In the working world, colleagues need to connect with one another over things beyond the office. Start a conversation with a coworker, and you might find yourself engaged in discussions about anything from music to food, current events to travel.
But in Northern California and Toronto, the usual small talk has been eclipsed lately by one of the most enthralling NBA finals in recent memory. The Toronto Raptors have already made history by reaching the finals for the first time. Meanwhile, a victory for the Golden State Warriors would be their third-straight title and firmly establish them as one of the most dominant NBA teams ever.
WeWork employees in the Northern California and Toronto regions are stoking the competitive fire. It started during a recent community meeting, when talk turned to the finals, says Northern California community director Adam Weinke. “It was on all of our minds,” he says Weinke. That’s when a group of Golden State Warriors fans—including fellow North Cal community directors Daisy Chaffee and Greg Rosso and general manager Elton Kwok—suggested reaching out to the Toronto team to propose a friendly competition.
“Sports are most fun when fans feel personally and collectively invested with other fans … especially when you’re rooting against people you know,” says Weinke.
For Toronto community director Jared Paperman, the contest was a no-brainer.
“The pride we have in this Raptors team is special. It’s brought us all closer together. Taking on one of the greatest teams of all time in the finals is unprecedented, so we’re just having fun building on that excitement,” says Paperman, an avid Raptors fan.
Each side agreed to a multifaceted challenge that involves basic physical exercises (and, ultimately, wearing the opposing teams’ jerseys as punishment), as well as constant chatter and real-time analysis in a Slack channel of employees from both regions.
For the competition, the regions agreed that fans of each game’s losing team has to complete a physical challenge: pushups for Game 1; forearm plank for Game 2; the dreaded burpee for Game 3; sit-ups for Game 4; jumping jacks for Game 5; air squats for Game 6; and lunges for Game 7.
Over the last two weeks, as this dazzling series has unfolded, employees have been embroiled in a Slack battle, which serves as the platform for banter, officiating complaints, GIFS, and videos from the competition.
“It’s competitive,” says Paperman. “But at the end of the day, it’s the passion we all have for the game that brings us closer to one another, regardless of which team. That’s the reason we value this initiative above anything else.”
That said, his side has grown stronger, as WeWork teams across Canada have joined the competition, proud to see the Raptors holding strong. “At first it was just our Toronto team facing off against all of WeWork North Cal,” Paperman says. “But as the Raptors built momentum, word of the transnational competition spread, and soon there was a unified contingent of WeWork employees from Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, all united in our Raptors’ championship dream.”
Some individuals have even upped the ante. Paperman has doubled down against Jarrod Silva, a senior community manager in San Francisco. For each physical challenge, each has agreed to do twice the number of exercises.
To add final insult to injury, the general manager of the losing region must wear the winning team’s jersey for a day, and fellow employees must wear the winning team’s colors—and send pics to the “winning” region.
“Doing push-ups is one thing,” says Weinke. “Wearing Raptors colors after surrendering the NBA title to a newcomer would be unimaginable.”