Building a Foundation for Success for Remote Teams
Yesterday, I discussed the benefits of remote work. Sociality Squared has been a distributed company since 2010 when it was started. Through the years and experimenting with what works and doesn’t, our team has fully embraced working from home.
Here are some ways we keep the trains moving on time.
Check-In with Your Distributed Team Often
We recognize that working from home isn’t for everyone. Some people really enjoy the atmosphere of an office and the routine of leaving home for work and seeing their colleagues in person. For some, working from home will be welcomed, and for others, it may be challenging and they find house chores or home entertainment very distracting. Or in some cases, they may just feel lonelier. Leadership should check-in with their teams often and not just on their work, but also on how they’re doing. It’s easy to jump right into an agenda and miss the human side of working remotely – asking all of the water cooler questions where human connection happens in the workplace.
Communicate (and Communicate Some More)
Slack, Zoom, DMs, email, text, phone calls. There is no shortage of ways to reach out to a team member. Communicate often, and don’t be shy to over-communicate. That said, communicate with intention and know which channel to use when.
- Pro Tip 1: All of the different ways to communicate can get overwhelming. Pick one or two ways and stick to it with clear guidelines. Otherwise, you’re fielding texts, Instagram DMs, Slack, emails, and Facebook messages.
- Pro Tip 2: Make video optional. People work from home and may not be “camera ready” or want to show their living space. While it’s more personable to see faces through video, don’t make it mandatory so everyone is comfortable.
With all of the tools to connect and collaborate virtually, meetings can be really productive and empowering to the team. Here’s are a few points on running them.
- For meetings, we usually have an internal meeting to discuss projects with account teams and client meetings. Not everyone needs to be at every meeting. Have key players involved. Set an agenda! We also have a weekly all-hands meeting so everyone feels connected and knows what’s happening across the company otherwise, teams can be very siloed on their projects.
- Be clear when meetings can and can’t be scheduled keeping in mind time zones and personal lives. Use a shared calendar to show when the team is and isn’t available.
- S2 hosts a “Beers and Brainstorming” meeting. This is a video call where you can sip on a beverage of your choice and spitball ideas. It doesn’t have to be crazy structured. It’s nice to come up with ideas in a casual environment where you can think big and get the team to collaborate across client accounts or whatever projects your company is working on. Also, add opportunities at team meetings where people can share something personal, like what they’re inspired by, reading, or listening to. It helps the team better know each other.
Project Management is Key
When there’s confusion, there’s frustration no matter where and how you’re working, so that’s why project management is so important, especially for a distributed team.
Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more.
- Airtable, Asana, Trello – there’s no shortage of project management tools. You may try a few and see what sticks.
- It’s really critical to be clear on deadlines, action items, and who’s doing what. And as mentioned above, communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more.
- At S2, we are huge fans of Google docs. This allows for real time collaboration, edits, comments, etc. that can all be shared with key players.
- We also have a shared Dropbox that keeps us all organized and gives us access to assets and any documents we may need.
- There may be some growing pains on keeping projects running but my best tips are to over-communicate, plan, and have a plan b, c, and d.
Celebrate the Wins – Big & Small
You may not be able to eat cake in the break room or meet up for happy hour. However that shouldn’t stop you from supporting and cheering each other on!
- Last month, S2 celebrated its 10th anniversary! While we weren’t together physically, we still celebrated virtually.
- This applies to client projects, too. Send a high-five GIF when you score a win. And don’t forget about celebrating your team’s personal achievements too. Did someone run a 5K or maybe start a garden? Celebrate each other for work and non-work activities.
- It’s easy to get caught up in your own work at home, so make sure to celebrate all the moments however you can, even the small ones. Your partner or friends may not appreciate the achievement of figuring out an Excel/Google Doc formula, but your team can share in the accomplishment with you…and let them!
Respect People’s Time
It’s important to respect your colleagues off and online time, especially when working across the country and without the ability to pop into a co-workers office.
In an always connected world,
respect your colleagues’ blocked off
and offline time.
- Keep in mind time zones. If you’re scheduling a meeting at 9 AM EST that’s 6 AM PST.
- Pro Tip: Set up a block of time in the middle of the day for meetings that will work for most time zones.
- With all the ways to communicate, it’s easy to send an email at 9 PM. Unless it’s an emergency, you should stick to reaching out during business hours.
- Pro Tip: Schedule your emails via Boomerang or natively through your email server. This allows you to write what you need to say and send it at a later time.
- Don’t expect that everyone will be sitting at their desks for 9 hours straight. If someone doesn’t immediately respond, they may be grabbing lunch. Let them eat lunch in peace and get back to you.
- If people are scheduled OOO on their calendar, let them have that time. Respect vacations, doctors appointments, and mental health days. It’s important for leadership to set the tone and expectations on this.
- Know the difference between emergencies and when to text vs. when to email. At Sociality Squared, we have an internal doc that outlines which channels to communicate on and for what purpose so everyone is on the same page.
Get Together IRL
Even though we work online at S2, we also deeply believe that there’s nothing that can place real-life get-togethers.
- At S2, we host yearly retreats in a different location and bring the team together. While it’s an overarching company event, the most important aspect is the chance for people to meet and spend time together.
- We also make a habit of getting together if we happen to be in the same city. For instance, Helen and I got together over Christmas when she was visiting family here in Cincinnati. No real work agenda needed – just getting together for a meal helps build camaraderie and establish better relationships.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
We recognize that behind every screen is a person and that philosophy starts with our own team. While we are physically apart, we are still a family company that respects and raises each other up. That’s the biggest thing to remember – you’re still a team even if you don’t share an office. Teamwork makes the dream work, wherever you’re located!
Tomorrow, I’ll share tips on setting yourself up for success working from home on a personal level, so check back and be sure to sign up for our monthly newsletter to never miss any news:
Part 2: Distributed Team Management Tips http://bit.ly/RemoteTeamManagement
Part 3: Successfully Work from Home http://bit.ly/SuccessfullyWorkFromHome