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Inside Buffer

Buffer’s Virtual Water Cooler: How We Connect, Celebrate and Have Fun As a Remote Team

We’ve talked lots on the blog about how we communicate and the tools we use to get work done as a remote team, but I thought it might be fun to give you a bit of a different view into the life of a Buffer team member. In this post, I’d like to tell you about the ways we communicate that aren’t so much about work.

From GIFs in Hipchat to theme days on Sqwiggle to supportive notes on iDoneThis and even our UP apps, Buffer has a great variety of “virtual watercoolers” that keep us connected in work and play. Here’s an inside look!

Hanging out in Hipchat

Hipchat is where most of our communication goes on each day, which means in addition to getting lots of work done it’s also where we check in to say hi in the morning:

Morning greetings

And do a lot of general hanging out, whether it’s posting a new favorite band to the “Music Sharing” room (recently mentioned: Flight Facilities, Run the Jewels and Steely Dan) or sharing some of the awesome stuff we hear from our great customers.

Hipchat chatter

It’s also a great place to celebrate occasions, like business milestones, anniversaries and birthdays.

Hipchat birthday

Whatever we’re talking about, photos and GIFs are always appropriate.

Empty inbox GIFs

And emojis are a close second….

Hipchat emojis

Goofing off on Sqwiggle

Sqwiggle is our go-to tool for conversations that require some face-to-face time, and it’s also how we sync up for our daily pair calls and weekly mastermind chats (more on those in just a bit).

But since it generally stays on all day with all of our photos, it’s not surprising that it’s become quite a breeding ground for fun, including many silly “theme days,” like thumbs-up day:

thumbs up on Sqwiggle


And sunglasses day:

sunglasses day on sqwiggle

Sharing books and jokes in our Facebook Group

Buffer team members (and their partners, if they like) are invited to join our Facebook group, where we occasionally share articles and jokes like this one:

Facebook group for Buffer

It’s also the spot where all our free Kindle books get listed, thanks a little Wufoo-Zapier action. This way, other team members can get inspired by a new title, or compare notes on a book you have in common.

Facebook group books

Jawbone UP

One of Buffer’s great perks is a Jawbone UP that helps us track our nightly sleep and daily steps. We love to cheer one another on for a great performance on either, so the Jawbone app becomes another spot where we can gather, chat and support each other.

Up sleep

Encouraging teammates in our improvements hackpad

Each new week at Buffer, we take time to reflect on our self-improvement goals for the week and write them down in a group hackpad. These are the improvements we’ll work on throughout the week (and often, even longer) and discuss on our pair calls.

Since hackpad has a neat comments feature, this shared document often becomes a spot for us to share common challenges, recommend apps and tools or just cheer each other on as we work on achieving our goals. Here’s a look at a recent entry from Nicole that got lots of love.

Improvements notes

Fun and work notes in iDoneThis

iDoneThis is where we each keep a daily log of what we’ve accomplished that day. It mostly focuses on work tasks, but it’s great to include extracurriculars and improvements as well. Lots of interesting conversations can arise from those types of “dones,” like this one from Ă…sa:

Ă…sa idonethis

A bit of fun and silliness here is not too uncommon, either:

iDonethis 2

Standups, Hangouts and syncs

Various small groups are often syncing up throughout the day at Buffer as we all work on different projects and priorities. When we sync up in a Google Hangout, there’s often a bit of time devoted to trying out all the fun tools Google provides us. :)

Goofing off in a Hangout

Daily catch-ups and bonding with pair calls

Buffer’s pair calls are one of my favorite things! With a growing team spread across the globe, it’s so much fun to find out Monday who your pair partner is for the week and spend some time each day catching up with them as you talk about work projects and self-improvements.

We’ve explained how the pair call works before, and I thought it might be helpful to see an example of one in action, too. My pair partner last week was Nicole, our lovely Community Champion, and this is what one of our chats looked like:

Deep dives with masterminds

Once a week, each team member at Buffer pairs up with another for what we call our “weekly masterminds.” Our idea of a mastermind has evolved from the team lead-team member pairing we started with to the teammate-to-teammate version we now practice since we began experimenting with the decision maker way of working.

These are deep dives into high-level challenges and accomplishments, shared with the same partner each week for the highest level of trust and vulnerability possible. We’re paired based on similarities in our work, but the conversations are often just as much about our personal lives and improvements as they are about what we’re doing at work.

Joel and Leo recently opened up and shared some of the challenges they discussed in a recent mastermind:

Joel challenges

Leo challenges

The best masterminds require getting quite vulnerable and introspective as we focus on deep and ongoing self-improvement. We tend to leave these syncs feeling pretty great. :)

Over to you

So there’s a quick look at some of the ways we work and play together as a fully remote team. It’s very different than any other workplace I’ve ever had, and I have to say I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

What are some of the gathering spots for community and fun where you work? I’d love to hear about them or even see them in the comments!


