Remote working when you’re not a remote team

Important Steps

On Software/Tools

From Zapier’s Guide: In a co-located facility, you can always round up the team for an all-hands meeting to steer everyone on track. In a remote team, you’ll need the right tools to make sure everyone stays on the same page and can continue to execute without a physical person standing next to them.

While the exact tools aren’t super important, you likely will need a tool in certain categories like group chat and video conferencing to make remote successful.

On Trust and Communication

From Zapier’s Guide: One common thread that runs deep across every method of managing a remote team: trust. Employees need to trust that their managers are looking out for their best interest. Managers need to trust that their employees are engaged and motivated at work. Part of this trust is…built over time with each positive interaction.

Finding the best ways to communicate with your team is imperative when you’re not working face-to-face, because you’re missing most — if not all — of the context of each person’s situation.

Relying on Text the Right Way

Your team might rely on tools like Skype or Zoom for video and voice chats, which will give you a chance to use those rapport-building strategies we just discussed. Voice and video calls can help you feel more in touch with your team and avoid the issues of asynchronous communication like time lags or misunderstandings.

But you’ll likely spend a lot of your day communicating with text. Whether it’s in Slack, Basecamp shared documents, emails, or GitHub issues, text tends to be the most convenient way to keep in touch with your teammates without interrupting them.

Remember Hanlon’s Razor

A razor is a concept used in philosophy to help us strip away possible explanations (hence the name) for a phenomenon. Hanlon’s razor refers to the idea that we should always assume ignorance before malice. That is, if someone does something wrong, don’t assume they purposely meant to hurt you. It’s just as likely (perhaps more so) that they simply made a mistake.

This is especially important in situations where you’re missing context. If you’re communicating via text with co-workers who are multiple time zones away, try to always assume ignorance before malice if you have a misunderstanding.

Asserting Yourself When Needed

Perhaps the hardest, yet most obvious, way to compensate for the lack of context in remote communication is to be more forward and open than you normally would. As I mentioned in my example earlier, working with someone in an office makes it easier to pick up on their mood and know when they need some time alone. When you work remotely, you’re going to bug people by chatting to them when they’re not in the mood — it’s unavoidable. Being respectful of others is just harder when you have less information to inform your decisions.

On Ways of working

From Zapier’s Guide:

Pair Buddies

As we’ve grown, it can be harder to know all your teammates. One easy way to mitigate that is to have folks on the team get paired up with one other teammate or two at random each week for a short pair call. We use Donut in Slack for this to chat about life, work, or whatever random thing seems interesting. Sometimes cool new product features come out of these, other times it’s just good fun. Regardless, it helps everyone better know their teammates.

You may not need a formal setup for this but one of the hardest aspects of temporary work from home is your team is not used to this, they will start feeling isolated quickly and with the stress of everything going on, this will affect their productivity.

So encourage your team members to pick their own buddy and suggest that they check in with each other regularly. (sidenote: be aware of new joiners who may not have friends in the company yet, these may need to be paired).

Weekly One-on-Ones

In every job I ever had (even co-located ones), there wasn’t enough feedback between me and my supervisor. So at Zapier, we set up a recurring weekly event with each team member I manage where we both jump on Zoom to chat about how work is going. These one-on-ones follow roughly the format outlined by the Manager Tool’s podcast.

Other Resources

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Entrepreneur turned People advisor to startups at Balderton Capital.

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