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Keeping Company Culture Alive in a Remote Time September 2, 2020

Keeping Company Culture Alive in a Remote Time

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Written by

Andy Parquette and Andy Parquette

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A highly collaborative, interactive, and supportive culture has always been important at Cantina. But how do we maintain this culture when COVID-19 is forcing us to work remotely? Luckily, we have a ton of creative minds at Cantina, and we’ve been able to come up with new ways to connect remotely - from online game nights to virtual happy hours. Most importantly, with our weekly Hive Mind design meetings, we’ve been able to keep our culture alive in new and exciting ways.

At Cantina we live by the philosophy of “work hard, play hard,” and nowhere is this more evident than with our Hive Mind design meetings. An every Friday afternoon mind-meld, the Hive Mind is a place where Cantina designers, developers, and others come together to teach each other and learn from each other. It started out small, with several designers coming together to talk about hot trends in innovation and design, and it has grown from there! We added fun games to work on our presentation skills, as well as field trips to stretch our ethnographic research muscles. We created a place to come together and connect, laugh, and learn from each other. It became a rich cultural touchstone for Cantina; and something we all looked forward to on Friday afternoons.

Woman presenting using large monitor and microphone in front of audience seated in moveable chairs in semicircle formation.

Then COVID-19 hit.

Luckily, we’ve accommodated remote attendees in our weekly Hive Mind meetings from the beginning. For this reason, the transition to all remote sessions was easy, but keeping the culture alive and our spirits up proved more challenging. Some things cannot be fabricated. So how do we maintain the strong sense of community we’ve worked so hard to build in the face of the pandemic?

To keep our culture thriving from the comfort of our homes, we added breakout room chats with fun prompts; we worked with presenters ahead of time to brainstorm ways to engage participants remotely; and we curated a variety of topics and formats to work well in a remote setting. Recent examples include an interactive series on the history of UI animation and pub-style design trivia, as well as discussions about designing for behavior change in a pandemic, and an exploration of the legacy of Isabella Stewart Gardner. We’ve been actively experimenting with different formats, and we’ve been using these insights to help inform how we collaborate and communicate with our clients during the pandemic. A win for our team, and a win for our clients.

Zoom screenshot of Venn diagram representing permaculture principles with male Cantinista presenter video capture in thumbnail image in upper right.

The transition has been smooth. Nice job keeping the momentum going and finding diverse and engaging topics and activities that lend themselves to the remote format. We are still having fun and learning.- Krista Siniscarco, Director of Research and Design Strategy

Zoom screen capture of Hive Mind participants in 4 over 5 grid.

The transition to remote has been largely successful for the Hive Mind. While the format has changed from our lounge to Zoom meetings, the quality of the content hasn’t wavered and continues to impress - every week there are different speakers who share their thoughts and expertise about various topics, which is always my favorite part of the Hive Mind.- Dakota Kim, Engineer

It’s an ever-evolving process. Hive Mind started with several designers, has grown to include the entire company, and now has an archival website and content calendar. We’ve strived to maintain flexibility, while staying organized and forward-thinking and keeping it fun. Cantina is a special place because of its people. During the pandemic, we’ve adapted and continue to turn to the Hive Mind to connect with our peers and unwind for an hour while learning something new.

If you’d like to learn more about our best practices in remote work, and how we keep our company culture thriving during the pandemic, contact us, we’d love to hear from you.


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