How do you maintain a community-focused culture when a little business based in Stillwater, Oklahoma, evolves into a small giant with a global presence? Start Bev Bashes! After my first year as a remote employee, I was feeling particularly isolated at InterWorks, a company that does such a great job building community at its local offices in Oklahoma. So, I saw an opportunity to make things better for everyone.
What Is a Bev Bash
Since imitation is the highest form of flattery, I happily lifted ideas from StackOverflow and GitLab to create opportunities that allow all employees to connect with each other regardless of their work location. A handful of conversations and a new Slack channel later, Bev Bashes were born:
Bev is short for beverage; the thought is that since people are in different times zones all over the world and have different drink preferences, everyone can feel included no matter their time zone or beverage of choice since “happy hour” tends to be associated with alcohol. And no, we aren’t “bashing” each other in these hangouts. Bev Bash just sounds a little more fun and less formal than Beverage Celebration.
How Did Bev Bashes Begin
The idea for Bev Bashes stemmed from the fact that remote employees miss out on many of the relationship-building opportunities to which office-based employees have access. Bumping into each other in the kitchen, going for walks, attending catered lunches, playing ping pong … while these are primarily social interactions on the surface, these opportunities can have a huge impact on developing trust with your co-workers, which can then lead to better collaboration, higher productivity and greater professional growth opportunities. Without an intentional effort to include remote workers in these interactions, they may be left behind.
We already utilize Zoom as our tool for one-on-one, team and company calls, so it was a small leap technologically to add another optional call that would be focused on the more social, relationship-building aspects of work rather than the technical or strategic.
Culture Buy-In at Every Level
After having individual conversations with co-workers throughout the year and realizing that many had the same challenges connecting with colleagues from afar, momentum gathered at our company Summit. Our Global BI Practice Director created an RBG board for us to share our thoughts on what we do well as a company, where we falter and what we can do to improve. A simple Post-It note on the Culture board and a question at the Ask Me Anything session catalyzed enough buzz that it seemed like there was sufficient interest to make this happen. But would people actually come through?
Above: The feedback boards at the InterWorks Summit
Six weeks after the Summit and with two Bev Bashes under our belts, I can assuredly say yes.
Ninety people are in our optional #iw-bevbash Slack channel—that’s over one-third of our company who feels like this is an important enough idea to get involved. We got the OK from our Director of Employee Experience to count these one-hour calls in our time entry system, a major gesture of support that recognizes the value of using company time to build relationships with co-workers. Throw in a “great idea” comment from our founder and CEO when we shared the idea in our company-wide Slack channel, and the buy-in was complete.
So far, we’ve had two calls with a rotating 15-20 people joining from the US, Europe and Australia. Loose themes have tied the conversation together (“share something you do outside of work” and “what does your office setup look like”), but there is plenty of chatter and informal banter to give it a casual, non-meeting feel:
Above: A screenshot of attendees from the inaugural Bev Bash
Paving the Way for Community and Inclusion
We’re super excited that the idea has taken off. We recognize that different people need different things to be successful, and we hope this continues to give people an opportunity to feel included in the InterWorks community no matter where they are based.