Making a Better Hybrid Remote Team
How our team works better together
Working as a remote employee has its own set of challenges. You have to learn how to manage your own time without the structure of an office. That challenge can grow even further when you are working with people who are provided with that structure. At Flatiron School, we have been supporting our own version of that hybrid remote team and slowly working to support more and more distributed teammates. Together with our remote employees, we’ve worked on several practices and rules of thumb that have been helping us work together more efficiently and stay connected as we expand. We wanted to share some of what we’ve learned in the hope that it might help you be more effective in your own hybrid distributed team.
Good Meeting Etiquette
1. Mute when typing or when not talking
Office chatter in the background of a video call can be really distracting.
2. Don’t hesitate to hop on a video call
Remote employees miss out on ‘over-the-shoulder conversations’. You can fill that gap by treating video calls the same way.
3. Try to book remote-friendly rooms
Some of our conference rooms have screens that already have video calling and speakers set up. If yours don’t, consider the next tip:
4. Make space for remote-first meetings
If you don’t have video call-enabled conference rooms, consider remote-first meetings where all teammates call in from their desk. They give remote teammates equal footing and make for a better meeting experience.
5. Be inclusive when whiteboarding
Try to represent diagrams in meeting notes, or take them in a digital format, or even just point a camera at the whiteboard.
If your company has the means, purchase drawing pads for remote employees and/or smart whiteboards so they can be as involved in the process.
6. Leave time for chit-chat!
Meetings are a huge point of contact for remote employees — making space to socialize around meetings is a great way to include remote employees in your office culture. So save five minutes at the beginning or the end of meetings to catch up.
Creating good documentation and leaving written artifacts from your meetings and discussions helps close the information gap that remote employees sometimes face.
1. Record outcomes from discussions and decisions, no matter how casual!
There are many places you can do so. Pick the right one for the right situation:
- Ticket Comments (in your project tracking software)
- Code Review Comments
- Design and Planning Documents or Specs
- Meeting Notes
- Slack Threads
2. When possible, have discussions, ask questions, and keep dialog in writing (ex. over Slack)
Keeping records of these important discussions public is good for both creating a trail of info and being inclusive of remote employees.
3. Send out “Meet Tweets”
Hallway and over-the-shoulder conversations are unavoidable, but try to get into the habit of sending out tweet-length summary to keep remote folks in the loop and keep good records.
We’re always looking for new tech that can make our workflow more seamless. We’re checking out Krisp.AI, it’s free and helps improve listening quality on calls. We use Zoom for our video calls. We’ve invested in Meeting Owls for our conference rooms that aren’t enabled with cameras and microphones. As we said earlier, we also purchased Drawing Tablets for our remote team members. We’re making sure that everyone on our team has quality headphones with microphones to reduce the barriers to remote meetings.
Empathy and Inclusivity
We make a lot of efforts to be good teammates, but there are a few more things we can do to help extend that camaraderie to our remote teammates.
1. Schedule remote-friendly hangouts
On a squad level with remote members, think about scheduling something remote-friendly. Some ideas include:
- Remote game nights
- Remote coffees or beers
- Impromptu ‘Book Clubs’ to discuss good blog posts, books, or even non-work related discoveries
2. Try Remote Team Lunches in small groups
Lunch is a great way to get to know your co-workers. We’ve made some effort in the past to include remote teammates and we’ve learned that small groups tend to work better, as it’s easier for a remote employee to participate and hop into the discussion more organically.
3. When celebrating, remember remote!
Impromptu treats in the office can be a fun way to celebrate, but remote employees easily get left out. We send them delivery gift cards when we buy lunch or desserts for the in-office staff (be sure to ask what service is popular in their area!).
4. Try it yourself
We’ve instituted a “Work from home Wednesday” policy in the office. It helps us save a commute and gives us more practice being remote. However, it doesn’t always give us a full sense of what it’s like to be out of the office when everyone else is in it, so we also encourage employees to try working from home on a different day of the week. We also have a “work from anywhere week” to give our team a chance to work out of any WeWork in the world. Trying these out can give us an appreciation for the difficulties of working remote on a hybrid team — a great way to build empathy and encourage ourselves to follow these practices!
If you have a hybrid remote team, we’d love to hear about your tech and practices that help you stay connected and happy.
Thanks for reading! Want to work on a mission-driven team that values their teammates’ happiness? We’re hiring!