How a SaaS startup uses Zoom for international team building
December 1, 2020

How a SaaS startup uses Zoom for international team building

Botsplash has a team of 10 members working in 3 different time zones - Charlotte, U.S., Kathmandu, Nepal, and Kiev, Ukraine. The work hours, workspace, and cultural differences all create an interesting challenge when it comes to building a cohesive, cross-functional team. Our team has discovered a few Zoom practices that have enabled our team to come together, despite the distance.

Daily Standup Meetings

Every workday, our team logs onto a Zoom meeting. For those in the U.S., it starts our day. For the team members in Nepal, it ends their day. And for our Ukrainian teammate uses it to break up her workday.

These meetings are a review of everyone’s workflow to maintain accountability for our projects. Each team member gives the entire team an update on what they are working on and have the opportunity to work out any questions. This works in a positive way for a couple reasons:

  1. Cross-functional teamwork is possible. Partnerships are created across the organization because the entire team hears the issues.
  2. The entire team stays knowledgeable and engaged on all the projects within the company. For example, as the Client Success Manager, I listen to all of the Development Team’s projects. This helps me bring feature updates to clients in an accurate way.

The daily expectation of a full team meeting ensures full attendance, efficiency, and a way to educate the team on the daily status of the company.

Monthly Social Hours

Apart from our daily standup meetings, we also schedule a social hour every month. These can last anywhere from 1-2 hours and are the exact opposite of our daily meetings. Work talk is put on the back burner and instead we focus on making connections.  

Because our team is so multicultural, this does present a different kind of challenge. In the past, we haven’t had structure to the meetings. More often than not, it would turn into the Charlotte team talking about Charlotte and the Nepal team talking about Nepal. To mitigate that, we started implementing team building exercises to our social hours.

Team building over Zoom usually cues an eye-roll from everyone in the room. But Botsplash set up these social hours in a clever way that everyone got something out of them. First, we rotate who is in charge of each social hours. This provides a leadership opportunity for team members and creates a variety in the activities we do. Second, there are never goals or targets to meet. It is a very low risk system that allows team members to flex their creativity without fear of failure. The absolute worst-case scenario is we all talk for an hour or so, which is never a bad thing.

For our most recent social hour, I was the lead so I decided to play Pictionary using Zoom’s whiteboard feature. It seemed so simple so I was unsure of how the team would receive it, but it was a big hit. I would privately message the subject to a team member and they would draw it using their mouse on the whiteboard.

Quick tech tip: The host has to share the whiteboard and enable annotations by other participants. Then, each participant has to click on “annotation” in order to draw on the whiteboard.

Pretty quickly, all barriers were down and the whole team was giggling as we tried to guess our way through the game. We did away with teams, but it could easily be a chance to have a little friendly competition across the team. The typical barriers were broken down since none of us are world class artists. We got to know each other a little more while engaging creatively as a team.

My recommendation is to just try. Things may fail and that is fine, as long as your team continues to come together and find common ground (whether it is a favorite food or lack of drawing ability). A group that feels connected across many miles will ultimately perform better in their roles and as a team.

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