connecting a Remote, Global Workforce

A year ago, the world was a different place. On a Friday at CloudFactory, I would be in the Durham, NC office kitchen at a company-hosted, weekly lunch with my co-workers and it was the loudest meeting we would have all week. As is universal across all cultures, enjoying a meal together builds community. My hubby is the biggest fan of Anthony Bourdain, and I couldn’t agree more when Bourdain said, “Food may not be the answer to world peace, but it's a start.”

In a pandemic, unfortunately, building community through food is just not the same. And yet, since that day in March when CloudFactory took our operations 100% remote, I’ve found myself deepening and building new relationships with co-workers locally and in Kenya, Nepal, and the UK.

Regardless of where you are on the extraversion spectrum, and no matter how desirable it is to connect and build a relationship, it’s hard to make the time for it. We are all social creatures, and yet, you rarely see a productivity hack recommending that you build relationships with your co-workers.

We build relationships. People are made for relationships. We cultivate community, always inviting and never waiting to be invited.

At CloudFactory, this is one of our corporate principles. It’s in the DNA of our culture to spend time authentically connecting with one another. It’s an important reason why the company has progressed from startup to growth stage over the past three years. We don’t wait to be invited, and we make time to build relationships. It’s intentional.

This attitude laid the foundation for creating something we call a pod social. It’s a small gathering of CloudFactory employees from locations around the globe. It’s a voluntary social hour that is conducted on company time to help us build relationships with one another. Any employee can schedule one and invite others to join using our internal communication platform.

In this screenshot of a Zoom video meeting, five CloudFactory employees are smiling, laughing and making the peace symbol with their hands during the 17th pod social call of 2020.

There’s one thing you can always guarantee during a pod social -- smiles!

Want to start pod socials at your company?

  1. Start by creating a schedule for video calls that work for several time zones, make registering easy (and voluntary), and allow people to volunteer to host the calls.
  2. Regularly announce and remind people about the calls through internal communication tools like email, Slack, rChat or Teams.
  3. Begin the calls with introductions and a perhaps a fun fact for each participant. Always have a few discussion questions, especially timely, positive topics, prepared in case hosts need them.
  4. Encourage that people share stories about their lives, favorites, families, pets, and what’s bringing them joy at the moment. Keep it fun!
  5. Enjoy getting to know the people behind the email addresses and chat names that you see everyday!

Technology is an important part of staying connected while working remotely. It’s critical to pair the intention and desire to cultivate community with processes and technology that help scale it. It’s the same way we scale managed workforces for our clients, and it’s how we deliver on our mission to create meaningful work for people in developing nations: we use a strategic combination of people, process, and technology.

Pod socials provide energy and inspiration

Pod socials are a source of energy and inspiration for learning more about the amazing things that people do around the world. Every person I’ve met over a pod social has opened my mind to the beauty and diversity of life. From stories about mothers overcoming the impossible, to people creating music, to those who are building a business, I know the connections we have to one another hold potential wisdom waiting to be tapped. It’s something I look forward to every week.

This is a visual teaser for CloudFactory’s fifty-fourth pod social, which was held on Tues., Sept. 1. It includes screenshots of video calls from people who attended pod socials and indicates the time for the social across different time zones where CloudFactory operates, including Nepal, Kenya, the U.K., and the U.S. Our goal is to reach 100 pod socials by the end of 2020.

This week, we hosted our fifty-fourth pod social. Our goal is to reach 100 by the end of 2020.

I love how others have embraced pod socials, and how much value they see in building relationships across the globe. Here’s what pod socials mean to some of my co-workers:

“I really enjoy the opportunity to connect with people all around the globe. Finding commonalities between us is so rewarding. With quarantine and COVID, it’s great to have a social check-in with coworkers.”- Jonathan Kluger, Durham, North Carolina, U.S.A.
“It’s great to meet new people from across the world and learn more about them, how they work, what they do, their hobbies, and so much more.”- Prajun Maharjan, Kathmandu, Nepal
“I met Emma at my first pod social. And right now, I’m working on a pilot with her. Doesn’t feel like this is the first account we’re working on together.”- Shreya Jajodia, Kathmandu, Nepal
“Very true, Shreya! I absolutely love the fact that we met before and built a connection that wasn’t entirely work-focused. It was so much easier to get started on the pilot.”- Emma Adam, Reading, U.K.
“I love the pod socials because I get to hear everyone’s stories. It’s such a good reminder of why we are on this journey together. It is energizing and refreshing.”-Yum Phan, Nairobi, Kenya

Are you looking for a place where you can build relationships around the globe? Hoping to find a place to apply your experience to solve data challenges for companies that are building innovative technology?

Check out our Careers page to see if you might be interested in one of our job openings. I hope to meet you on a pod social one day!

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