Creating camaraderie among people who never see each other


I have a team of people scattered across time zones and the world. Most of these people have never been face-to-face with even one of their colleagues. Most have never heard anyone else's voice. We have up until now communicated either by email, instant message, Basecamp for project management, or Backpack for group email. So my question is, how do I REGULARLY foster camaraderie and connection among such a far-flung group?

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asked Feb 27 '11 at 08:08
Kenneth Vogt
2,917 points

7 Answers


Here at Stack Exchange, we have chat software. We are using our own, but HipChat is acceptable. There is a main room in there that everyone is expected to be in (at least lurking) whenever they are at work... not being in the chat room is equivalent to not being at your desk. This has done wonders at creating a coherent company culture with people who are scattered all over the world.

answered Feb 27 '11 at 10:02
Joel Spolsky
13,482 points
  • We use the 37signals suite, their chat product is called Campfire. I like the idea of " not being in the chat room is equivalent to not being at your desk". – Kenneth Vogt 13 years ago
  • I think HipChat is a better alternative to campfire. its very elegant and simple to use. The only thing i would add is it seems childish to expect everyone to be logged in or being couted as (not at the desk). Sometimes, time to focus is critical, and nothing can be as distracting as questions, popping in at the wrong time. I would modify that a bit. For us, nothing works better than phone calls. A voice can tell you a lot more than what someone can type it, its usually faster, more honest, and a better "conversation". You can get a virtual phone system and send all your guys a phone. – Frank 13 years ago
  • We're using Skype, much more for the instant messaging than anything else. But key is the protocol, we 'ping' before phoning and/or engaging in detailed messaging, if you don't respond to the ping, you're either not there or you're running silent – Mr Telly 13 years ago


I don't think it is possible, that is just one of the disadvantages of having a scattered group across different time zones, etc... I believe what you are doing is enough, anything else might seem by the employees as forced.

The chat option seems to be the best way for group communication, but if your team is in different time zones then that might be difficult, again, it is just one of the disadvantages of having a team scattered around the world.

If the company can afford it, perhaps organizing a meetup once a year where everyone gets to attend in person could be a good idea.

Good luck!

answered Feb 27 '11 at 12:14
4,815 points


first step is a basic web camera and skype account for each employee. Actually being able to see each other when you talk is a good step to begin feeling like a team.

answered Feb 27 '11 at 08:16
Justin C
838 points
  • Yes, all of us have Skype and some of us have webcams. While Skype offers group calls, they do not offer video except one on one. Is there some affordable solution out there to overcome this? – Kenneth Vogt 13 years ago
  • Also, there is no "reason" why many of our people would have a phone or video call with many of our other people. It is not practical for everyone in the operation to regularly call everyone else just to talk. There needs to be some kind of group solution to this. – Kenneth Vogt 13 years ago
  • What kind of tasks do your employees accomplish? Is there some way they can occasionally collaborate? If not, could there be ways they could occasionally have discussions about what they are doing? Maybe a round table where they can bring their most troubling task to the group for suggestions. – Justin C 13 years ago
  • Interestingly, group video chat is now available on Skype. – Taylor Vogt 13 years ago


Grayson, it seems that regular Campfire usage solves the problem of "why would this team talk to that team?" For example, if everyone is in the chatroom at Campfire during their working hours, then everyone's there. That's it. Nobody needs reason to talk to anyone else other than this is how we operate. And now it is. No doubt this will bridge the gaps between departments.

answered Mar 4 '11 at 14:14
Taylor Vogt
59 points


Ken, let's get more active on Campfire. Heavier usage of Backpack is already starting to make a difference. Throwing regular Campfire meetings into the stew seems like the next logical step.

Indeed, the trouble with our company is that many teams have no reason to communicate with each other. How do we create the reasons? Maybe I (designer) need to create a project with an article reviewer ... how can I make their life easier? How can I make article reviewing more pleasant for them, thus increasing efficiency? That's just one example of a small project that could really help connect disparate teams.

answered Feb 28 '11 at 08:21
Grayson Stebbins
11 points


There's NOTHING like meeting face to face for creating team bonding. See what you can do on that aspect, no matter how infrequent.

I have been on a number of geographically disparate teams and there is no question that actually meeting, even once, creates a much stronger bond than just IMing all the time.

answered Mar 28 '11 at 09:22
Tim J
8,346 points


One idea would be to spruce it up with some fun. This kinda depends on across how many time zones your team is spread, but you can have something like friday/monthly drinks over skype (it now supports group video chat).

Basically have a couple of hours of non-work related chat in a relaxed atmosphere having a beer. It helps bring the team together because they get to know each other on a much more personal basis, and improves communication overall. They are not relating to some unknown face behind some email or text chat, but an actual person, that they've met face to face, and got to know more intimately. It's much more personal.

answered Mar 28 '11 at 07:58
Mircea Grelus
782 points

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