From day dot, JRNY has almost always had a remote working component to it. As founders, we did not have an office, so most of the work happened from our bedrooms, random coffee shops or — if we were really lucky — at the beach.
Fast forward two years and we have kept the remote opportunity alive and well, with a large portion of the current team working from different locations and time zones.
We’re not alone either.
Companies all around the world are benefiting from offering remote working conditions to their employees. With modern technology, it has never been easier to liaise and communicate with a colleague on the other side of the world.
With this trend in full swing, most have stuck to debating the payoff between in person and remote teams.
If you’re reading this, chances are you already know that offering your employees with the option to work remotely is a great way to attract and keep great team members and ultimately build your company. However, where you may need some help is setting up the right processes/systems to make sure that your remote team is set up to succeed.
With that being said, let’s get into it!
How to run a remote team successfully
There are a tonne of ingredients that increase the likelihood of remote work success, however every ingredient falls into one of these two categories:
First and foremost, we must have the right people, and secondly, we must provide a way for them to communicate as if they were in a room together. Let’s look at each category individually and how to get the ingredients right.
By far the most important factor to any company is the team delivering the vision. It’s worth noting that not everyone can work in a remote environment and not everyone can deal with managing a remote team. Therefore, the people that step onto your bus need to be capable of executing in a remote environment. So, what makes a great remote worker?
1. Trustworthy individuals
This is relatively intuitive, but for remote working to well, work, we must trust our colleagues who are working remotely. There’s a common perception among managers “Will people work if I’m not watching them? I cannot trust my team to work remotely because they will spend their day watching YouTube, playing PlayStation, cleaning the house…” the list goes on.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
Employees are perfectly capable of watching YouTube at the office, or surfing the web for literally anything else. Coming into the office just means that your team have to put clothes on. There’s no guarantee that they actually get work done.
Employ people who you would 100% trust to work autonomously. If you find yourself worrying about what other colleagues are doing, then you’re wasting valuable brain power that could be used to focus on making your product better than ever.
Trust in others is absolutely key.
Once you have these people on your team, focusing on managing expectations, rather than managing bums on seats — commonly referred to as an adult kindergarten — is a way to get the most out of your team.
Doers (productive people) will get stuff done whether they are down the road or on a plane to the other side of the world. These people don’t need to be given tasks, rather they work towards expectations (see above) and deliver to the company’s mission. You don’t have to give doers tasks to know that something will get done. Yes, you will still need to provide general guidance (so yes you will still have a job!) but beyond that, a Doer will get the job done.
In a physical office, a lot of information is shared in-person. In a remote situation, almost everything is shared via communication tools (Slack, Google Docs, Trello, Hangouts etc). Communication is one of the most important parts of remote team. Therefore, good communicators who understand how to use these tools are a must. This ingredient leads nicely into the second category — Communication.
Once you have the right people in place you will need to provide a virtual space where they can do the very thing that turns a group of good individuals into an extraordinary team — communicate. In a virtual environment, what do we need to put in place so that we can communicate as though we were there in person?
This can be broken down into two categories. First, we need to establish communication processes and secondly, we need to provide the tools so that these processes are agnostic of location.
Let’s look at each one individually.
1. Communication processes
The word ‘process’ usually puts people to sleep. If you’re still awake, please read on and I will explain. Rather than associating ‘processes’ with that frustrating corporate job you just kicked to the curb, think of communication processes as ‘how we grow our company, and do so quickly.’ This mental shift makes talking process a bit more interesting…
At JRNY, here are the communication processes that we have put in place. This works for us, and could definitely work for you too
- Daily catch up/standup
Kicking off the day with a quick meeting to see how everyone is feeling is a great way to start the day. In a remote environment, chances are people are scattered around the globe. Work with the main time zone and others who are in different time zones simply need to be available during this agreed upon time. The purpose of this standup is to make sure you have constant interacts with all of your immediate team mates (at a certain size, these standups do need to be split up), and to actually check in and see how every team member is doing on a personal level.
At JRNY, we simply ask “How are you feeling” with every team member giving a number response on a scale of 1 to 10. If they wish to elaborate on their number, then they can. This gives everyone else an idea of the mental space that said member is in and provides a safe space where the team can build trust with one another.
These 15 minutes are arguably the most important minutes of your day. This is not something to miss or flunk on. Regardless of what other commitments you have, make time for standup.
- One source of truth
It is extremely important to have every document and all company communication stored in one designated place. There is nothing worse than wasting time looking for documentation in multiple places. Decide on what documents are absolutely necessary, and decide where said documents are going to be stored.
- Individual accountability
You already have (or should have) trustworthy individuals working with you, so now you need a mechanism where others can see the awesome work that their peers are doing.
A JRNY, at the start of every week team members let others know what their goals are for the week. During the week, we have an ‘end of day’ check-in where each team members list off what they have achieved on that given day (and hopefully this aligns to their weekly goals!) Then, at the end of the week we discuss whether we have achieved the goal. Because of the open style of this goal setting, a higher level of personal accountability is created. Being accountable to your peers is one of the best ways to increase the chances of delivery because no one wants to let their colleagues/friends down.
A byproduct of this is if we know that another team member is struggling to hit their goals, we can band together as a team and help. While the work required may not be specific to everyone’s job description, this creates a culture of ‘we may be remote, but we are in this together.’
2. Communication tools
The above communication processes are great, but without the right tools administering such processes, communication can be an absolute nightmare. The purpose of these tools is to get as close to being in the physically present as possible. It’s also worth noting that ‘less is more.’
Too many communication tools can become overwhelming and actually reduce productivity. Pick wisely and fully utilise each tool. Below are the core tools that JRNY uses to assist with the processes above and general communication.
Slack is probably the world leading instant communication tool. It is the virtual office. If your green light is on, you’re in the office.
Most of you have probably heard about or use Slack. If you have, you will understand that it can be extremely useful but can also be a massive distraction is used incorrectly.
At JRNY, each business department and every clients has a dedicated channel. We then use Trello, Hubspot, Howdy and Google Drive apps in the appropriate channels to help manage workflows and communication around such.
Too many (or too little) channels can cause productivity issues, as can the wrong type of apps. Choose your Slack apps and create channels wisely.
At JRNY, Trello acts as our default work roadmap tool, for everything. Whether that is product initiatives or business tasks — everything lives in a board on Trello.
Given Trello is an extremely flexible tool, it is really easy to over complicate cards and mess up workflows. Make sure you establish a ‘Trello process’ for each board type (business, product, service) and stick to it like scripture. Because your team is remote, it pays to have a set of ‘how to’ cards on every board, so when new people join your team their Trello on-boarding is taken care of.
There are plenty of other project management tools that could work for you. Trello simply works the best for us.
While dropbox and google drive are great, there is still a need for an internal wiki. Look at this like your company’s internal web page that is used to navigate and communicate all crucial company documentation.
From client designs to on-boarding processes — they all live here. Team members can leave their comments and update pages as they see fit.
- Google Drive
Irrespective of whether your team is remote or not, having unified cloud storage tool is a must. While some may prefer to use Dropbox, the ability to collaborate on a document within Google Drive makes it a superior product (personal opinion).
Because JRNY has been a remote company from the start, we had to build our business with the right team and communication processes and tools from the start. We are still learning and iterating on the above, however to date it works for us.
If you have any thoughts on this, or would like to chip in your two cents, then feel free to comment. Otherwise, I hope this has been useful to you in some way!