Zoonk icon

Informal communication

Building channels where people can share random information

Created by Will Ceolin
Created on Apr 30, 20 - Updated on Jun 8, 20

Great remote companies have channels for where people can about . GitLab advocates for companies to be explicit about informal communication. This means creating channels and practices to encourage people to "maintain social connections and trust". Usually, those practices are explained in the company's handbook.

It's important to encourage informal communication. It helps to creating a better working environment for everyone while improving performance.

In all-remote environments, there should be a greater emphasis placed on carving out time to get to know one another as humans. To connect and bond as empathetic beings with interests, emotions, fears, and hopes — people, not just colleagues. 

In a traditional organization, informal communication might be easier because you have random interactions throughout the day. For remote companies, you need to create proper channels to encourage that kind of communication. Some practices might include:

Chat channels

It's common for companies to create channels in their official communication tool (e.g. Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc.) to encourage random communication. Some ideas for channels include: , , , , , , , etc. Please, make it a safe, inclusive space. Don't judge or make fun of your colleagues' preferences.

Group calls

Create channels to facilitate group calls. They can be spontaneous like having a Doodle where people can schedule social calls in their own time or you can have a fixed time slot for those calls (e.g. every Friday at 4 p.m.).

Either way, make sure your group calls are really about socializing and not about work. Talk about your interests, what you have done, anything that you like. GitLab has a "take-a-break call": it's a weekly call where they choose some topics for team members to discuss. You can talk about hobbies, sports, travel, family, etc.

But not everyone enjoys group calls, so don't make it mandatory. It has to be a fun activity for those joining it. Make sure your team knows it's an optional activity. Some companies will have "optional" activities that are actually mandatory. If some people don't join them, they're seen as "bad team players." Don't be like that. Everyone is different and have different needs. Celebrate diversity.

Be human

You can encourage informal communication even during formal work. Just be human. Sometimes, we'll get interrupted by our pets, kids or even a noisy neighbor. Welcome those interruptions.

This is an opportunity to bond and to humanize the work experience. Take a few minutes to talk to the person if they are open to it, or ask the team member to share more about their pets/family. 

Also, don't be afraid to use emojis and GIFs. They're fun!👩‍🎤

Visiting grants

GitLab offers a travel grant of up to $150 to cover for transportation expenses while visiting coworkers in their city. It might be an interesting idea to encourage coworkers to know each other and their cultures. However, global companies having coworkers in multiple countries would probably need a higher budget for this activity.

Team events

Some companies have team events during the year where everyone travels to spend some time together (usually one week). If your team is organizing such events, make sure you're paying all expenses. It's also important to make sure it won't conflict with other personal appointments team members might have already scheduled.

Ask your team

Don't take this guide too seriously. Remote organizations are always evolving and so are their practices. Make sure you're always transparent with your team and ask them how they feel about it. If you develop a cool new practice for informal communication, please come back here and edit this page to share your experience with other people.