Learning something new by getting to know each other better: Book Club at Fonoa

User Experience Researcher
Sarah Shepherd

Team building’s role is vital in nurturing strong company culture. To bring our remote team together, we regularly hang out after work virtually. The virtual Book Club is one of our favourite communities at Fonoa, where we can always learn something new and bond as a team. 

When you work remotely, you miss interactions and spontaneous conversations that happen naturally in an office. These interactions are needed to feel good at work and get to know each other. At Fonoa, we meet in person as the whole team twice a year (and in smaller teams once a quarter), which means we take advantage of the opportunity to build communities virtually to bring us closer together as a team. 

The idea of a virtual book club at Fonoa came from one of our co-founders. The goal was to have an informal way to bring the different teams together in a way that isn't solely focused on our everyday activities, but rather to get inspiration and have interesting discussions. Book clubs mean great opportunities to learn about new things related to our work but are not explicitly task-oriented. 

Virtual get-together with a literary twist

At Book Club, we read some chapters of a selected book and then discuss them. We meet every other Friday morning on Mibo, our virtual island meeting place. We kick off discussing what people think about the book so far and what's sticking out as particularly interesting or relevant for us. Usually, people link what we're reading to other books, articles or theories, so we discuss the bigger picture too. It's a laid-back, easy-going meeting where we usually end up laughing. 

Fonoa provides us with some money to buy ourselves breakfast or coffee, making the experience even better. 

We choose what to read next together. We have a list that anyone can add to, then we vote on the top 5 - 6 from that list. When we finish a book, we do a poll with the most popularly voted books. 

We appreciate learning together. 

Our Book Club sessions allow us to learn about things outside our usual domain. Never Split the Difference, a book we have recently read, is a great example of that. It’s about negotiations written by a former international hostage negotiator for the FBI. None of us needs that level of negotiation in our everyday lives, but still, it was interesting to see the examples the book presents. 

We have really lively conversations about what we learn and sometimes try to experiment with learning by incorporating them into our everyday lives, then report on how it went. Book club meetings are also a fantastic way to see people you may not regularly work with; for me, it's been one of the best ways to get to know my co-workers on a more personal level. 

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