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How We Structure All Hands as a Fully Remote Team

Prefer to listen? Here’s the audio version of this post! 

All Hands, town hall, tea time — there are many names for the meeting where everyone comes together for company updates and announcements.

For us, All Hands is not only an exciting time to see everyone’s smiling faces at once but also a big part of our value to default to transparency. Buffer’s All Hands meetings are a great place to openly communicate with the whole company at once.

As a fully-remote company operating in multiple time zones, our All Hands might look a bit different than traditional, office-based meetings. While it’s tricky to get everyone online at once, we work hard to make the gatherings informative, fun, and uniquely tailored to our remote culture

We’re excited to share our current process for running our All Hands meetings with you, so let’s dive in!

How A Remote All Hands Operates Differently

Being an entirely remote team means our All Hands are a little different than an office-based meeting.

First off, we gather in a virtual place instead of a physical one, using a tool called Zoom that lets every team member join in via video. It’s always neat to see people’s faces (and not just their profile pictures), plus Buffer babies, puppies, and other pets and family members often make it onto the screen as well.

Being spread across the world is awesome for many things, but timing wise, it’s tough for gathering people in one All Hands. We schedule the events well in advance using Google Calendar invitations, and we try to position the call so that as many people as possible can make it to the live event, which means prioritizing a time that works for both the U.S. and Europe. That does mean that it can be tough for teammates in Australia and Asia to join in, and we definitely don’t expect folks to wake up in the middle of the night to attend.

We always record every All Hands so that whether someone is sleeping, off on family leave or vacation, or just can’t make it for some reason, anyone can catch up on what was shared. We’ve also experimented with “viewing parties” for Australia and Asia to make the experience a bit more special!

APAC teammates having an All Hands recording viewing party

Exactly How We Structure All Hands at Buffer

Welcome and Agenda

On the day of an All Hands, we share the Zoom link in Slack five minutes or so before the event so everyone can start jumping in. It usually takes a few minutes for everyone to jump on the call.

We recently started a fun new tradition during the gathering of everyone on the call — letting teammates serve as DJ or live musician! We’ve got a collaborative Spotify playlist we can pull from, and we’ve also got plenty of musically minded and talented teammates. During our last All Hands, one of our teammates played some soothing acoustic guitar as people were joining!

Once we’ve assembled, we hit record and usually our Director of People, Courtney, will start things off by saying hello and letting everyone know the agenda for the All Hands. Often, we’ll also share a link to a Paper doc for folks to ask questions or share thoughts throughout the meeting. Zoom also has a chat feature, so by this time, the chat room has lit up with folks saying hi and checking in.

Celebrations

We love celebrating each other. While we do a lot of it in Slack and Threads, it’s also fun to get a chance to applaud via video chat, so celebrations are the first thing we do in every All Hands. We encourage teammates to un-mute their mics so we can all hear each other celebrating and clapping during this portion. This makes a big difference for us!

Here are a few things we celebrate:

  • Buffer-wide news, like receiving awards and reaching company or financial milestones
  • Bufferversaries and new teammates (Bufferversary = anniversary of when someone started at Buffer)
  • Promotions and role changes
  • Teammate life events — we bring our whole selves to work, which means we celebrate lots of things beyond work! When Bufferoos do things like win a competition, move to a new city or home, run a marathon, grow their family, put on an event, or experience any other exciting life events, we want to cheer them on.
  • Shout outs and gratitude — teammates often recognize each other for doing great work. We try to facilitate this with a lightweight form teammates can fill out ahead of time, as well as a gratitude Slack channel.

Update from Joel

At this point in All Hands, our CEO Joel will jump in with an update from his perspective on how things are doing overall at Buffer. He’ll usually share more about our company goals, vision, and milestones.

Physical Activity Break

Our All Hands usually last about an hour (sometimes a bit longer). That’s a long time to watch a screen, so we’ve recently incorporated a physical activity component about midway through. At one All Ahnds, we had a yogi teammate lead some desk stretches! It was lots of fun, although teammates working from coffee shops might have gotten a few confused looks.

Area Updates

After Joel speaks, representatives from each team give an update on their area. It’s a great way to get a quick read on what’s going on in Engineering, Advocacy, Marketing, Product, and People. This is an opportunity to hear from teams that teammates may not frequently interact with and hear what they’ve been up to.

Group Photo

It wouldn’t be a team gathering if we didn’t take a photo! We usually make fun emoji signs or bring an object or animal with us into the photo.


There are a few other things that happen during All Hands that are pretty unique to a remote All Hands, though they aren’t exactly part of the schedule.

For one thing, we use the chat feature in Zoom a lot. Since we wouldn’t be able to shout out our reactions without talking over the person presenting, we use the chat feature to ask questions, share comments, gratitude, and celebrations during updates. It can be really validating to share an update, and then see a stream of emoji-filled celebrations come through in the chat!

There are also quite a few screenshots taken. Since babies, pets, and partners often make appearances during All Hands, we tend to take screenshots and share them in Slack to identify these fun moments (as with a team of 70+, it’s difficult to see all the moments in Zoom on one screen!) and talk about how happy we are to be seeing each other. It’s often a game to figure out which Bufferoos happen to be together in person that day, based on backgrounds.

