Tackling working and culture as a remote team

Most of us are now having to embrace remote working in a way we could never have anticipated a few months ago and as a result we’re looking for ways to keep motivation and productivity high - when we can’t physically be in the same room. 

In the spirit of sharing, below is a collection of tips we’ve been picking up from our portfolio and various articles, as well as our own experiences. We’ll continue to refresh this post with new ideas, and we welcome any thoughts on what’s been working for you: 

Regular team check-ins - make sure you find time to get the team together, leaders should look to communicate messages clearly and try and align the team along the same path. Use whichever platform feels most appropriate and suits the character of your team best and if you’re getting limited engagement try different tools and ask for feedback, the process is likely be iterative…. Our Europe team has started doing 9.00am stand up Zoom calls every morning, which seems to work well for 10-20 person teams. 

“Make sure teams feels heard, that they feel trusted and supported to do their job, and that they can still have fun and do great work, despite the uncertainty.” Adam Gerhart, CEO, Mindshare, Campaign Live 

Establishing the new normal - outside of the above, try and establish new norms and encourage regular patterns of communication among your team. Ideally look to create an environment where people can confide in one another and use tech platforms to overcome working challenges. What people will likely be missing is the opportunity to have informal chats with colleagues.

“Everyday, we've scheduled three 10-15 minute breaks across three different time zones to help our team recharge and reconnect with other coworkers. Just because we're all "social distancing", doesn't mean we can't use the beauty of technology to connect and socialize a bit!” AppsFlyer on LinkedIn

It’s also important to balance how much you are communicating and the channels you’re using, over communication could have the opposite of the desired approach. Try to stick to a single preferred platform e.g. Slack for internal communication rather than mixing multiple channels and don’t always expect an immediate response - people are being pulled in lots of different directions. 

Do you follow up on a task by email, text andphone? Do you tend to ask people if they got your previous message? Abusing those access points can be a form of digital dominance, a relentless and uncomfortable form of harassment.” Harvard Business Review

Provide emotional support  - give your team an extra level of support during these uncertain times, not only professionally but personally. Encourage others across the team to do the same, celebrate positive news, checkin on things outside of work, and get creative when it comes to ways of bringing the team together - whether that’s cocktail hour on a Friday or the whole team singing happy birthday on Zoom! There are also ways to get the team to rally together during this time, for instance simple acts of kindness and corporate citizenship such as food bank collections. 

Try also to be understanding and acknowledge those in your team who are balancing care responsibilities with their usual work. This may mean that children appear on video calls and it won’t always be possible for them to keep their work and personal life separate. 

Do you have employees who are unwell or taking care of loved ones? We recommend checking in on them regularly to make sure they have everything they need to perform well - and of course, stay healthy.” Hibob, Remote Working 101

“I’m trying to start small meetings that I run with one- or two-word “state-of-mind check-ins,” where it’s safe for people (including me) to share our emotions or state of mind starting the conversation. It takes some of the pressure off people to get the words perfect. No one is perfect right now.” Keiren Snyder, Textio.com

Prioritise health and wellbeing - encourage your team to take time away from their computers, participate in online workouts and if possible, get outside to take some exercise or go for a walk. This is not only hugely important for the mental health of your team but it’s also likely to increase productivity when they are back at their desks. You may want to recommend or even sponsor subscriptions to meditation or fitness apps like 8fitor Headspaceor consider a small gesture like sending a great book to all your team members to help keep morale up. 

“Software and data company VideoAmp is providing a kettle bell and two dumbbells shipped directly to staff for at-home workouts” DigiDay

Try to discourage the team from watching the news all the time. You may want to suggest that they take a detox once in a while to focus on the positive, particularly as for some the endless negative news cycle could start to really negatively impact their mental health. 

Equip your team for working at home - while most are trying to keep costs down, it could be money well spent to improve your teams physical work environment and equipment. This might include sharing advice on desk setup or giving them a small budget to buy a screen or desk chair. It’s a balancing act when finances are tight, but it could make all the difference.

“The team reports feeling more tired with complaints of headaches. I feel it too. I give reminders to take breaks in the morning, lunch, and afternoon. Not everyone has the right setup for working from home. Younger members are working in their bedrooms.” Alex Theuma, CEO of SaaStock

Set clear expectations and measure progress - it’s going to be more important during this time for Managers to outline expectations and deliverables, particularly as strategy and priorities shift and some feel unsure of their roles and responsibilities. Track progress through regular email updates, calls or project tracking tools. Many of our portfolio companies are doing regular (some daily) allstaff meetings and being transparent about the revised plans and initiatives that have been decided.  

 “It’s important that everyone understands the quality of work expected from them while working remotely -- and that your managers are prepared to assess and hold team members accountable for their continued performance.” Gallup

Also encourage your team to think creatively around problems and find new and novel ways engage with clients, customers and prospects. For instance, SteelEye is hosting virtual lunch and learns - 45 minutes with one of their experts with the offer of a free a lunch from Deliveroo and Uber Eats:

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Further reading & resources we’ve come across:

  1. Ensuring your well-being doesn’t suffer when working remotely: https://www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths/en/297503/ensuring-wellbeing-doesn-suffer-working-remotely.aspx?utm_source=google&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syndication
  2. How to collaborate effectively if your team is remote: https://hbr.org/2018/02/how-to-collaborate-effectively-if-your-team-is-remote?referral=03758&cm_vc=rr_item_page.top_right
  3. Leadership in the time of covid-19: https://medium.com/@kieransnyder/leadership-in-the-time-of-covid-19-781859be3ae6?source=---------2------------------
  4. The Sensitive Leader’s Guide To Managing A Remote Team During The Coronavirus Pandemic: https://www.forbes.com/sites/melodywilding/2020/03/23/the-sensitive-leaders-guide-to-managing-a-remote-team-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/#5239233b1eac
  5. Strategies to Manage Your Newly Remote Employees:https://www.fastcompany.com/90478413/5-strategies-to-manage-your-newly-remote-employees  
  6. Ways to measure remote workers when you don’t know how long they’ll be working at home: https://www.fastcompany.com/90477145/4-ways-to-manage-remote-workers-when-you-dont-know-how-long-theyll-be-working-from-home
  7. How Can Leaders Effectively Manage Anxious, Distracted And Stressed Remote Teams: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sallypercy/2020/03/19/how-can-leaders-effectively-manage-anxious-distracted-and-stressed-remote-teams/#29b3d5c92644
  8. CEO diaries: https://venturebeat.com/2020/03/21/ceo-diary-what-its-like-to-run-a-company-remotely/
  9. Linkedin Learning have courses on working from home and virtual teams. Including: Time Management - Working from Home, Working Remotely, Managing Virtual Teams and Leading at a Distance. They also have some courses for maintaining a positive and productive mindset. https://www.linkedin.com/learning/me
  10. The best 8 apps for working remotely: https://www.inc.com/jason-aten/these-are-8-best-macos-apps-for-working-remotely.html
  11. The Tech Headaches of Working From Home and How to Remedy Them:https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/technology/personaltech/working-from-home-problems-solutions.html

Please be aware that this note is written in general terms and may not contain all relevant information. It is intended as general helpful guidance.