Inside Humu: 12 Ways We Celebrate Culture at Humu

December 12, 2018 — Written by Meghan Casserly

Tis the season of celebrating for many cultures, which has me thinking about the many ways workplaces invest in their people through culture—and what we might learn from each other.

In the spirit of sharing, here are 12 Humu customs our team celebrates year-round to keep our culture bright. Some may be familiar, some may be surprising, but each one makes work better in its own way.

Lunch bunch

Humu HQ takes our lunch hour seriously every day. But as we grow it gets harder to stay connected with all of our coworkers, so once a month we send random groups of Humuns to eat lunch together somewhere on Castro Street. Smaller groups and time away from our desks create a sweet opportunity for bonding, since that gets more challenging as we add more desks to the office.

Chore chart on Humu wall
Looks like Laszlo and I are on-deck for chore-duty next week.

Chore chart

Yup, one of the ways we foster emergent leadership is through dish duty. Every person at Humu has a rotating assignment to help load the dishwasher and pack up any leftover food from team lunches. The result? A culture where rolling up our sleeves and taking care of our office is the norm.

Three of our cherished trophies that we pass to a new team member each month.

Monthly awards

As a business leader we know once said, you can tell what a company values by knowing what gets rewarded, and the wisdom holds at Humu HQ. Our tradition of passing trophies during our regular all-hands meeting recognizes folks who live-and-breathe our mission to make work better. Big focuses of 2018 have been delighting our partners and recruiting top talent to join our team––and small trophies decorate the recipient’s desk for the next month to mark their contributions.

Rock-paper-scissors

Work isn’t fun and games, but sometimes it should be! Playful games that are quick, inclusive, and low-stakes are a great way for teams (young and old) to connect and take a break from otherwise serious work. A recent Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament got so intense that our upstairs neighbors checked in on us—and one team member showed an unusual spike in activity on her activity tracker.

Humu team basketball
The crew is sweaty and all smiles after another weekly night of Humu Hoops.

Jose’s movie night

And Carly’s game night, and John’s basketball squad, and Griffin’s running club…you get the idea. The passionate people on our team love to share their interests with the rest of us. When someone has a new idea, they post in Slack, add it to the calendar and voila––a new tradition is born! These after work plans range from two people to twenty. And the great stories that come back to the office as a result are hilarious—and heartwarming.

Dio de Muertos altar at Humu
Engineer Jose helped us to build an altar to our ancestors on Dia de Muertos

Learning lunches

As I said, we take lunch seriously. And we’re even more serious about getting to know each other. About once a month (when we’re lucky!), team members plan a special meal or activity to introduce us to an aspect of their culture they’re proud of. We’ve celebrated the Moon Festival, Nigerian Independence Day, Dia de Muertos, and learned about Hawaiian food culture this year—and bringing in the delicacies of our childhoods has become de rigeur.

Standup

It may not seem that exciting, but our daily standup meeting is a 15 minute window where we see each other face to face (including yours truly on the video-conference!) to keep each other informed of any news or decisions that will impact the work of anyone else on the team. This ever-expanding circle is crucial to our culture of transparency, teamwork, asking for help, celebrating victories, and even sharing personal bad news in a supportive environment. Communication for the win!

Giving back

At a startup, every moment matters—and while we’re always trying to carve out more time for volunteering, we can be especially mindful about how we spend our money to benefit the local community. From choosing a “mom and pop” janitorial service run by first-generation immigrants over a corporate cleaner, to purchasing swag from an woman-owned-and-operated company in the Bay Area, we’ve committed ourselves to making every dollar mean as much as it can. It’s easy, and it’s the right thing to do.

Shuffle-and-shine

Did you know that moving who you sit next to can increase creativity and collaboration? We trade up our desks every few months to keep the energy flowing and the new connections forming in our office. Plus, we get to make room for new hires and do a little office cleanup everytime we do it. It’s also a great time for folks to chime in who are looking to find quiet space in the otherwise boisterous office. We recently converted a conference room into a “library” with sound-absorbing wall panels, comfy couches, and a room norm that no conversation is above a whisper.

Designer Jessica get serious with some sound-muffling wall-panels during a recent shuffle.

New hire buddy system

Joining a new company can be rough. You’re not sure who to ask for resources, or what the norms are around things as small as who restocks the seltzer in the fridge (Humu answer: whoever sees it’s running low!). We’ve created a system where every “Numu” is assigned a buddy to help ease the transition. Buddies make introductions, answer questions, and join their new hire for lunch during their first week.

Gratitude, always

My colleague Molly recently wrote a blogpost on the wealth of research on the benefits of gratitude in the workplace, and at Humu being thankful is an everyday activity. Our culture lead Emily is known to bring out a gratitude exercise over the lunchtable, at our all-hands meetings—and even on the Caltrain where a Friday evening “rose-thorn-bud” session is not an uncommon occurrence for the commuters of Humu.

And, of course, nudges

The Humu Nudge Engine has fired off hundreds of thousands of nudges—small, personalized action recommendations—to help employees at our partner companies make work better for themselves and everyone around them. So it should come as no surprise that nudges abound at Humu HQ. On a recent crazy day I received a nudge reminding me to stop and watch a one-minute mindfulness video. Another nuge urged me to ask a colleague whose job I don’t know well to share the best parts of her day. I know her—and Humu—all the better for it.

Thanks for reading, and please share your customs in the comments so we can learn from one another!

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