Culture and Remote Teams

by | Jun 15, 2020

How Athlon curates culture across three global offices

Athlon co-founder Ranzie Anthony talks us through his agency’s approach to culture

Athlon is an agency of 75 people – a design and innovation company. All its engineers are based in Bulgaria, and design, UX, strategy teams based in London and North America. At Agency Hackers, co-founder Ranzie Anthony talked about how they “glue” the team together – even though they are thousands of miles apart.

Ranzie spent some time talking about Global Gathering – Athlon’s annual employee event. “We get everybody together in Bulgaria – we’ve been doing it for 4 years now. It’s the one time in the year where we have a proper reset. It’s important, because if you’re engaging with your colleagues through a screen, there’s only so much you can do. Culture requires investment but delivers tangible rewards.”

Athlon has teams based in Toronto, NYC, Sofia and London, and Ranzie explains how they establish a sense of “one team” across all these locations.
Athlon believes that people who don’t physically work together still need to feel connected.

“We want to create a sense of belonging – especially if you’re in different locations. So, it’s like seeing a cousin, rather than somebody you don’t know.”

Athlon will ‘mix up’ teams – and get people working from different locations.
One tactic they use is for employees to “swap locations”. A designer in New York will swap with a project manager in London. “It’s great for culture and retention. Even though somebody might be on the other side of the planet, they’re as much of a colleague as if they were sat next to you.”

One challenge Athlon is still trying to solve are cross-team projects.

“Being ‘one global team’ was an epic failure” said Ranzie. “This has been quite painful for us. Trying to collaborate across time zones on a project is actually quite stressful. We thought: ‘We’ll be one global team. We’ll have a designer over here, and a PM over here – we’ll have the best people working on it! But it was a nightmare.”

“The practicality of having a client ask for something and you want to go home, and you’ve got to stay on a call late – nightmare.”