3 ways to do remote team building with Spotify

The hardest part of remote work is team building. Every remote team leader we talk to is looking for fresh ways for the team to bond outside of the context of work. Here's one:

Music is an under appreciated angle for bringing your team together.

3 reasons to lean into music on your remote team.

  1. Nearly everyone likes music. While you may see mixed attendance at virtual happy hours, and not everyone’s into online games, music is a safe bet.
  2. Music creates room for personality. We’ve all sat through icebreakers where we felt forced to talk about “fun” topics. On the other hand music is a rich canvas that we connect to our cultural and life experiences.
  3. Music fosters connection—without a scheduled meeting. Music is at the very least rich topic for asynchronous discussion. And unlike a happy hour, coworking to music in the background is a great shared experience that doesn’t require taking 30 minutes away from work.

For example, music helps Heather connect with her teammates:

3 tactics to foster remote culture with music.

1. Create a Slack channel for sharing music.

Your team probably has one already. If not, create one, post it in #random, ask everyone to share a current favorite, and you’ll be on your way.

Our channel is called #social-current-jams and nearly the whole team is active on it. Shared music often stirs up long team conversations where we learn more about each other.

2. Build collaborative, shared playlists in Spotify.

We have a single company-wide “Collaborative Playlist”in Spotify called Remotion Jams. It’s fun and eclectic.

Our collaborative playlist—which at this point is 18 hours long!

Although anyone can add to it in Spotify, we’re lazy and used Zapier to set things up so any track posted in #social-current-jams gets added to the playlist.

Our Zap that automatically builds a company playlist from Slack activity.

How to implement: This Zap is very straightforward to set up. The only tricky step is “2. Attempt to regex extract Spotify track ID.” That step is an “Extract Pattern” Transform with this pattern: https:\\/\\/open\\.spotify\\.com\\/track\\/([a-zA-Z0-9]+)\\?.

If you need help, holler at me at @embirico on Twitter or alexander@ via email.

More advanced playlist building: Your imagination’s the limit! A few ideas we like:

Bonus: If you’re looking for a fun platform to collect and share multiple playlists, check out wfh.fm: Our side project meant to be “Collaborative Poolsuite for Teams.”

3. Cowork to music from Spotify together.

Companies with physical offices have lobby music or shared speakers. Who says remote teams can’t do the same?

Listening to music is a great shared non-work experience. It also creates room for the casual conversations that build relationships. Music takes the edge off feeling like someone needs to fill silence with talking—unlike a happy hour. And that “silence” creates space for more authentic conversations about someone’s day, family, pets, feelings, or whatever comes to mind.

How to Implement:

  • In Zoom, share screen with the “Share sound” option enabled.
  • In Meet, share a tab with “Share tab audio” enabled.
  • Use live Spotify sharing in Remotion [Download free here]. Remotion has lightweight, audio-first coworking rooms where you can listen to music from Spotify or YouTube with your remote team. The music plays on your own computer so you can bookmark tracks you like, and we’ve thought through all the details like lowering music volume when people are talking, so you don’t have to wear headphones.
Shared Spotify Listening in Remotion.

What musical rituals and activities does your team have? I’d love to hear about them and build them into Remotion: @embirico on Twitter or alexander at remotion dot com. Or let us know if you have other non-music-related ways to invest in building remote culture.

Want to try coworking to music from Spotify in Remotion? Download the app free here.

The case for virtual coworking: build a connected remote culture.

Regularly coworking with your hybrid or remote team can help you build the social cohesion that makes work feel less like work.

Here are the biggest reasons we think coworking is an effective way to create a close-knit remote culture:

1. It fosters casual conversations.

Building a connected remote culture is all about fostering 1:1 or small group organic conversations. Virtual coworking makes space for those conversations. When you spend time together outside of agenda-driven meetings, spontaneous chats naturally occur, as they would in an office.

2. It's more inclusive than scheduled social events.

It can be draining for introverts to have to participate in scheduled, purely social conversations. Coworking allows the team to spend time together and occasionally chat without having to constantly be "on," making it more inclusive for introverts and extroverts alike.

3. It's easy to say yes to.

Purely social events are important, but if your team is busy or on a tight deadline, it's tough to find the time for social chats without it feeling like an obligation. Coworking is much easier to get your team onboard with because it doesn't take time away from getting work done.

4. It improves remote collaboration.

Coworking can lead to unblocking and shorter feedback loops. Quick questions get answered easily and in the moment, without a having to schedule a meeting or go back-and-forth in messages.

5. It's scalable.

Coworking works for teams of all sizes and is a great way to scale your remote culture as your team grows. It's helpful to create opportunities for teammates from different functions to get to know one another.

6. It creates shared momentum.

The feeling of togetherness is motivating!

Get started with virtual coworking: choose the type most aligned with your priorities.

It takes intentionality to make virtual coworking feel natural and energizing enough to stick—it's not as simple as leaving a Zoom call open all day.

Here are a few of the ways we've set coworking up for our team. We recommend choosing one to start with. If it works, make it routine and experiment with other types from there.

Best practices for virtual coworking.

Keep group sizes small.

Limit your coworking sessions to 4-6 people to keep things from getting distracting and help make introverted teammates comfortable chatting.

Signal boost coworking.

Set a norm of letting the entire team know when you're hopping into a coworking room or session.

Make it routine.

Once you've figured out what kind of coworking works for your team, make it a regular, opt-in event. Set up a recurring calendar event to do it at the same time each week to maximize the impact.

Set expectations ahead of time.

When you're first introducing coworking to your team, share what you're imagining in your calendar invite and at the top of each session to get everyone on the same page. For example:

Let's try virtual coworking! We'll work independently on our own projects with our cameras off, but we'll share space and listen to music together — like we might work side-by-side at the office.

Listen to music together.

Play music while you work to create a shared environment and add a little bit of personality to your coworking session.

Set up Coworking Rooms in Remotion.

Most of the above is doable with any video chat app, but much easier with Remotion—which we designed with a lightweight, smooth coworking experience in mind. Easily set up Remotion rooms that your teammates can hop into for different styles of coworking.

We'd love to hear how coworking goes for you, or what practices you've found helpful on your team — let us know @remotionco on Twitter.

Want to try coworking in Remotion, our virtual office? Get free access today.