Our best insights on keeping your team tight-knit virtually

We're sharing our most valuable insights for teams to successfully work and communicate remotely so you can keep your business running as usual. Read now!

During these hectic and uncertain COVID-19 times, many companies have decided to let people work from home—and rightfully so.

For many of us, collaborating and working from home is a new concept. So how can companies keep things running smoothly and transition correctly to this new way of working?

As the Instagram memes already playfully predicted, many companies will realize “which meetings could have been an email all along” during this #WFH experiment.

Tweet screenshot

And that’s just the first learning of many! Working remotely comes with its own set of rules. Rules that might feel uncomfortable at first but will result in a more productive and focused team once everyone gets the hang of it.

Trust us, we know. At The Remote Company, we’ve been working remotely for the past 5 years (and loving it!). Today we’re sharing our most valuable insights, so your team can successfully stay connected while working remotely and you can keep your business running as usual.

1. Asynchronous communication is the key to successful remote work

Does working remotely mean people need to be available 24/7? No. It’s the responsibility of the organization to make it clear when people need to participate. If a team meeting is urgent and important, you can make it mandatory. Everything else can wait.

In a remote organization, people have to understand that no one checks their Slack messages and emails non-stop. Working asynchronously is key. Meaning: when someone sends a message we don’t expect a reply directly, but whenever the person has time for it. 

Allow people to plan uninterrupted work time to fully focus on a task. Teams work better if people can plan their day according to their needs.

For example, our Content Writer Jonas prefers to divide his work into 90-minute intervals with 30-minute breaks each time. During break time, he won’t be behind his laptop answering messages.

We encourage our team members to have time blocks of deep work throughout the day. A simple “Do not disturb” status will tell other team members when they’re unavailable (and when they’re back).

Do not disturb Slack

When you communicate asynchronously, you have to over-communicate. 

Meaning, team members should set a status for lunch breaks, doctor appointments or sports classes. This is not to micromanage, but to let other team members know whether they’re available or not.

Asynchronous communication also requires a different writing format. Messages should be as clear as possible. Make sure to include a clear brief and deadline in your requests. The same goes for answers. People shouldn’t write “I’ll take a look at it”. This leaves too much uncertainty. Instead write: “I’ll check the issues and will write a reply in 2 hours” (and don’t forget to follow up).

2. Slack is great, but don’t make it overwhelming

Slack is our main communication channel. It’s a great tool, but it works even better when you tailor it to make it work for your company.

For starters, we believe that not all Slack channels need to be about work. Encourage your team to create channels where people talk about personal interests and off-topic subjects. We’re chatting about music, traveling, movies, books, games and our homes. 

For example, our Slack channel #welcometomycrib was inspired by the 90s tv show MTV Cribs. Okay, our channel doesn’t show private islands and insane walk-in closets, but we do share videos of our remote offices around the world. This gives other team members a taste of what “a day in the office” looks like for different people.

My personal favorite Slack channel is our #questionoftheday_channel. Recently we also added #coronavirus to share COVID-19 news and #happynews to make sure this virus doesn’t completely take over our well-being.

Happynews Slack channel

Though all these channels spark interesting conversations, it can get overwhelming quickly. Which is why we introduced some rules to keep things organized.

Slack organizational tips: 

  • Don’t join all channels, but only those that are important for your work or interesting to you personally.

  • Mute the channels that are not essential right now.

  • Star ⭐ the channels that are connected to your team and you use most.

  • Everyone can create a new channel. It’s better to have more channels about specific topics, so it’s easier to find the needed information. If there are too many topics discussed in 1 channel, it’s better to separate them into more channels.

  • When you create a new Slack channel, introduce it in the #general channel.

  • Don’t be afraid to over-communicate. People that are no longer interested in the topic can easily leave.

3. Organize as few video calls as possible

Less is more. Don’t organize a video call when something can be arranged in written form.

We have a monthly schedule for all of our video meetings, so everyone knows when to attend and can plan their time accordingly. 

Zoom is our favorite tool for video calls. It helps us smoothly run meetings with 60+ people in the same room, but also adds some fun to our calls. Did you know that you can choose from a variety of backgrounds on Zoom? This is what our meetings look like:

Zoom backgrounds

We record all our meetings and share the recordings afterward in our Slack channel #recordings. That way anyone who missed the meeting due to time zone issues can still stay in the loop and contribute.

We have only 1 rule for meetings: participants need to be fully present. Instead of thinking about what to say next, we encourage team members to listen and have a dialog. 

Just like Slack, video calls don’t have to be only about work. Non-work related video calls are as important!

At The Remote Company we have 2 types of non-work related meetings:

1. Remote meetings with random colleagues

Once a month we have a remote meeting for the entire team, where our team is divided into random groups and each group spends 60 minutes discussing a non-work related subject. This could be something that inspired us lately, our future travel plans, our favorite books or things that made us happy. Sharing happy moments and inspirations helps people to connect and discover similar interests.

2. Meetings to share knowledge

Our team has so many talented individuals and we believe that we get further if we share our knowledge. That’s why every month we host monthly meetings for tech, customer support or team leaders.

During these calls, we discuss a specific topic that we decide on beforehand. By sharing our experiences and issues we all deepen our knowledge on the topic.

We found these meetings to work best when they’re hosted monthly, preferably on the same day every month so it’s easier to remember. We share the meeting’s topic a week before so everyone can prepare and write down what they’d like to discuss.

4. Know your team’s emotional pulse

As we’re taking more physical distance, we should take more emotional nearness. 

Instead of annual performance reviews, it’s much nicer to know how each team member is feeling at work. How are they really doing, what are they proud of and where do they need support?

Every month, we ask team members to answer a couple of questions on 15Five. We update the questions each month. 

Some of these review questions are:

  • What was your biggest accomplishment last month?

  • What's your biggest challenge right now?

  • What drives you? What motivates you to open your laptop and start working each day?

  • What is your job-related goal for this month?

  • How might we build a stronger culture as a remote/virtual team? Anything you’re missing?

Our team leaders read the answers and give feedback to all team members. We celebrate individual achievements and act when someone has personal issues or feels stuck. By regularly checking in, we keep our team happy and our business thriving.

Main takeaways to keep your team tight-knit virtually

  • Be very clear about what virtual meetings people have to attend. Let them plan their day and have uninterrupted time chunks (the longer the better). 

  • Don’t be afraid to over-communicate. That’s the key for asynchronous communication.

  • Slack is a great tool, but be very clear on how to communicate there. Respect people’s time, pay attention to details and write messages that don’t need any further explanations.

  • Let your team curate Slack channels, but let people choose which channels to participate in.

  • Have as few video calls as possible. If you can arrange something in written form, skip the video meeting. 

  • Mix work with non-work related meetings where people can chat about their interests and passions. This keeps your team connected when they’re not physically working together.

  • Don’t forget to ask “How are you?” and listen to how each team member responds. A safe and trustworthy environment for employees has a direct correlation with your team’s productivity and business growth. 

Keep safe, care for each other and stay connected!

Do you work remotely? Please share below what helps you to stay connected with your team!

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