Yoast started out as a hobby. When we first began our company, we were really keen on making work at Yoast fun. Yoast was a group of friends, a family even. At the same time, or maybe even because of that, we worked really hard. And that hard work paid off! As Yoast started to grow, it became really important to us that our company culture remained (somewhat) the same. We want to nourish that fun, safe environment where everyone knows each other. And that has been a huge challenge!

I am starting a series of blog posts about the importance of company culture and the way we try to protect that culture at Yoast. In this post, I will discuss the importance of knowing your coworkers. Also, I want to describe the things we do at Yoast in order to make sure that people know each other.

Why is knowing your colleagues important to us?

Within teams, it is important that people know about each others’ lives (at least to some extent). If colleagues know about each others’ background, they can help each other out, they’ll be more understanding if something goes wrong. It’s just easier to work together with people you know. You can anticipate their routines and you know what to expect from them. On top of that, asking help from a stranger is much more scary than asking for help from someone you know.

When Yoast was small, making sure that co-workers knew each other didn’t need any effort. But now our company has grown to 90 people. If we do not help our Yoasters to get to know each other, people will probably stay within the safe circle of their closest colleagues. They won’t get to know the people on the other side of our company. And I think that wouldn’t be a desirable situation.

I want our developers to find their way to our marketing department if they have a good marketing idea. I want our UX-designers to feel at ease with our HR-department. Encounters between people who usually do not work together often lead to the best new ideas!

We want our colleagues to know each other because that’ll create a safe atmosphere to work in. That’ll make them flourish. That’ll help us create healthy company culture. Above that, we want our colleagues to get to know each other because they’ll reach out to one and other more easily, which will lead to better results.

How do you get to know your colleagues?

At Yoast, we do lots and lots of things to make sure that people get to know each other. Most of these things and events are just great fun! I often think that my colleagues see me as this enthusiastic party-animal that comes up with yet another frivolous event. And although I enjoy a good party, most of my frivolous ideas are well thought trough.

The Know-Your-Colleague-quiz

Twice a year we do a know-your-colleague-quiz at Yoast. People fill out a questionnaire with random questions about their favorite color, their favorite music and what sports they played in school. I make a quiz out of all of their answers. Everybody gets to do that quiz in which they have to guess the favorite color and music of their co-workers. People are allowed to talk to each other in order to get the right answers. Most Yoasters get quite competitive. That’s understandable, because we always have great prizes and big trophies to win. It is a great and fun way to get to know your coworkers. And it works. When you’ve talked to someone about their favorite color, it is much more easy to approach that person after that (with a work-related question).

The Flex-week

As the number of colleagues gets bigger, the number of offices grows as well. Encouraging people to work in a different office once in a while is a great way to make sure that co-workers get to know each other. And that’s why we invented the Flex-week. In the Flex-week people are encouraged to work in at least 4 different offices in one week. We actually have offices distributed over 4 buildings, so we instructed our Yoasters to work in 4 different buildings in one week. As everybody is ‘flexing’, you encounter colleagues you normally wouldn’t work with and that is great fun, leads to new ideas and inspiring conversations.

Yoast offices, colleagues working together

Activities other than working

Participating in activities other than working are a great way of getting to know your colleagues too. Doing something fun together is an opportunity to talk about something else than work.

We recently started a fitness program. We work out in groups of 4 colleagues and a personal trainer. This program was initiated as part of our ‘health-is-important’ project, but it also had an awesome impact on colleagues getting to know each other. Working out together, having sour muscles together, hating our personal trainer together (he’s really a great guy, except during those workouts), people started bonding. Next to working out, we regularly do all kinds of other crazy activities together: we went kanoeing, segwaying and we love some good karaoke!

Knowing your colleagues is important for a healthy company culture

Healthy company culture is important. People need to feel safe in order to achieve their best work. That’s why we do all these crazy fun things at Yoast. That’s also why I started the empowerwoment project at Yoast. If people get to know each other, they will feel more at home. They will feel safe. And if people with different backgrounds talk and work together, the company will grow even further.

Lots of companies in our niche have employees distributed all over the world. The support team of Yoast is also distributed, but the rest of our team is located at our offices in Wijchen. While a system of co-workers distributed around the world has its merits for sure, we strongly believe in working together in an office. That just works for us. Still, also for distributed companies, knowing your colleagues is important. And, the know-your-colleague-quiz can also be done over slack!

Published by Marieke van de Rakt

Marieke is partner at Emilia Capital. She is an investor, an entrepeneur at heart and a marketeer. She has a PhD in social sciences and is the mother of four kids. Next to that, she's a feminist, a ballerina and a diet coke addict.