How Often We Have All Hands

Since it’s a challenge of its own to get the whole Buffer team on one call, and some people might stay up past their usual work/sleep schedule, we hold All Hands meetings every other month.

The signals we’ve been getting from the team tell us they’d like to get together more often, so we’re also doing Town Halls where our CEO Joel specifically sets aside time to answer any questions that come up.

There are many opinions about the best cadence of All Hands meetings. At Zappos, they shut down their entire office once a year for employees to meet off-site for their All Hands. On the other end of the spectrum, both Google and Facebook have weekly All Hands and Q&A sessions with their teams.

Over to You

The All Hands experience is different at every company, and that’s something to celebrate! For example at Zappos, “employees…who are passionate about singing and dancing regularly have opportunities to perform during All Hands.” We love the idea of embracing what our teammates are excited about, and we’re always looking for ways to make ours unique, personal and fun.

What is your All Hands like? We’d love to know in the comments!

  • Cool idea to provide an audio version! Easier to fit it into my day. What inspired you to try this? Is it something you do often?

    • Thanks, @disqus_F34D4o9AvT:disqus ! Happy to hear it works for you. :)
      I personally prefer audio as well so I thought I’d give it a try. I’m a host on the Buffer podcast so I already had the mic and set up to make it possible which was great.

  • Thanks for posting this. Always fun to get a chance to compare how we do things versus other remote companies.

    Our format at TaxJar is very similar. We use Zoom as well. Welcome new faces / birthdays / anniversaries up front. A metrics update on how things are going to that point in the month. Team leads get 1 minute apiece to relay their single most important update of the week — followed by Q&A after each update. Then we do demos/show-and-tell for anyone who wants to show off a new feature, design, or process.

    We record every meeting so folks who can’t attend can watch later.

    We still meet weekly as a team. We’re currently ~40 people, almost all in the US so it’s not as difficult for us to find a time that works for everyone.

    Question – do you require everyone to be on video? Do folks ever push back saying they’d rather turn off their camera and just be on audio?

    • Hi @MarkFaggiano:disqus! Great to hear your experience with this, thanks for sharing. :)

      Since the vast majority of teammates have their cameras on for the All Hands this hasn’t come up for us but it’s neat to think about! We don’t require everyone to be on video. Usually everyone is on video at the beginning and people may turn their video off if it’s a longer all hands at some point. We also have teammates (though very few) who are joining in the middle of the night so some of them are in the dark and they leave their camera off.

  • At WebLinc, we build and maintain two ecommerce products: the Workarea Commerce Platform and Orderbot Order Management. We have our HQ in Philadelphia across three buildings, the Orderbot team is located in Vancouver, and we have remote team members in North and South America and Europe as well as a generous work from home capacity.

    We have our all hands in the form of a “Friday Meeting.” It’s not on a formal schedule but ends up happening ~monthly. The meeting is from 4-5 EST, and our team sets up a Google Hangout for remote viewing, chatting and shared docs. We have a formal setup for mics & cameras so the broadcast is good quality.

    Our main office space is above a bar (which the company also owns and operates), with a relatively open floor plan. Local employees gather upstairs over beers as we get started. The agenda usually consists of company announcements (updates, HR items, upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, etc.) and is a good time to address critical issues, or rumors/hearsay which occur at every company. This is followed by celebrating anniversaries, then team team presentations. These are anything from a new site launch, customer success stories or internal achievements.

    The most unique part comes last. Every new employee, whether they’re hired to the c-suite or as an intern, has to give a presentation (with slides) about themselves in the Friday Meeting after they’re hired. This can be anything you want, it’s very open-ended. We want to know more about YOU! Of course there is heckling and, occasionally, a spirited Q&A afterward. It’s a truly unique experience, and a good opportunity to start your working relationship with someone not by their job, but by who they are as a person and what makes them tick outside of the office. Often people forget to say what JOB they have at WebLinc.

    Friday meetings were started in the very early days of the company, and as WebLinc has grown over the past 20+ years, we’ve maintained a very inclusive, tight-knit feel through keeping them aligned with their original intent of letting everyone at the company get to know every new employee, regardless of their role.

    • Thanks for listening and sharing, @LouPerseghin:disqus! It’s great to see how you do things here too. How neat that the space is above a bar that the company owns!

  • Jason Zerbin

    Amazing! This is great Hailley.

    • Thank you, @jasonzerbin:disqus! :D

  • love love love the audio. Also fun to see remote meetings done very similarly to how I’ve been used to them. The stretches are a nice idea too, and the screenshots are brilliant!

    • Thanks for the feedback on the audio, @christine_buske:disqus! I’m so happy you’re listening! :)

  • Laura Hanson

    Very impressed by the creative approach to fostering an engaging, collaborative All Hands in a fully remote model. Once again, I love how Buffer lives its values and prioritizes its people!

    • Thank you, @disqus_y0RKJVJUIe:disqus! :)

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