What is your team spirit animal? 5 step process to boost your remote team morale

Working from home became a "normal" practice in 2020. A new reality that brought new challenges for businesses. The pandemic hit us like a brick.

We all went from 100 to 0 in a second. Companies that were not used to working from home (few days a week) were faced with significant challenges. It is hard to maintain and build great team morale and culture if the environment around you is collapsing.

All those morning coffee rituals with your mates were gone. No more water-cooler chit-chats. No group lunches. No more drinks after work. No in-person socialising. It was hard.

Building great team/company culture in times like this is a project in itself and would take a couple of blog posts to deep dive. Building a great culture is hard on its own. Even if you are all working from the same location. Now, add the sudden work from home to the mix, and it gets even more challenging. The practices you are used to are no longer working or at least not giving the same results.

Having a great team culture is of substantial value. There are many vital areas that the company needs to take into account when building, and more importantly, to maintain the work culture.

One, reasonably small, but also an essential part of the culture, is how each team identifies their values and beliefs.

In your quest to build a great culture, one tool that can help you to inspire your team is to select a spirit animal.

We use animals, artefacts and symbols to bond teams with a sense of shared achievement — pride, loyalty, unity, and belonging.

It might be tempting to just appoint someone from the team to come up with the team spirit animal or mascot. But this really needs to be a team exercise. The best way to select the team spirit animal is to follow our five-step process.

  1. Initial workshop - talk about your teams’ values, the company values. What are the common personality traits inside your team? Maybe extract motivation from the project or application you are building together. Are you a platform or infrastructure team? What characteristics best describe team members? The initial workshop is also an excellent team-building exercise. You’ll probably learn new things about your team members. Identify your characteristics e.g. relentless, fearless, passionate, empathetic, focused.

  1. Brainstorm animals, symbols, artefacts - Don't limit yourselves to just animals. You can have other symbols or artefacts that best describe your team. Go wild with your imagination and use the information gained in the first step.

  1. Vote! As already mentioned — this is a group exercise, and after you narrowed down the list to manageable 3-5 animals/symbols, it is time to start the voting process. Before the official voting begins, you need to define clear expectations and rules. Only members of the team can vote on their spirit animal. The voting needs to be time-restricted - e.g. 2 days. After you are done with the voting, you have selected your new spirit animal! If you correctly did the first two steps, the voting list should only include animals/symbols that the majority have agreed upon. This means that there should be no hard feelings if you voted on an animal that was not a favourite for a particular member. It is essential to talk about this and resolve any resentments.

  1. Create your logo and other merchandise — Don't skip this step! This one is critical and will help you communicate your shared values more easily. If somebody from the inside (your team) has any design experience or talent — ask them to do the logo. Or, if this is not the case, reach your internal (company-level) help and see if someone is willing to help you out. In our case, we asked our internal designer for help and he was more than happy to help us. As he was our internal person, he did a company-branded logo - this is not important, but in our case, it turned out nicely.  Don't stop with the logo - create mugs, hoodies, and T-shirts!

  1. Promote! Depending on the environment you are working in, you need to adapt the strategy and the promotion’s depth. Think of any company-wide newsletters you are sending out. Maybe this would be an excellent place to announce your new team name and logo. Or, if you are using Slack/Teams, use your general channel and make the announcement there. Keep in mind that the symbol is representing your teams’ values and beliefs.

When other people are going to see the symbol what feelings and emotions is it going to bring up? Here are some rules to help you define the best possible spirit animal/symbol that best describes your team.

  • Be respectful.
  • We are keeping in mind the company culture.
  • Does the animal/symbol convey the right message?

After implementing these steps, you should have an awesome spirit animal/symbol! Great job!

When our team started the process of picking our spirit animal we didn’t have such a framework in place. The journey took longer. At some point, it felt unorganised. After we were done we’ve reviewed the process and extracted the five critical steps mentioned.

Now, it is up to you and your team to use the symbol in your day-to-day work as a reminder of what your team stands for.

As mentioned initially, this is just one tool in your toolbox when working on the team culture. There is no silver bullet as each team is different. Adapt the steps provided to better suit your circumstances.

Hopefully, our five-step process will help you pick your spirit animal/symbol. What is yours? 

If our blog post helped you pick one, let us know here.