  • I think you buffer heroes are awesome! I wish I could hang out more with you. I hang out via many social media plus local hangs outs too. Like our local chamber of commerce, Meet UPS and non profit groups.
    Check out my Interview with
    Find me on FB:
    Find me on Twitter:
    Hope you find time to hang out with me too at the water cooler!!

    • Hey there! Wow, it seems like you are doing lots of great networking. Way to go!

  • Monica Foster

    Ya’ll look like you have a lot of fun!! By the way, theme days are my jam!

    • There’s never a dull moment! :) Got any theme day ideas for us, Monica?

      • Monica Foster

        My favorites are twin day (coordinate with a co-worker), tourist day, unusual super heros, and dress as you favorite literary character.

        • Oooh, those sound like a ton of fun! Love the literary character idea! Thanks!

  • Emily.Stout

    Well, you guys are officially the cool kids of the inter web! Do you only wear pink on Wednesdays?
    All of these examples (plus this other article you wrote ) are AWESOME. I work remotely with Venly ( teaching small businesses how to use social media for SEO & customer engagement) so I too communicate with the mothership daily. BUT… I just shared this article with my co-workers because you guys are #Winning the connection game! I want to bring some of these ideas to our online workspace… Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?
    So thank-you Buffer, I hope you’re happy, because we’re all officially jelly. Keep it up!

    Green with envy @Emily.Stout

    • Hi Emily! Thanks for all the love and kind words! It sounds like you have an awesome workplace, too. Feel free to borrow liberally any of our ideas that you like, or riff on them to create something totally new. I’d love to hear what you come up with!

      P.S. Killer Mean Girls reference!

  • OK, this is my new favorite Open post, Courtney! :)

    Carolyn’s use of “Buffery” had me *literally* LOL’ing – like, full-out guffawing (it’s a real word, I promise)!

    Lastly, I’m glad to see a healthy dose of GIFerization (new word that I just made up) is encouraged amongst the team. :)

    I used to think that Zappos was the only “real” job that I’d ever want to be a part of, but I gotta say, Buffer has officially taken the cake. ;)

    Please keep these fun, transparent posts coming. I’m hoping more companies follow suit!


    • I’m really glad you liked this one, Thea! It feels great to keep digging and thinking on what avenues we could show y’all that we haven’t before. Haha, yep we all were tickled by the transparent tape joke. :) Pun humor is a Buffer favorite.

  • Wow, I love this post so much Courtney, so much thanks for sharing all of that what you do. Especially the pair call is great. Love to hear you and see what are you actually talk about and how inspiring it is. Looking forward to more examples of pair calls :)

    • Hey Petr! Thanks for giving this one a look! I’m really glad you enjoyed it. It was fun to think on all the ways we connect and to record the pair call. Great nudge on recording a few more; I’ll see what I can get going! :)

      • That would be great! Thanks a lot for your daily inspiration and continuous improvement and transparency. Love you guys!

  • benblair

    Fun article. Loads of tips and tools here I’m gonna put to use. Thanks Courtney!

  • Vincenzo Belpiede

    Love this! what other companies are successfully managing and growing remote teams at fast growing startups?

  • Thx for sharing

  • Martin

    Virtual birthday cards for remote staff anyone? :P

  • Rebecca McLaughlin


    Hi there,

    My name is Rebecca McLaughlin and I am a student at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. As part of my Masters in Applied Psychology Dissertation I am conducting research on remote workers. Specifically, I am investigating for whom remote work is best suited, how organisations can ensure success in implementation, and the potential outcomes of these arrangements. The resulting knowledge will contribute by allowing the benefits of remote work to be more widely enjoyed and further advancements to be made in the contemporary working environment.

    If you work remotely, I would greatly appreciate your participation – you even have the chance to win a prize! Additionally, if you know of others who remote work please share this information with them. The more people who participate, the more accurate and valuable the results. Your help with the distribution of this survey is much appreciated!

    Survey Link

  • Nazim

    A Big WOOWW!!!
    Is this real????
    Amazing. You guys are owesome and your working practice is one of the key factors of your tremendous success.
    Keep it up guys.
    I wish I could have same culture in my career as well.

  • Kasidee Lynn

    I work on a remote team that spans all of North America and I’d love to chat with someone further about what types of community building things Buffer does? Are there any remote off-sites? How do you separate work time from “hangout” time or is it very integrated? Would love to chat!

  • Such a great post, Courtney, and still quite relevant 4 years later! One option I’d like to add, for the possibility of delighting a remote employee with a surprise on their birthday, work anniversary (“Buffer-versary” in your case), new baby, or other special occasion is VidHug. It makes it super easy to coordinate a surprise video starring the team, you simply invite them to join, they easily record a happy message at a time that suits them (asynchronous is gold in remote!), and VidHug does the rest to create a beautiful surprise!

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