How We Manage a Remote Team of 50
In fact, we’re now so comfortable and productive with remote work I can’t see us ever going back to having a physical office.
Want to hear a secret though?
It was chaos when we first went fully remote. We stumbled from one problem to another, constantly putting out fires. The stress was unbelievable!
But we learned from every mistake, and we got stronger. Our entirely remote team of 50 now performs like a well-oiled machine, and our health as a business is the best we’ve ever seen.
Today, I’m sharing with you our ‘Golden Rules for Remote Work’, honed over the last 10 years.
Tips to Effectively Manage Remote Teams
- Email is the new phone
- But use email sparingly
- Use screen recordings for employee training
- Keep your team engaged and together
- Get outside and meet up
1. Email is the New Phone
When we first switched to our remote work model, we were inundated with requests for calls between colleagues. It was a massive time drain.
These days, every time someone suggests a call I reply with something like this:
“What questions do you have? Could you write them down in an email?
If we can, let’s avoid an unnecessary meeting. (I find most meetings can be done via email!)
It’s super effective. I went from having 10 calls a day to just 1 or 2 a week.
Another great side-effect of emails replacing meetings is that we no longer need to write meeting minutes. The email thread does that for us. No double work necessary!
Summary: Zoom fatigue is real. Video and phone calls can be draining, especially when you have a few of these back to back. Stick to email, whenever possible!
2. Be Frugal with Email
With almost everything handled via email, the next issue we faced was that we’d get dozens of emails every hour. With so many emails it became impossible to know which ones to prioritise.
So we made a couple of informal best practices.
If you have a non-urgent question, save it in a list. At the end of the week, send that entire list of non-urgent questions in 1 email.
For urgent requests, send an email with URGENT in the subject title.
Like this, the important items get tackled straight away and everything else that’s relatively minor get knocked out in one quick go.
Summary: Keep emails to a minimum, by making a conscious effort to only discuss urgent or priority items during the week. Consolidate all non-urgent questions in 1 email at the end of the week, and tackle these at one go.
3) Screen Record to Train
One of the biggest challenges with working remotely is teaching new things to colleagues. When you’re in the same office you can just pull up a chair and explain whatever you need.
When working from home, that’s not an option.
To get around this, we rely heavily on recording our screens to explain processes or describe issues.
For example, when working with our developer – instead of writing a long email trying to explain a website issue, I just recorded a quick 15 second video.
For long term employee training videos, we edit and upload them to YouTube (listing them as a private video). These then become part of our ongoing internal knowledge base that every employee can access.
Summary: Screen record training videos for your employees. We use Loom for shorter videos, and YouTube to host longer training videos. Save these videos in a repository – it could be as simple as using a Google document – so your employees can easily return to these for reference.
4) Keep the Team Engaged and Together
Every Friday, just before we close up for the weekend, I send our entire team a Weekly Team Email.
In our weekly email, I give updates about current projects and promotions, and ask for feedback on ideas we’re toying with.
It’s not all serious work stuff though!
I also share my favourite gif of the week, give out an employee of the week award, and write a short paragraph about an interesting book or article I read.
These weekly emails have been instrumental in keeping everyone on the same page, and more importantly, driving the culture we want.
This comes naturally when everyone is in the same office. But because we’re fully remote, spreading culture needs to be a conscious effort.
Summary: Send regular team emails to ensure everyone is up-to-date on business performance and developments. Actively seek feedback, so employees can feel more involved. Don’t be shy to include a personal touch, or keep the subject light in these emails!
5) Get Outside and Meet Up
Despite all the benefits of remote work, if you really want to get to know someone, nothing beats hanging out face-to-face. Getting together physically, you can form a connection and understanding that can never be as fully achieved over digital mediums.
We’re human, not automatons. We’re hard-wired to be social. Some of the closest relationships we form in adulthood are with our colleagues at work. We need social interaction.
This is why even with a fully-functioning, entirely remote team, we still do our best to meet for lunch or dinner every couple of weeks.
Thankfully most of our team are based in the same country. (If we were a globally distributed team, we’d have to settle for offsite retreats once a year or so.)
Summary: We’re all social creatures who need a bit of interaction from time to time. Even though we mostly work from home, organising the occasional in-person gathering can go a long way towards building a stronger work culture and relationships.
COVID-19 has forced us all into a new reality, and remote work is here to stay.
It has its drawbacks, sure. But overall, when done correctly, it’s a much better way to work!
This article was authored by Harry, CEO, ResumeWriterAsia.