10 Collaboration Tips for Remote Teams

Team-building doesn’t require a ping pong table, actually.
Hal Koss
May 19, 2020
Updated: July 30, 2020
Hal Koss
May 19, 2020
Updated: July 30, 2020

Maybe you know how to stay productive while working remotely.

Operating as a remote team, though? That’s a different beast. How do you do it?

To find out, we asked remote-work pros, such as Darcy Boles, director of culture and innovation at TaxJar; Iwo Szapar, chief executive officer of Remote-how; Stephanie Lee, team experience manager at Buffer; and Siddharth Pandiya, co-founder of Sike Insights.

Here’s what they said.

Remote Collaboration Tips

  • Over-communicate.
  • Give permission to be human.
  • Hold daily check ins.
  • Share your current and upcoming tasks.
  • Follow through on initiatives.
  • Keep communications async, streamlined.
  • Be open and direct.
  • Make meetings matter.
  • Encourage masterminds.
  • Measure results, not the clock.


1. Over-Communicate

Stephanie Lee: We’re in pretty much every time zone, and that can get really tricky communications-wise. We lean a lot into over-communicating. Not just saying something one way and assuming that someone else is going to understand fully what we mean. Because we don’t just have the hurdle of being separated by space and time, but culturally, too, it’s also quite different for a lot of us; you might say something and it lands completely differently because people don’t have the context behind a turn of phrase.

 

2. Be Human, and Give Others Permission to Do the Same

Darcy Boles: Our CEO’s eight-year-old son is hosting our Friday call. There’s literally a piece on our blog right now about diaper disasters and dinnertime. I think the backbone to [effective remote collaboration] is giving permission just to be messy right now. Be a human. Go into your one-on-ones and just be very real and raw, because if you’re not, your manager can’t help you. It’s the responsibility of both parties.

 

3. Hold Daily Check-Ins

Iwo Szapar: When we start the day, everyone is doing a check-in. We have a special channel where we each announce what we’ll be working on that day — our tasks, meetings. At the end of the day, we do a check-out, where you announce what you’ve done, what you didn’t get done and what additional items you had to do ad hoc. [It’s a] super simple habit that anyone can implement, and it helps you structure your day and notice what’s actually been done and whether you’ve had a productive day. For the manager, it’s amazing, because it creates work transparency and focuses on the outcome.

 

4. Share Your Current and Upcoming Tasks

Siddharth Pandiya: It’s important to ensure that each of us, when we’re going off to work on our own, is not blocked by anybody else. So if I need to do something on the back end that’s dependent on my co-founder to do something on the front end, we ensure that that gets called out at the beginning of the day. He prioritizes that according to my needs, and vice versa. Essentially, it’s about ensuring that the team is aligned.

We built our own task-tracking system: In a Slack channel, I will bullet-point the things I need to do, and I strike-through each task as I finish it. I bold the task that I’m about to work on before I start working on it, so if anybody wants to see what I’m doing at any given point in time, you just go to that channel and see what I’m doing right now in bold.

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5. Follow Through on Initiatives

Iwo Szapar: One of the foundations of remote work is consistency — repeating the right rituals, routines, habits, whether it’s a Friday book club or lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Once you announce it, you need to follow through. The manager needs to take the responsibility and make sure that they encourage people to actually do it.

 

6. Keep Communications Asynchronous and Streamlined

Darcy Boles: “There’s so many channels, I’m getting so many notifications, I can’t do deep work.” Something we’ve done to solve that: If you work at TaxJar, you’re required to follow the TaxJar HQ, follow your team’s projects and follow the Daily. That’s it. The Daily has things like birthdays and anniversaries, links to release notes, anything pertinent happening that day or week, our financials for the day, and a thread where people can ask questions. That’s been amazing.

 

7. Be Open and Direct

Siddharth Pandiya: When you’re remote, face-to-face time becomes so much more important. What you would get in terms of non-verbal cues and body language in the office, that kind of thing doesn’t come out if you’re working asynchronously. It’s very important that during your one-on-ones — and this starts at the manager level — you are vulnerable and transparent. The best remote companies have a very strong culture of radical candor and transparency, with managers being very open about how they’re feeling, what’s going on in their work.

 

8. Make Meetings Matter

Iwo Szapar: Be super prepared before the meeting. Have an agenda. If it’s not a one-on-one meeting, having a facilitator is a must. Have someone take minutes of the meeting, always writing down action items. After, send everything out to all the participants.

 

9. Encourage ‘Masterminds’

Stephanie Lee: Something we do is “masterminds,” where we pair people up with someone else in a different department who is around the same level as them. And they can just hold space for each other, and share, and listen to each other’s experiences.

 

10. Measure Results, Not the Clock

Siddharth Pandiya: The only way that we measure progress is output. Clocking in and out is the least important thing if your output is there and you’re doing good work and things are moving along at the expected rate. As you become more and more remote-friendly, you have to start measuring performance purely based on output.

READ NEXTHow to Make Running a Remote Team Feel Easy

 

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

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