On a remote team, there are fewer opportunities for team members to build relationships organically. At MeetEdgar, we're ridiculously mindful about creating space for fortuitous human encounters.
One of the ways we do this is with a Question of the Day that gets posted to the MeetEdgar team's Slack watercooler every day. The questions are sometimes silly, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes work-related, and sometimes just plain bizarro. (Quick sidenote: I do intermittently screen QOTD submissions to make sure they're appropriate for work and not too uncomfortably personal.)
This used to be something that happened manually and organically. A team member would toss a question out to the rest of the group, we'd all have a few chuckles, and then hopefully it'd happen again the next day. But sometimes ideas for questions come in bursts, so I wanted to find a way to store questions and share them automatically one at a time.
When searching for an existing solution, these were the criteria I used:
- Team members should be able to submit new questions quickly and easily, without having to log in to any obscure tool or remember how the whole process works
- Questions should get posted once per day, at the same time every day in Slack
Most solutions I found that were easy to submit to would just go directly into Slack at the time of submission. None let you stockpile questions to be doled out daily or on a schedule of your choosing. So, I finally remembered that heyy - I just so happen to have some convenient access to an easy-to-customize automation tool... so, I threw together my own semi-convoluted solution.
Meet QOTD bot:
QOTD bot meets all my criteria. Team members can submit questions whenever they want without having to log in to any extraneous tools (we're heavy Google users already, so a Google Form login isn't a hurdle), and like clockwork, QOTD bot posts a question in Slack at 7am Pacific, 10am Eastern.
Here are all the ingredients you need to rip off this idea exactly:
- A Google account, so you can make a Google Form
- A Twitter account (it can be totally stealth)
- Zapier (a free account can do this)
- A MeetEdgar account
- And finally, a Slack channel with your coworkers!
Set up your Google Form
Head to forms.new and make a new Google Form with 1 short question field. Since we use Twitter as part of this automation, answers should be restricted to 280 characters (the maximum length of a tweet).
Click over to the Responses tab and make a Google Spreadsheet for your form responses by clicking on the little green Google Spreadsheet icon:
You're all set to share the form URL with your team members, so they can add questions to the QOTD bot queue. We keep our form's link pinned in our #general Slack channel for easy access.
Set up a Twitter account
You could hook this up to work with an existing Twitter account, but I chose create a fresh Twitter handle for this. The actual handle doesn't matter and won't be visible in the end result.
Make a QOTD Category in your MeetEdgar account
Then, create a new QOTD library category. This is where all the questions that get submitted via Google Form will be stored for QOTD bot to grab from.
Next, go to your schedule and decide when QOTD bot should send questions out to your team. We like 7am Pacific time / 10am Eastern time every weekday:
Add a time slot at your chosen time(s) for Edgar to post from your QOTD category to your special QOTD Twitter account, like this:
Connect everything together with Zapier
Next, we want to get the questions people submit through the Google Form into your MeetEdgar QOTD library. Since both MeetEdgar and Google Forms integrate nicely with Zapier, you can set up a simple, one-step zap to make it happen:
Make a new zap and select Google Forms as the trigger. Choose "New Response in Spreadsheet" and select the form spreadsheet and worksheet tab from earlier.
For the action step, choose MeetEdgar > "Add Content." Connect your Edgar account, and then set up your new content template.
Pick the QOTD category you created in Edgar, and the QOTD Twitter account you created, then select the Google Form question's response as the text, like this:
Once this zap is up and running, every new question that gets submitted to your Google Form will get zapped into your MeetEdgar library for Edgar to post to Twitter.
The final piece of the puzzle is getting these questions from Twitter into your company's Slack so your team can answer them! We can take care of this with one more super simple zap:
Set up another new zap using Twitter as the trigger app. Connect your QOTD Twitter account and pick "My Tweet" as the trigger action. This means the zap will run every time a new tweet gets posted.
Choose Slack as your action app, then "Send Channel Message." You can format this message however you'd like and have it sent to any Slack channel you want:
Now give your bot a cute little name and icon, and your fancy-pants QOTD automation is done!
Some QOTDs to start with
- What's the strangest/best food you've ever snuck into a movie theater?
- What's your type? http://bit.ly/2jayrmt
- When was the last time you traveled out of state? Where did you go?
- Describe your weekend using 3 emojis
- What's your favorite non-English word?
- What do you think are the most under and over rated things about working from home?
- If your pet suddenly gained the ability to speak, what do you think they'd say to you first?
- What historical fact blows your mind?
- What’s the best thing that happened to you last week?
- If we all worked in an office together, whose lunch do you think you would covet the most?
- What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Is there a point to this?
Broadly, no. It's just for fun.
Answering a QOTD isn't required. It's not forced bonding. Not everybody answers every day, and not every answer spins off into a wacky conversation.
But it's always available. You can ignore it when you want to; you can lurk when you'd rather just read. And if you're ever excited about a topic or someone's answer, it's super easy to join in with follow-up questions or your reaction.
Personally, I do feel a burst of positive energy every time I can be extra silly with my team for a few minutes. On days where we've had a really fun QOTD, when it's time to shift into work-ier topics, I sometimes notice myself offering others extra generosity in conversations or more freely sharing my own thoughts and concerns.
Those are both things that as a leader, I consider a constant work in progress. If a goofy little QOTD bot can help remind me to feed and nurture my relationships at work, then I'm all for it as a practice.
Is this something you'd try with your remote team? Do you have any other strategies to keep your remote team feeling connected? Let me know at @itsmesarahp.