Our team has spent the last six years building a fully-distributed agency. There have been a lot of learnings along the way, and we’ve been posting a tip or two a day on how to make the most of Remote Working for those of you who are new to this life. The full list of what we’ve shared is below.
We hope they help, and please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions on any of it. We’d love nothing more than to see everyone succeed as we all navigate this new world.
1 - REINFORCE THE "WHY"
It’s important that you like your coworkers, but when nobody is in the same place happy hours and hallway conversations aren’t going to keep people. Purpose is. In a distributed company where social lives do not necessarily revolve around coworkers, it’s even more critical that there is an honest and powerful pied piper tune that unites the company. More important than tech stacks, slack channels and HR policies is a mission that binds everyone in purpose, regardless of wherever we all open our laptops.
2 - RECORD YOUR MEETINGS
One of the benefits of meeting over video chat versus meeting in person is that you can both record and transcribe all of your meetings pretty easily both as a benefit for those who were not able to attend as well as for your long term records and fact-checking.
3 - INVEST IN A SPEAKER SERIES
Distributed workforces make guest speakers a whole lot easier when there is no travel involved for the guest. If the only effort required is booting up a zoom for the time of the talk, the company should take advantage by lining up as many inspirational speakers as possible.
4 - INSIST EVERYONE TURNS ON THEIR CAMERAS
On every video chat, every time you can. Teams need to not just hear each other but also see each other. Seeing facial cues also helps reduce people talking over each other and the awkwardness that comes with that.
5 - SHARE A DELIVERY CHANNEL
Many in offices like seeing work up on the walls as they walk through the halls. There is no reason why you can’t do the same thing on the internet in a far more efficient way. Start a slack channel where every team posts their latest deliveries, presentations, launches, etc, so everyone can stay in the loop on ongoing projects beyond their own.
6 - CELEBRATE THE PLACE AS MUCH AS THE PERSON
When you’re a distributed firm, every new employee doesn’t just bring new skills but also new perspectives from wherever they live. Celebrate that environment as much as the person. It’s just not just that Sue joined, Detroit joined. Jeremy joined, but the Hudson Valley also joined. There is meaningful value and potential in both.
7 - START CULTURAL SLACK CHANNELS
If you haven’t yet, make sure employees are empowered and encouraged to start their own Slack channels about topics that they and others on the team are interested in. Parenting, Hockey, Art, Music, and whatever else it may be. Don't force people to join, but allow for those watercooler conversations to continue without clogging business-centric channels.
8 - KNOW WHEN TO STOP SLACKIN
In remote teams, it’s very easy to forget that slack is not the only way to communicate. While slack is good for some kinds of communication, many other situations are better addressed not just by video chats, but also via phone calls, text messages, emails, letters, a picture, in-persons and beyond. Those still exist too!
9 - MEET THE FAMILIES
In a coronavirus world, let’s not pretend that many of us are not constantly fighting to keep out children out of our video chats. Rather than fight it, find a way to defuse the situation by putting together family zooms bringing both employees and their families closer together in these difficult times.
10 - STAY ENGAGED WITH YOUR HUMAN CLOUD
When you break free of traditional offices, it becomes far easier to stay engaged not just with current employees, but also with the cloud of people around your organization. Recruiting candidates, former employees, former clients, potential freelancers, the press, and beyond. Invest in ways to stay connected to them as they often want to see you succeed just as much as your employees, and while they’re not all in your office, they are all online.
11 - “GO” TO WORK
It’s easy to blur the lines between work time and home time when your workspace is a hallway away from your bedroom. But however you do it, try to have a clear mental or behavioral switch between work time vs home time. Some dress up. Some walk around the block. Some turn on work tunes. Some do a transition activity with their kids or dog. Some do other things. What's yours?
12 - INSIST ON PROFILE PICTURES
Make sure your team uploads profile pictures to every platform that allows them (slack, google, teams, etc…) so you’re seeing teammates' faces everywhere, and not just on video chats. Helps remind people there is a human being behind that email or post who deserves just as much consideration in the response as if you were in person.
13 - FOCUS ON ERGONOMICS
All of those articles about workspace ergonomics apply just as much to home offices as corporate ones. Make sure monitors are at eye level, have the option to stand if you can, ensure appropriate lighting, etc… It all adds up either to more happiness and productivity or back pain and inefficiency. You choose.
14 - HOME OFFICE BUDGETS
To help with tip 13, give your employees stipends to help make their home office setups more comfortable, professional and productive. It makes a difference for both them and you.
15 - BOND THROUGH PICTURES
Reinforce culture through Slack channels dedicated to sharing non-work related pictures celebrating the separate worlds we are all living in.
16 - REMOTE ≠ WFM
While the current climate is necessitating working from home for most, in normal times remote work offers far more potential when you’re not just trading an office echo-chamber for a home office echo-chamber. When we're all free again, get out into the world and push yourself to experience new people and places. Make the world your office and enjoy all of the inspiration that comes with it.
17 - DON’T FORGET TO LAUGH
In the middle of writing my list of remote working tips, my four-year-old came in, snuggled in on my chair with me, and proceeded to vomit all over both me and my workspace. Things like that are going to happen, and sometimes you just need to laugh it off. Life’s too short to do anything else.
18 - TRADE WHITEBOARDS FOR MIRO
Whiteboards are great and play an important role at many companies, but a platform like Miro can do everything a whiteboard can and far more when coupled with a productive, distributed culture. It also has a far longer memory.
19 - FOCUS ON YOUR BACKGROUNDS
Regardless of if you’re the most junior or most senior member of the team, you still need to present yourself in a professional manner. Even if it’s via video chat. It doesn’t matter what kind of disaster the rest of the room is, just make sure you’re turning your computer or desk or table or tray table or couch or whatever it is in a way that frames you well with an appropriate background.
20 - OVERCOMMUNICATE
When not in the same place, it puts even more pressure on the communication opportunities you do have. Be aggressively transparent and encourage your teammates to do the same so disagreements can be worked through quickly, and to ensure that nobody is any less in-the-loop because they’re communicating through video chats rather than hallway conversations.