The modern office workforce has completely changed since Covid-19, with many workers moving fully online. Those in management positions can be left in the difficult position of needing to balance productivity with being available to support their teams in a flexible, connected environment. There is no one piece of advice out there to perfect moving your team to a fully remote model, but we can tell you everything we learned from our experience.
Here is the advice we would give to anyone doing the same:
Have House Rules
The foundation of a strong online team is clarity on expected behavior. Since the idea of remote working is relatively new to many working professionals, a handbook can be ideal for online teams. Some of our house rules include:
-always have your camera on during calls if possible
-when you are “at work”, you are present in our online office
-we can be flexible with time, but we are always at meetings
-we use an avatar picture so we can find one other easily
-status updates are kept recent, so that our colleagues are informed
-there is an expected reply time for each online tool on working days; eg 24 for email, 2h for direct message
-experimentation is always encouraged in our online tools and our work space
Using these rules makes working together for everyone far easier, and onboarding new recruits intuitive.
When there is communication occurring across several forums, and delivered in different ways, it can be easy to miss important news. When we first began our journey, we kept the very traditional way of sharing important business news by email. This did not work out too well, especially for teams who don’t use email a lot as part of their everyday toolstack (looking at you devs!).
This realization led us to incorporate the rule of 3 for important updates. Now, we try to mention larger news items at least 3 times: in-call with our direct team, in-call with the entire team, and as a written update in the appropriate text channel. This ensures the message reaches everyone, and allows everyone an opportunity to respond with questions or feedback.
Encourage Online-First Behavior
Every team has a structure individual to them, whether fully remote, in a physical space, or a hybrid model. Nowadays, most teams are a mix of in-person and online. At Teemyco, although we have some teammates who work together in a physical space occasionally, we encourage online-first thinking.
This means that during team meetings, workers will still join online from their laptop regardless of their location. If sharing the same physical room, using the audio on one laptop only prevents audio feedback. This creates an inclusive environment for all participants, no matter their location.
Strive for Authenticity Over Perfection
Sometimes what is honest is not always perfectly expressed. We value honest feedback from our colleagues, and respect that it takes bravery and effort to provide it. When listening to each other, we take care to remember the intention from the other person is to help us be better as a team.
Secondly, when something goes wrong, we do not look for who to blame. Instead, our goal is to understand how things went wrong, and what we can learn to do it better in the future. Having this culture of authentic trust in our relationships and tolerance for each other helps us do our best work as a team.
Make Time to Build Bonds
Speaking of trust, within online teams it cannot be underestimated. When you share the same physical space, it can be easier and more natural to build since you get to know each other by proximity.
In a virtual office, it is really important to create structured time to build friendships and trust between co-workers. Doing this has helped to transform our relationships with each other, and make us feel more comfortable to reach out to each other for help when needed.
Some of the ways we do this:
- Individual introduction meetings with each member of the team for new hires
- ”Sharing Sessions” where one of us shows slides of our life in photos
- Monthly online game nights - see here for a list of activities our team loves
- The Office Gossip Slack channel, for all things fun, personal, and Tinder-failure-related
Define Your Spaces
We maintain online meetings and daily standups in specific rooms in our virtual office so that each of us receives updates and feels supported and part of the team. Creating virtual rooms according to project or task means that the people involved can access each other quickly and collaborate easily.
Also important, is including an undisturbed focus room, which signals to the other team members that we need quiet time, or that we may not be super accessible right now. Similarly, putting our avatar in the virtual “Phone Booth” indicates that we are on a video/phone call. All of these visual cues make our working environment smooth and co-operative.
Listen and Evaluate
Building trust as a remote team helps us to be our best at evaluating our progress and striving to do better. From grass-roots to leadership, we have made it a core part of our online work style to ask for feedback.
For this reason we demo what we are each working on during team meetings- even if it is not yet complete or perfect. This allows us to receive feedback from team members who might have a different viewpoint, and provides us with visibility and a feeling of ownership of our work. Of course, it’s always nice to get positive comments too.
When we need to evaluate matters on a broader scale, we will often create a questionnaire for the team to understand how people are feeling. Google Forms is fantastic for this, easy to use -and free!
Every team is different, and team culture is never a static force. It is always growing and evolving, and with the incorporation of some healthy habits can become really strong. At Teemyco we continue to ask questions and learn from our mistakes. Getting to know each other and having respect for one another’s work styles and skills is key. Being part of a communal space where everyone knows how to interact removes awkwardness and lets us focus on getting things done.