The Friday Z talk - How to keep a remote team motivated

Running a primarily remote team can be ruthlessly efficient. Planned meetings plus a maze of productivity tools like Jira and Notion keep everybody abreast of tasks. But with that efficiency comes the tendency for work to dominate interactions and little time for team bonding.

To balance out this dynamic, remote first teams carve out time for bonding and team-building activities that put the people and their personalities rather than roles first.

At Kippa, one of such activities is the ‘Friday Z Talk’, a Friday afternoon ritual that brings together members of the marketing team for a TED talk-like event with questions and interactions afterwards.

On one such Friday, while the internet network lagged and we waited for the speaker of the day to set up, I spoke to Kippa's outgoing Creative Lead, Sheyi Owolabi who started the tradition, about how it impacts team bonding and improves interactions.

Hey Sheyi. What is the Friday Z Talk and how did it start?

At the beginning of last year, our Team Lead tasked us with coming up with cool tactics and ideas that the marketing team could implement within the team and outside the team.

For one of my ideas, I wanted to introduce something that was not tied to work and brought the team together. Coincidentally, at the time, I was reading a book “Leading from Anywhere’ by David Burkus. It’s a book about how to lead and manage remote teams. One of the chapters suggested developing a team ritual that everyone on the team can rally around in order to aid team togetherness.

I love watching Ted Talks and the concept of having people share ideas they found interesting. I thought we could replicate something like that within the team. That was how ‘Friday Z Talk’ started.

Basically, the Z Talk is styled like TED talks. Team members come to share a cool idea about work, life or anything interesting that the team can learn from.

Can you remember the first ever Z Talk?

Yes! The talk was taken by Duke (Now Kippa’s President), our Team Lead at the time. His presentation was about advertising terms/acronyms and other interesting facts about marketing in general. It was quite insightful,  giving more context to the work that we did every day.

What about your best Z Talk ever?

That's a really tough one.

But I think most people would agree that it was our Games of Slack talk.  Most Z Talks up till that point had semi-serious topics but this one was more carefree and  fun! Because the speaker, Ndochukwu (Social Media team) compared all the team members to Game of Thrones characters (Sidebar- I honestly can’t remember the character I was compared to LOL.)

He dug up old pictures of team members from social media for the presentation. Everyone had a laugh about it  and it was such a fantastic way to bond.

What has been the impact of the Z Talk on the team?

Friday Z talk has become something members of the team all look forward to after a long or tough week. We can laugh or unwind. But beyond that, it has become a kind of market square that brings people together.

During a one-on-one session with one of my colleagues who hosted his first session a couple of weeks after he joined the team, he said hosting his first Z talk made him feel like a proper part of the team. It was in some way a rite of passage for him and the experience made him feel more at ease on the team.
I think that's the beauty of the Friday Z Talk. It creates the space to be authentic humans outside of work.

What advice do you have for teams looking to create their own version of Z Talk?

I think it’s something remote teams should try out. Working remotely can create a space for people to work in silos. Having a ritual like this within the team can help improve collaboration and a sense of togetherness within the team.

Is there any question you were hoping I would ask?

I was hoping you’d ask where the name “Friday Z Talk” came from.

I was just looking for a cool name to be honest. Something that can spark curiosity. The ‘Friday’ part of the name was because we hosted the talks every Friday. While ‘Z’ was a double entendre play on how some Europeans pronounce ‘The’ as ‘Z’, and then ‘Z’ being the last letter of the alphabet a nod to the fact that the talk happens at the end of the work week. That’s it. Friday Z Talk/Friday The Talk.

Solomon Nzere

Solomon Nzere