A quick in-person chat about an upcoming project or a catch-up while preparing a coffee is something only our Lithuanian-based team members have the luxury of doing. For the rest of us, teamwork happens online.March 29, 2021
Clear communication is key in any business but for remote-first companies, it doesn’t necessarily mean we can rely on common communication strategies.
We need to do things a little differently. It comes with its challenges, but for the most part, we’re doing well when it comes to managing our team remotely.
In fact, we believe that we know each other better because of our online communications.
This is thanks to a couple of great remote working tools that encourage us to share information and make it easier for us to communicate!
Curious which work tools for remote teams help us run our daily processes with ease? Read on…
Slack is one of the most popular real-time messaging and archiving tools. We love this remote work software because it keeps our communication flowing and our team connected. Its many integrations make it easy to automatically send important updates or reminders and ask the team questions.
In Slack, we have channels that automate updates when our team makes edits to the website, when unusual app behavior is recognized, when one of our companies is mentioned online or when our IT releases updates. This is done via integrations, either directly or using Zapier.
Furthermore, we have channels specifically for certain departments, a random one for miscellaneous internet happenings and a #proudmoments channel where we share messages from excited customers.
But Slack shouldn’t be solely a remote work collaboration tool. There needs to be space for "coffee machine" moments too!
That's why we encourage our team to add their own creative channels for instant messaging. In these channels, we talk with people from other departments, bond over personal interests and have conversations that bring us closer together.
Content Writer Megan hosts the interactive #questionaday channel (read here how that channel came about) and #goodtunes channel, Lawyer Marta created a channel dedicated to movies and Customer Support Specialist Fawzia started a travel advice channel.
Tip: Do you feel like Slack is overwhelming you? You’re not alone! We shared our tips on how to make Slack more zen in this blog article.
A good video conferencing tool is essential in a remote company. Most of us only see each other twice a year in real life (during our workations). By observing how people write and what emojis they use, you can get a sense of their personality. However, when you hear someone talk, see their facial expressions and feel their energy, it’s much easier to paint a picture of what they're like. Plus, some projects move forward faster when discussed via a quick video chat.
For these reasons, another remote work software we frequently use is Zoom.
Some teams have more regular calls, while other teams just check in with each other every so often. Just like real-life meetings, we believe that video meetings should be organized only when they’re necessary.
Every now and then we organize “just because” meetings for the entire company. As we’re growing fast, we welcome a lot of new faces to our team regularly. To overlap the time until the next workation, we’ll organize 30-60 minutes of video meetings on a variety of topics.
During our last one, the team was divided into different groups and each group discussed something that inspired them lately. Some of the women connected over their love for yoga, we heard great travel stories and realized many of us have picked up coding on the side. On another call, we talked about our summer plans for about one minute. These casual meetings are a great way to see everyone’s smile and discover similar interests.
Is Zoom not exactly what you’re looking for? Try Google Hangouts, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex. Or, read our blog article about video call alternatives if your team is tired of Zoom.
When you see someone in the office day in and day out, you can usually spot when something is off or when a colleague needs support with their tasks or wellbeing. With remote employees, it’s harder to recognize any dissatisfaction or challenges within the team.
15Five makes it easy for team leaders to collect feedback and make sure everyone is happy at work. Of course, we’d like to hear about achievements and obstacles, but the focus is on finding out if everyone’s wellbeing is on point.
Each month we ask all employees to reflect on the previous 30 days and to share things like:
How do you feel at work?
What’s going well? What are you proud of this month?
What challenges are you facing? Where are you stuck?
Do you have any questions about our company, product or team?
What is your personal goal this month?
Team members can also give virtual high 5’s to each other, which is a great way to show gratitude and remind colleagues they're doing a great job!
Is performance and people management tool 15Five not a match for your team? Try Friday.app, Reflektive or Motivosity.
With an ever-growing team, it became increasingly more difficult to track who was in the “office” and who wasn’t. Our search for remote software that would help us streamline employee monitoring and manage time-off requests led us to Leave Dates.
