I've found that the ability for a team to work well distributed is greatly amplified if they have formed a baseline of personal connection and trust. There's just no substitution for face-to-face, "in real life" (IRL) interactions. Interestingly, it doesn't have to be constant; and if done well, an infrequent but memorable cadence can be even more impactful.
There are lots of ways to make your IRL time count. Claire Hughes Johnson, COO of Stripe, encourages teams to focus on
that have been a big hit with my teams. The key is to make them memorable, and to focus on helping your team building connections.
Plan ahead and set a IRL frequency
I would advise teams to set a clear IRL frequency that gets the whole team together on a fixed annual schedule. It should be at least 1-2 times per year, and for teams that can afford it, I would aim for 4. Moreover, I would guide teams to structure these in a regular format that feels different enough from the everyday work experience that the right bonds and connections can be formed.
At Coda, we assemble the whole team together 4 times per year (once per quarter) for a quarterly
. Not only have some of our best ideas come of this tradition, but hackathons by nature also encourage unexpected teams to form. These connections make all the difference as people go back to their home offices.
Below is Coda's actual company calendar (dates and events are slightly modified). It sounds small, but planning the year out like this makes a big difference for members of your team. We also like to see the calendar in a table view to quickly identify periods where we don't have enough IRL interactions.