How to Work with a Remote Team
With the ease of communication allowed by modern technology, remote working is on the rise. The New York Times reported last year that a whopping 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely and the percentage increases year after year.
Here at Alchemy+Aim, our team is entirely remote, which affords us some huge benefits as a company. Our recruitment is not limited by a geographic area, we have no office space overhead, and our team members love to be able to work from anywhere and create a schedule that works best for them.
While there are tons of benefits to hiring remote employees, there are also some significant hurdles to overcome from a management perspective. Some of the most difficult aspects of working with an entirely remote team are handling internal communication effectively and maintaining an intentional company culture. These goals can be accomplished with the help of software and thoughtful strategy, both of which have been instrumental to the success of our own remote team.
Weekly Check Ins
While we don’t have regularly scheduled meetings with our whole team, we do find that it helps us all stay on the same page about current and upcoming projects to have regular Monday morning check-in meetings among our project managers. Knowing that this meeting is on the schedule cuts down on email throughout the week and helps to start each week out with a plan.
One of the daily tasks for all of our team members is posting the top 3 priorities each day to a special Priorities channel in Slack. This serves several purposes: it helps everyone get clear on the next steps they need to take, encourages some accountability, and allows us all to have a peek into what other team members are working on. It can be severely damaging to company culture for employees to feel like they are working in a vacuum with little recognition. Seeing a brief summary of what others are working on allows us all to appreciate each other’s work a little bit more!
In addition to weekly check-in meetings with our project managers, we also have benefitted as a company from having our project managers and client facing roles share short reports each day in one message thread. This allows us to stay in the loop about progress on projects, solicit feedback, and share ideas all in one place at the end of each workday.
15 Minute Meetings
Communication can be especially challenging if you have team members across many time zones. One solution we have found to this is for our Chief Alchemist, Brandi, to block off small bits of time during her day for team members to schedule meetings with her. This allows Brandi to welcome open communication with the whole team without the hassle of long email threads. It also means that each team member can pick the meeting time that works for his or her time zone.
TOOLS WE LOVE
Not only is Slack the best service we have found for internal communications, but the smallest plan is entirely free! Slack is a messaging app that allows your team members to send direct messages, share files, and create channels for communication about specific topics or departments. We use Slack for quick questions, company-wide updates, and collaboration for problem solving. Using a messaging service in this way allows us to feel far more connected than email does and increases our efficiency.
We use GSuite by Google for our email service (Gmail), as well as document collaboration with Google Drive. We highly recommend GSuite to any business owner because Gmail is a reliable and easy to use email platform and it comes with all kinds of helpful apps, as well as varying levels of cloud based storage. Utilizing Google Docs and Google Sheets allows our team to collaborate on internal documents utilizing comments, saving us from extraneous meetings about quick document changes.
If you have a team of any size, managing projects through email and meetings alone can quickly become disorganized. This is where a project management system comes in to keep your team on the same page about important goals. We use Teamwork Projects for internal tasks and Basecamp for client projects. Teamwork Projects allows us to assign tasks and subtasks to appropriate team members, set due dates, and comment with questions along the way. There are many project management software options, so it’s important to find one that works for you. Two free options that many companies use are Trello and Asana.
When you cannot interact with your coworkers in person, the next best thing is video conferencing. We love Zoom for this because it is easy to use and allows for both one-on-one quick chats and longer meetings with our whole team.
Do something fun
It’s important to do fun things with your remote workers to really feel like a team together. Here at Alchemy+Aim one of those things is our monthly book club! Admittedly, we usually read business books, but most of us find those fun to read. Each month we have a different book and host a discussion session about it via Zoom.
A huge part of our company culture is a focus on continuing education. We regularly have company wide training sessions with experts on various topics and even have our own team members present to us on subjects they are experts in. These trainings help keep this element of our company culture strong, and give us a chance to come together as a group.
Operations Manual and Brand Guidelines
If you don’t define your expectations, your team will never meet them. Having a solid Operations Manual that continually evolves with your company and is readily accessible to your team keeps everyone focused on the goals of your company. Your Operations Manual should include standards that help team members gauge whether they have fully completed a task. In additions to standards, Brand Guidelines that encompass both visuals and tone help everyone to remain consistently on brand.
Arguably, the most important part of managing any team is setting clear expectations. In order for a remote team to thrive, team members must know how, when, and how often they should be communicating with each other and their leaders. When expectations are not being met by either party, you must have a company culture that allows for open dialogue about how to adjust accordingly. This kind of culture is created by assessing how things are working for all parties frequently, and is solidified by modeling transparency and consistency for your team.