At The Remote Company, we use the online staff planner to request and approve days off. This goes for both paid and unpaid days, sick leave and creative days. Creative days are a concept where every quarter, people can take a paid day off to unplug and explore. The aim is to get away from the laptop, do something you love and recharge or feel inspired afterward.
As an alternative, you might be interested in checking out Timetastic, Deputy or BambooHR.
We got inspired to start our own handbook after reading GitLab’s 3,000-word handbook. When you’re running a remote company it’s useful to have all your company’s information in one centralized spot. Notion was our preferred remote work software to do so.
In Notion, we save our onboarding documents and guidelines for different departments. New people can e-meet the team and check out everyone’s picture, details and fun fact on the Team page. This way, they’re already getting familiar with their colleagues and feel more prepared for future team collaboration. In this space, we also host our content style guide, meeting notes, training and company values.
Notion alternatives are Evernote, nTask, Tettra or ClickUp.
We pride ourselves on offering 24/7 support and giving our customers a wow experience. This can only be achieved if there’s enough manpower to manage all incoming requests.
In the past few years, our support department quickly expanded to a team of over 40 people in different time zones. The largest team in our entire company! We knew we needed remote software that was more efficient for virtual teams than booking events in Google calendar.
Therefore, this year, we started using Humanity for our online employee scheduling. It’s a great tool for time tracking, keeping note of (un)available support managers, letting people trade shifts and making sure there are enough people available in each shift.
We ask our team to review their calendar at least every week, be cooperative, pay attention to details and plan their leave well in advance (one month). They can use both the desktop version or mobile app (native iOS and Android) to do so. This helps all of us to make scheduling more convenient and achieve fair and balanced weekend coverage.
Not quite convinced about Humanity’s functionality? Try monday.com, Sage HR, When I Work or Branch.
Our developers have been working with project management software GitHub for years, but more recently we’ve started using it more team-wide to manage tasks, releases and bugs. This was needed to keep everyone on the same page and better our workflows.
With a small team, it’s easy to divide the tasks among each other. For example, for a long time, we only had one Content Writer and one Designer. Every task would automatically be assigned to that person in the department. When our team grew, we knew we needed a remote work software that would show each task, the responsible person, progress and deadline.
Project management tool GitHub does exactly that, making it easy for team members and Project Managers to keep an overview of the ongoing tasks and roadmap.
Within GitHub, you can set up notifications using automation. These notifications will let you know when someone commented or tagged you in an issue. Individual team members can also create their own tickets, for example when they find an improvement for the website or want to forward a customer request. Easy and efficient!
Oh and, if you’re not overly enthusiastic about GitHub, we recommend trying GitLab, Asana, Bitbucket, Trello or Gitea.
Google Drive includes everything from Docs to Sheets and Slides. Though we don't use Sheets that often as it lacks advanced features that Excel does offer, we do love Google Docs. It's the perfect tool for our team to collaborate. By adding comments we can discuss things directly within the document and by using the suggestion mode, our copywriters can easily proofread texts.
We chose Google Drive over any other remote work software because this team communication tool allows you to quickly share files and folders. As everything is online, we don't have to bother with uploading files to share them with team members. Instead, we just share the Google URL or invite people to collaborate using the Share button.
Alternatively, your remote team could use Dropbox, Sync or pCloud as cloud storage providers.
Password managers like 1Password are super important, both for personal use and as collaboration tools for remote teams. Especially with remote workers, where it’s harder to guarantee people’s connections and security, you’ll want to keep things neatly locked up.
1Password security stores login data, so you don’t have to remember passwords by heart or use the not-so-secure auto-fill option. Plus, the tool lets you securely share logins with other remote team members.
If you don’t want to store your passwords with 1Password, opt for remote work software like LastPass, Bitwarden or Keeper.
The remote collaboration tools above definitely help us to create a better workspace and thrive as a remote-first team, but at the end of the day, they’re just tools!
It’s the team and their participation that needs to make it happen. When everyone is engaged and making an effort to keep each other in the loop, it’ll feel like we’re all working in the same room.
Start with a set of clear company values, bring together like-minded people and use these collaboration tools for remote teams to grow and shine!
Editor's note: This post was originally published in January 2020, but has been updated with additional remote software we love to use.
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