As a digital agency, we’re not working remotely since the Coronavirus pandemic. In fact, we have been collaborating across different countries ever since. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to be part of fantastic remote teams and even to build some myself. Here are my top best practices for remote teams and some insights into how we thrive on remote work at mindnow.
Working from home saves people so much time. No need to commute, no need to carefully choose an outfit from head to toe and no talking about random stuff with coworkers. The latter one, however, I don’t regard as an ultimate benefit. By having small talk about the weather or your plans for the weekend with colleagues, you can recharge and feel socially connected. Remote work takes that part of the experience away and people might not feel part of the company.
The good news is that companies can easily do something about it! From a proper onboarding process to day-to-day business and company culture – there is a lot that companies can do for a better remote work experience. Let’s start with day one of a new team member.
Imagine your first day at the office: You come in, everyone smiles, you get introduced to people, see many brand-new faces and find out how the coffee machine works. By the end of the day, you feel pleasantly exhausted from a day full of learning new things.
Now imagine you start a new position remotely: Same place as always, maybe your kitchen or living room. No handshakes and walking from one desk to another to meet all the people who are working here. You might feel a bit lost. That’s why a proper onboarding process is so crucial.
Onboarding means having a standard procedure for introducing new hires to their work, their team as well as the company itself. To make it a smooth experience for new employees, our best practices at mindnow amongst other things are:
The onboarding process changes constantly as every new employee brings in something of their own. Feedback is always welcome so everyone enhances it with their experiences and suggestions.
When you’re working in an office, you’re aware of your surroundings and can quickly go to someone’s desk to ask your question. If the person already went home, you know you have to leave it for tomorrow. With remote work that’s a little different and one actually never «goes home». That’s why it’s important to have a system with rules for asynchronous and synchronous communication.
I highly recommend using Slack or Microsoft Teams. Both tools are very suitable for quick and informal chatting. At mindnow, we are big fans of Slack. It’s super useful – even for people working within the same room – and for a remote team it is just the one place where most of our communication happens.
Async communication with tools like Slack or Teams is very effective, but it’s also the thing about which people can get burned out quickly. People are used to different schedules. One team member might still want to discuss something while the other already needs home time.
Within my teams, we usually set up rules when notifications on Slack shall be disabled. We know that the line between work and life gets blurred when you’re working from home, so it’s okay to turn off notifications. It’s okay not to respond immediately in the evening. Set up alternative ways for the case that something is on fire, so the team can snooze their Slack notifications and recharge during their time off.
Honestly, mindnow wouldn’t come first to my mind when thinking about a company with a lot of rules. So the following points are more of a guideline than strict rules we apply for each and every little meeting. However, I’d still recommend the following best practices:
I believe that the less time our developers at mindnow spend thinking about stuff like tests, meetings and code style, the more time they have to focus on crucial tasks like architecture, complexity – or allowing themselves a well-deserved break for a cup of coffee.
That’s why we automate everything we can. I really recommend remote teams to integrate different services and tools into one big hub. In our case, we have everything on Slack, for example daily syncs, employee surveys, calendar integrations, or automated messages from our project management tools.
Automation also means documenting processes, so developers don’t have to spend hours to figure out how to do their stuff. Imagine if you don’t know how to do something in an office environment. Annoying, right? And it’s much worse when you’re alone. That’s why every complex process needs to be written down as a step-by-step guide and shared with everyone in our knowledge base mentioned above.
A great working environment is the basis of how a team will perform. At mindnow, we believe that in an environment where people are given autonomy and make their own decisions, they thrive without micro management. Our concept revolves around trust.
Everyone owns their success and be it feedback, decisions, mistakes or praise – we keep everything transparent. When people are working remotely, it’s easy to hide mistakes (at least for some time), stay silent about things worth sharing or forget to praise peers. Slack is our place to be and where we share everything. I highly recommend using dedicated channels rather than private messages so everyone is involved in what’s going on.
First off: Evaluating people’s performance on their time spent is a bad idea for remote teams. Instead, people should be measured by results and the actual performance. In the end it’s the work that must be done, not the hours. That’s why time tracking is not the solution. Better focus on tasks with clear KPIs, for example a well defined acceptance criteria or the percentage of the closed sprint.
Keep in mind that there’s always something one can measure. I recommend not to overdo it because people tend to optimize themselves towards KPIs. Imagine if developers would be measured by the lines of code they write (which would be weird, but just to give an example here). This would result in unnecessarily long code. So be careful in what you’re trying to measure.
Remote teams are facing their challenges. It’s not getting any easier if a part of it is working from the office while the other stays at home. In fact, hybrid teams need even some extra attention when it comes to socialising with peers. The remote people of a hybrid team tend to be at a disadvantage in comparison to those working on-site and regularly meeting in person. So what can be done to avoid them feeling forgotten, left out from decisions and not belonging?
Company trips are a great way for everyone to meet. Whether you’re exploring new places together or visiting each other’s offices. During the pandemic, travelling had to pause of course, but usually we do a company trip with people from all locations every year. Meeting colleagues from other countries face to face has a considerable positive effect and is definitely worth the time and money spent.
Besides everyone’s beloved company trip, we organize regular online meetings for playing games (try gather.town – it’s fun!) or just having a virtual coffee break together. In our various Slack channels – some are more serious than others – everyone can write everything, be it an exchange of expertise, a funny video or a random meme.
In the end, I must say that times are changing, and giving people the possibility to work from wherever they want is not just a current trend – it’s a necessity. I see a decentralized, remote workforce as the future of the digital economy. We’re experiencing a shift from paying people for the time they spend working to paying them for the value they bring to the company and that’s amazing.
There are some downsides to remote work of course, but I think there is nothing that can’t be handled one way or another.
So trust your peers, set up a transparent system that empowers people and reap the fruits of your success!
Editor and co-creator: Carina Glinik
What’s your opinion? Let us know in the comments!
Would you like to work at mindnow? Check our current (remote) positions!