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How We Stay in Sync as a Distributed Team: The Buffer Pair Call

Jul 24, 2014 2 min readWorkplace of the future
Photo of Courtney Seiter
Courtney Seiter

Former Director of People @ Buffer

Most companies have meetings of some sort. Many startups have daily standups.

As a fully remote and distributed team with members in a variety of countries, continents and time zones, Buffer meetings have to be a bit different by necessity.

When the team was much smaller (like 7 people), Buffer held daily standup meetings with the whole team. Eventually time zone differences between the US, UK and Asia made it impossible to find a good time of day to meet.

We thought about how we could keep the face-to-face aspect that is so key in a distributed team, and from that thought process the idea of the pair call was born.

How the pair call works

It works like this: Teammate who are interested in participating join a special Slack channels called People-Pairs.

Then we use a Slackbot called Donut, which pairs everyone in the channels once a week and prompts them to set up a call.

Once we find out the week’s pairs, one member of the duo will get in touch with the other to set up a good time to chat. Then we sync for 30 minutes via a Zoom video call, to talk about what’s going on in our lives and what we’re hoping to accomplish that week at Buffer.

For the most part, if you pick any two places where we have teammates, there is usually a time that works well for both that sits almost within “normal working hours.” Extreme cases can be 7 a.m. or 6 p.m. or so, but generally it is pretty manageable.

These calls are always optional, but even timings that are difficult are often worth negotiating around as they give us a chance to connect with some of our faraway teammates we may not have touched base with in a while.

Teammates can come or go as they please from the channel, depending on what works for their schedule.

Building these relationships and friendships is really worthwhile, and it’s great to support each other in our work and personal lives and take time to get to know each other better!

Here’s an inside look at a pair call I did a while back with my awesome teammate Nicole:

Do you think a process like this could make sense to help connect you to team members at your workplace? Do you have questions about the pair call we didn’t get to? We’d love to hear your thoughts on pair calls in the comments.

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