Back in 2005 — when the hashtag was still the pound sign and liking IPAs was still countercultural — Google debuted the bowling alleys and nap pods of its California campus and sparked a revolution in business culture. It introduced a whole new genre of office life characterized by open layouts and relaxed dress codes, lunchtime yoga and craft beer happy hours and hot chocolate bars in the breakroom.
The #startuplife flourished and gained in popularity, right up until the day that the pandemic claimed it as one of its many casualties. Now even as businesses start a cautious reentry into physical offices, many are transitioning to hybrid remote and in-person work models, seemingly sounding the final death knell on startup culture as we knew it.
But startup culture wasn’t ever about wearing jeans and ironic band t-shirts to work — not really. All of the perks of working at a startup were more than just compensation for the crazy hours — they were meant to establish an atmosphere of camaraderie, transparency, and trust that is essential to any startup’s success. And we can’t afford to sound the death knell on that.
At Babyscripts, our success is grounded in that trust between employees. And although we’ve outgrown the workflows and processes of a startup, we’ve taken concrete steps to maintain a startup mentality. A virtual work environment threw a few curve balls at us, but we’ve come up with some creative ways to make sure that we never forget where we came from (#startuplife).
The Baked & Wired Program
Named after his favorite DC java shop, Babyscripts’ CEO Anish Sebastian brewed up the Baked & Wired program to get employees across departments meeting and chatting, recreating the synergy of coffee runs that happened organically when we were in the office (#startuplife = a lot of caffeine breaks).
Each month, five groups of 2 people from different departments across the company are matched up for a 15-30 minute virtual coffee date, scheduled by the employees and on the company’s tab. To ease the social pressure and get conversations going, Anish provided some suggested icebreakers and activities.
“John and I enjoyed our coffee meetup! We bonded over our love of good BBQ and I will be running all future coffee purchases by him as he is quite the connoisseur!”
Social Communication Channels
A startup — or any small company for that matter — relies on a very small group of people working well together. Unhealthy competition or distrust can tank a startup before it has time to get off the ground. As cheesy as it sounds, supporting friendships — and encouraging employees to know each other as people and not just colleagues — is a huge part of our success. In a remote environment, Slack has been a great outlet for that (we’re a Slack company but Discord or other communication platforms work for this just as well).
We have channels for recipe sharing, vacation photos, pet updates, and most importantly, a channel for hosting hot takes on the latest Bachelor/Bachelorette episode and keeping track of Final Rose bracket standings. A trivia add-on keeps our team engaged with fun games throughout the workday, and establishes connections between co-workers that wouldn’t normally interact (are you seeing a theme)?
Zoom Happy Hours
This suggestion might inspire a collective groan from the Zoomed-out crowd, and we hear you. Video chat, even with breakout features, doesn’t allow for the same kind of spontaneous conversation and mingling that an in-person event is best for. We found that our first attempts at virtual happy hours fell flat, because at best only one or two people could be engaged in the conversation at a time.
So we adjusted the structure of our meetups to bring everyone in on the fun. We now choose activities that can engage everyone on the call like Pub Trivia, Jeopardy, and Fibbage, and sometimes encourage themed dress code or backgrounds.
Exercise Club (in beta testing)
Pre-Covid, a favorite office activity was our daily exercise club — short activities on the hour to get everyone out of their chairs and moving around. We’re still testing out different ways to implement this successfully in our fully virtual workspace, but think that Slack and gamification might be involved. Stay tuned for updates!
Check out the newly launched Careers Page on our website for more info on what it’s like to work for Babyscripts!