Keeping a Remote Team Connected: Oomph’s 2022 Summit

Being part of a 100% remote team has its ups and downs.

While Oomph had remote employees well before the pandemic, we shifted to a fully distributed team as a result of it. And while the glorious flexibility we have to work from anywhere in the US is hugely supportive, it comes with some challenges — like feeling disconnected.

As a personal team, relationship building is crucial to us, and we’ve used virtual and in-person gatherings for years to help us unite. While the pandemic sure did squash our ability to share physical space, it also reinforced the importance of supporting each other. So, when it finally felt safe enough to get the band back together, we rallied our employees from coast to coast for our first company-wide, in-person gathering in over two years.

Despite some lessons learned, I think the 2022 Oomph Summit may have been our best one yet.

Bringing Our Purpose to Life

Earlier this year our CEO unveiled a core purpose at Oomph, which immediately contributed to our connectedness: we’re here to elevate our people, our clients, and our communities. While the Summit was designed with a balance of fun, reflection, and learning, it was ultimately aimed at personifying our purpose. Anchored in that awesomeness, we set out to focus our content and activities around two words that became our catchphrase: Celebrate & Elevate!

Akili Greer, UI Designer, perfectly captured the Summit’s energy with his event logo

Goal: Elevate Our People

Using The Predictive Index as a catalyst, we explored how we work, think, and communicate. The outcome was a Personal User Guide (aka a PUG) that we each created to help others learn more about us and how we can work together most effectively. (For instance, I talk to think and can interrupt others out of enthusiasm or curiosity. Helpful to know, right?!)

“We don’t often share with our teammates our personal preferences and what makes us tick, and I enjoyed how open and honest this conversation was.”

— Ashley Estes, UX Architect

We paired with Wildgoose, and embarked on their outdoor Urban Explorer Scavenger Hunt, exploring downtown Providence, RI (where we’re headquartered). An equation emerging from this experience would be: camaraderie + silly challenges + trivia = WIN. Bonus: we also now have memories, like Senior Back-end Engineer Ben H. singing Bon Jovi atop a giant planter, to keep us warm at night.

We deal with a fair amount of ambiguity and change in our work (nevermind, um, the uncertainty of daily life on planet Earth). Enter LifeLabs Leaning, and their Adaptivity and Resilience workshop, which honed in on skills to help us stay calm, focused, and manage change even when things get messy — handy tools for a smart, driven, and personal team.

At Oomph, we have a deep and genuine appreciation for each other. While we clearly celebrated simply being in-person at the Summit, (we literally had social distancing badges to ID the huggers among us) we’re not so great at celebrating throughout the year. So we spent some time talking about what, why, and how to celebrate meaningfully at individual, squad, and company levels.

J., our Director of Design & UX, smartly set up an old school printer for an IRL photo wall

Goal: Elevate Our Clients

With a homegrown game show called “Wheel of Strategy Feud!,” our intrepid VP Matt O’ drove it home that strategic thinking isn’t some highly ambitious super skill for a select few. It’s a skill that everyone can build with a little forward thinking and some practical tools. Also, dueling call bells FTW.

“This gave everyone the same baseline language for communicating about how to help clients achieve goals, creating alignment and opportunities for us all to think together.”

— J. Hogue, Director of Design & UX

We heart innovation at Oomph and don’t limit ourselves to applying it solely to tech. For us, innovation is new ideas, period. However, there was one clear winner in our drive for innovation at the Summit: TeamWorx BattleBots! This workshop was a hit. And I mean a direct hit. With small teams behind them, our bots battled to protect precariously-placed balloons in a flurry of wheels, frame-smashing mayhem, and needle-wielding mechanical arms hellbent on destruction.

Who knew our conference room made an ideal battle arena?!

Image of a portion of a slide presentation about strategic thinking
We can all be strategic thinkers — as with any skill, we just need to practice

Goal: Elevate Our Community

We are a super proud member of 1% for the Planet and focused this part of our Summit on partnering with the Rhode Island chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

This had two approaches. Some of us set out to problem-solve three pain points the chapter had identified on their website. Our folks leaned on their digital expertise and some newly acquired strategic thinking tools to develop solutions. Meanwhile, another crew volunteered to build bog bridges and helped lay 175 feet of new boardwalk at RI’s Whitehead Preserve in Little Compton. Brains and brawn.

“Volunteerism is a big part of my life. Aligning how we do business with my personal charge of giving back wherever I can is empowering.”

— Jack Hartman, Head of Delivery

A screen capture of a Tweet from the Nature Convervancy, thanking our team for their hard work
Building bog bridges to help The Nature Conservancy make nature more accessible

Biggest Lesson Learned

Not everyone on the team was able to attend in-person, so for the first time in Summit history, we tried to accommodate our virtual folks through a hybrid approach. And… we learned a lot about what we could do better! Collaborative improvements for a higher quality remote experience are in the works for next year.

Where Do We Grow From Here?

It’s been a few months since the Summit, and while the energy has quieted, the cohesion is still palpable. Overwhelmingly, what I continue to feel most is the immense gratitude for and from each other.

Overall, keeping the Summit momentum going is a shared responsibility. To carry forward the new knowledge and skills we explored, we need to apply these to our day-to-day work. We’ve leveraged our tools to help (Slack profiles became PUGs, we activated the Predictive Index Slack app, we launched Lattice and can celebrate weekly wins and praise.) We can flex our strategic thinking skills and deepen our resiliency and adaptivity. We can reignite the energy of innovation by trying out new ideas. We can remember that on the days we feel least connected, we’re united in purpose.

Being part of a 100% remote team has its ups and downs. But when you can work from anywhere and still feel connected, it’s truly the best of both worlds.

Note: Any links I’ve included to vendors, partners, etc. are based on our experience with them — I was provided absolutely nothing to mention/link them and do it only as a zealous fan of sharing knowledge and resources. If you’re curious to know more about the planning and execution of our Summit in this post-pandemic world, please reach out anytime!

Interested in joining our team? Check out our job openings or contact us for more info.