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How we stayed connected through a year of remote work

Ring Central Blog

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May 24, 2021

Highlights:


 

Here on the RingCentral blog, we’ve dedicated a lot of space to talk about productivity and collaboration, and how businesses can foster these attributes in a remote work environment.

But our work lives are more than just work. Growing and maintaining morale and a sense of connection between colleagues are just as important—and they have a pretty big impact on both employees and the overall business. 

That’s something we’ve learned all too well this past year. Just like at many other companies, all of our RingCentral colleagues were sent to work from home in March 2020. More than a year later, we’re still plugging away from our kitchens and living rooms—and we’ll continue to do so until January 2022. 

Built-in advantages of our product

As other businesses experienced, this quick shift created some challenges—but we had a couple of built-in advantages. 

For starters, we’re literally in the business of work from anywhere. The RingCentral solution is a purpose-built, accessible-from-anywhere solution for team messaging, video conferencing, and phone. Secondly, while we had a thriving office life, many of our teams already worked on a hybrid basis. We didn’t go into the pandemic cold. 

But there’s more to remote work than simply having the right technology. We had to find ways to replace the ongoing contact and random casual conversations we used to have. 

At face value, those everyday interactions may not seem consequential, but they help to deepen relationships between coworkers and grow a sense of teamwork. This in turn develops the special magic that comes from great people who support and inspire one another.

It hasn’t always been easy. But today most of our colleagues would likely say they feel closer than ever—and our work reflects this. How do we stay connected? By a combination of tools and culture that can offer some good ideas for other hybrid and remote organizations.

To start, let’s take a look at the RingCentral features that are keeping us close:

1. Video meetings

Like many other companies, we’ve had to replace a lot of in-person contact with video meetings. As you’d expect, this includes scheduled meetings related to regular business activities and projects we’re working on. 

But we’re also quick to jump on video for informal, ad hoc chats too because there’s nothing quite like talking face to face. Because we don’t have to switch to another app for video, RingCentral makes this easy and fluid—all you have to do is look up your colleague and click the “Video Call” button (and if you’re already chatting on text, you can launch video directly). You can even check your daily meeting schedule directly from the Video tab.

2. RingCentral Scheduler

Yes, we have meetings and yes, we often have a lot of them. But the RingCentral Scheduler takes some of the pain out of managing the burden. When you schedule a meeting in Microsoft Outlook, the Scheduler takes care of a lot of the logistical work, automatically adding the details to attendees’ RingCentral accounts. When the time comes to meet, everyone can click to join instantly.

3. Screen sharing

We’ve long relied on tools like white boards and projectors to visually collaborate and share ideas when we meet in person. Our screen sharing feature helps get everyone on the same page remotely, allowing you to choose what window you share (and hide that messy background). You can even have fun and draw and write on your screen shares—just like in person.

4. Messaging teams 

Our Messaging teams are more than a chat app—they’re a place where you can keep track of all the messages, documents, photos, and other attributes related to a conversation. We use teams to keep track of all our projects. We also use them for fun and interest-based groups, such as our RingCentral Pets team, where we share pictures of our furrier colleagues. 

5. Phone

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a phone call for fast clarity (not to mention all the extra meaning and connection that comes from hearing another person’s voice). RingCentral makes it simple to connect by phone too, allowing you to launch a call right from a DM conversation with a single click.

A culture of connection

We have some great tools at our disposal, but we also put a lot of thought into how we use those tools to support a connected culture. Here are some of the changes we’ve implemented this last year to further promote better connections.

1. More check-in meetings

While we have meetings dedicated to specific projects we’re working on, we’ve also stepped up our team meetings game, with regular (usually weekly) check-ins. Unlike more focused meetings, these are really just about getting together as a group over video. We spend that face-to-face time sharing ideas, catching up, and often just socializing.

We also have more regular all-up meetings, including a monthly all-hands called Employee Matters. The agenda includes company news, big wins, and other announcements, but these aren’t your typical boring town halls. They always start with a fun round of ice breakers—sharing pet photos, our crazy WFH set-ups; once we even had people share dad jokes. 

It’s these moments that remind us that behind everyone’s role, there’s a human being.

2. Celebrating together via messaging

Recognition is a big part of our culture—and when something goes well, we like to celebrate. Whether it’s a new project launch or something personal like a birthday or new baby, we usually share good news over messaging—and then everyone chimes in with emojis. Who even needs cake anymore?

3. Virtual events

Since COVID, our People Ops and HR teams have truly been in overdrive trying to create the best remote work experience—and sometimes that doesn’t involve work at all. 

Whether it’s a cooking class, guest speakers for International Women’s Day or Mental Health Awareness Month, or even a virtual tour of the Oakland Zoo, we regularly do extracurricular programming that gets us all out of work headspace and gives us new shared experiences to bond over.

4. Practice greater understanding

Less of an initiative than an overall value we’ve tried to strive toward more explicitly, we’re simply trying to be more understanding of one another. And while this is true at all levels of our business, it’s something our leaders have really tried to embody. 

Our schedules are more flexible, we have more one-on-one contact with managers, we’re encouraged to take time off, and there’s less of a hard-and-fast emphasis on deadlines. 

That last one can’t be underestimated. Because at the end of the day, our workforce is made up of people. We’re all dedicated to making RingCentral the best it can be—but we’re also all people with unique needs, interests, and—sometimes—stressors. To stay connected while working remotely, it’s really about finding ways to remember and honor that.

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