What do you do when your team is no longer based in one geographic location? How do you keep in touch throughout the workday? What can you do to stay on the same page when you’re spread out across the country (or maybe the world)? How do you maintain the dynamics of a close-knit team when you’re not physically in the same place for the vast majority of the time?
These are the questions we found ourselves asking when we hired our first remote employee this time last year. The year that ensued has been a journey of trying things out and adjusting as we go. What follows is what we’ve found works for our team (for the moment).
Face to face (sort of)
The first thing we looked into was a solid video conferencing tool. This is essential when it accounts for the majority of the face time you’re going to have with some of your teammates during a normal week.
We looked into several different video conferencing services, and ended up going with Highfive. It’s a bit on the higher end price-wise, but you get the use of the Highfive software as well as really good equipment (a high-quality camera and speakers/microphone). To us, the investment is worth it, as we’re able to have smooth, generally hiccup-free meetings.
For everyday communication, we use Slack to chat. Of course we use it for the standard DMs and relevant work channels, and then we also have some random channels which allow us laugh at ridiculous things together throughout the the day, across the distance.
Standup & etc.
We start the week out with a quick (~15 min) Standup on Monday mornings. Everyone who’s in San Francisco at the moment gathers in our trusty conference room/kitchen (startup life), everyone not in San Francisco joins in via Highfive, and we go around and share what we’re going to focus on for the week with the team. It helps us each prioritize what really matters for the week ahead, and also holds us all accountable to accomplish what we’ve said we’re going to.
To conclude the week, we do Friday Chaidays. The name originated from a brief but enlightened phase where we were all obsessed with drinking dirty chai lattes (chai tea with a shot of espresso)--this phase was very fleeting as it proved to be (as you could imagine) WAY too much caffeine. These days we sit down in the kitchen/conference room and over Highfive with a regular old cup of coffee or tea at 1pm PST and talk about what we worked on during the week, what we’ll work on the next, any roadblocks we’re currently facing, and then answer a random question just for fun.
Actual face time
We try to have each remote employee come to San Francisco about once a month. This gives us a chance to actually work together and chat together in person. We also go on quarterly offsites together. These are obviously good opportunities to set goals for the upcoming quarter, but also are essential for kicking back and enjoying some quality time together.
It’s an ongoing process to figure out how to keep the gears in motion when your team is all over the place, but it’s totally worth it to have the opportunity to work with people you would not otherwise be able to, and also to allow people the flexibility to go other places when they need to and keep getting stuff done.
Is your team partially, or maybe totally, remote? What have you found works for your team?