Unless you’ve been rafting in the Grand Canyon for the last 25 days or are Jared Leto, you’ve seen our world turn upside down. For those that are able, remote work and working from home (WFH) is a new reality.
What you miss with remote work versus a traditional office environment is serendipity. The ability to ask quick questions and check-in. The trust-building and camaraderie that comes with being in the same place.
Remote work has benefits, too—less distraction for one. Meetings are shorter because there are fewer formalities and travel.
I’ve been fully remote for the past year and have spent a bunch of time working from home. I collaborate with teammates across time zones and borders. In that time, I’ve found some great tools and workflows that help me stay productive and connected with my teammates. And I’ve never been more productive.
I’m a product person. So, it will come as no surprise that I am always looking for the right tool for the job. Here's what we use to manage our teams.
You are going to need a video conferencing solution. Zoom is the most obvious choice. However, Google Meet is free for G Suite users and is browser-based. Whichever you use, more importantly, make sure you have a good microphone and webcam. If the ones built into your laptop don’t work great, consider buying a Logitech webcam and a good USB microphone.
Tandem bills itself as a virtual office for remote teams. Tandem makes having a quick chat or doing a screen share virtually frictionless. It's the virtual equivalent of a tap on the shoulder for a quick chat like you might do in an office. Even better, though, is that it has focus mode settings which mean that your team members can cut out distractions if they are in the middle of deep work.
Love it or hate it, Slack will be an integral part of remote teams. It’s a good tool for internal communications and team notifications and keeping tabs on real-time things around the company. We use Slack for the following:
In my view, there are many improvements to be made to Slack to accommodate WFH/remote-first. The real-time nature of Slack means there is constant notifications and interruptions. It also means if you are working across time zones, you tend to miss out on important messages that get buried.
Shameless plug time - we, of course, use our product. We designed Taskable for remote teams to solve constant notifications and help you find information in all your tools. Taskable integrates with tools like Slack, Gmail, and Asana to send action items from these products into your very own task manager. That way, nothing slips through the cracks. You avoid spending time searching through various products to find the latest information you need to get work done.
We are in closed beta, but if Taskable sounds like a good solution for you, feel free to send me an email, and we’ll get you set up.
While Taskable is excellent for individuals to plan and prioritize their day, teams still need a project management tool. This gives everyone an overview of who’s doing what and when. To me, there is no better product than Asana for this. Organize projects by team, create subtasks to break work into smaller pieces, assign tasks to teammates, and much more.
The free plan is super powerful, so if your team is under 15, then no need to upgrade to paid either.
A critical component of remote work is documentation. When you quickly ask where to find a particular document, or if you are across time zones, having as much of your company-wide information documented is critical.
Notion is perfect for this. While Notion can be used for many of the same things, you would use Asana to coordinate projects and tasks, Notion works best as a company wiki.
While every team is different, here is what works for the smaller, more technical teams I am part of.
Start everyone out on the right foot for the week with a weekly team call on Mondays. In this meeting, you can recap the prior week and what work got done. Then plan the upcoming week. Most importantly, set some goals on what you want to accomplish.
Checking in every day is important. In the stand-up, we discuss what we plan to accomplish that day and what we need from the team to get that done. It’s a stand-up because you want it to run quickly - five minutes should be the goal, depending on the team's size. If anyone needs more time, then do one-on-ones after to go into more details. And, of course, use Tandem and Slack throughout the day to check-in or get progress reports.
I have always done these in real-time. However, for teams distributed across time zones, this isn’t really viable. There are some ways around this. For example, create a #stand-up channel in Slack, or a daily email thread, where everyone shares what they worked on, what they are working on, and any blockers. Some Slack apps achieve a similar result.
Usually, these follow a video call/meeting with someone external or after a stand-up or team meeting. It might be to follow up on a specific point, but often we’ll start going down rabbit holes. While perhaps off-topic and not 100% pressing, I like to encourage these chats. It's our water cooler moment where the team can riff on ideas or even blow off some steam.
This is only a partial list and largely based on my experience in smaller teams, working on technical projects/products. What works for you will vary, depending on your team's size, where you are distributed, and what you are working on.
If you had thoughts on workflows and tools that work well that we missed, tweet them at us or send me an email.
* Shout out to the Delocate community and Rhys and Tyler for their input on this post!