A Startup Guide to Remote Work Software and Collaboration
Zoom calls and remote work software is eating the world. But how do you manage it from eating into your team’s productivity?
Almost a year ago, we wrote an article on enabling remote work. We started up as a fully remote founding team and wanted to share the tools and workflows that worked best for us.
Little did we know then that we’d find ourselves still in a very much remote-first world well into 2021.
We’ve learned a lot since then about what tools and meetings work best. We’ve also started to grow our team. With that growth, we’ve and needed to think about how to onboard new team members, get them up to speed on how we collaborate and communicate internally, and help them be productive and happy in their new role.
So, we’ve decided to open-source our onboarding guide for new team members, including the tools we use to communicate and the meetings we run to collaborate, brainstorm, and build trust.
Our Remote Software Stack
Slack is how we communicate via text internally. We use Slack to ask a quick question that doesn't necessarily need an immediate response, announce something, or coordinate a time to speak further about an issue. We also share funny tweets, interesting articles, and of course, minion gifs here.
Tandem is an audio/video and screen-sharing application. The primary value proposition of Tandem is it reduces nearly all the friction of starting a call/video chat to just one click.
We use Tandem for internal meetings, asking quick questions, starting a quick brainstorm, or getting feedback on your work. My general rule: if it takes longer to type the question into Slack than it would to just grab a quick call, use Tandem.
Tandem is probably my most commonly recommended remote work software tool.
Use email exclusively for external communication, such as with users or other stakeholders. Anything you want to communicate amongst the team, use Slack.
Zoom is our go-to video chat/conferencing for external stakeholders, such as user interviews or communicating with other outside stakeholders.
Previously I didn’t see the need to pay for Zoom and used Google Meet. However, the reliability of Zoom is much better, so we’ve fully converted.
Shameless plug alert: we use Taskable to manage all the different tools and plan and prioritize our day. We think it’s a fantastic product, of course :)
We use Notion as an internal wiki, such as for documenting processes. We also use it as a catch-all tool when we don't have a specific tool in mind yet. For example, we keep our content calendar here and use it to manage our job postings.
Drive is our cloud storage, and we use the other Google Suite tools like Sheets, Docs, and Presentations. If there is information in the docs you create using G Suite that will benefit the rest of the team, we suggest turning it into a Notion page or embedding it there.
Not the hot new audio-first social app. Clubhouse is a project manager for remote software teams. We keep our backlog here and use it for sprint planning and tracking what the software team is working on.
Our Remote Meeting Schedule
In addition to our remote work software, our remote meeting schedule also allow us a chance to collaborate. It’s hard to balance having enough time to collaborate and exchange knowledge with the desire to have as few meetings as possible.
Below is our current meeting schedule. Our plan is to recalibrate if we find ourselves spending too much time in meetings or don’t have enough to brainstorm and share ideas and information.
Our daily quick check-in (five minutes tops) to discuss what we each did yesterday and what we’re planning on working on today.
Checking in daily gives us insight into what everyone is doing, where they might be blocked, and to make sure we’re on track.
Being remote, it’s also a great way to just hear everyone’s voice and build a sense of togetherness.
Every other Monday
Here we plan out what we're going to work on over the next two weeks. We do this with both the software/product team and the growth team.
We decide on a goal for the coming two weeks, prioritize backlog items, pick out what we’re going to work on, and clarify any information we need to get the work done.
This is our regular product meeting where we discuss and prioritize new user insights and feature ideas and refine and design features we want to work on next.
We use this time to brainstorm, think through product ideas, and decide what additional research is needed. Once a feature is thoroughly thought out and designed, it will go into the backlog.
This is a new one as we just had our first designer join the team. The idea is to check in weekly on what they’ve been working on, give feedback, brainstorm design ideas, and make sure we are focusing on the highest design priorities.
Every other Friday
On weeks we don’t have a sprint review, we aim to do a team retro. This is not around specific work we got done over the prior week. It’s more a chance to chat and hear how the week went for everyone. What went well, what could have gone better, how are we all feeling? And it’s a chance to do some team building.
Every other Monday
On Mondays, when we don’t have sprint planning, we do a mid-sprint check-in. We review the items in the current sprint and discuss if we are on track and how to get on track or recalibrate the sprint if needed.
Every other Friday
We cap off the two-week sprint with a retrospective. This meeting gives us a chance to demo the new features, discuss how the sprint went, and develop ideas for what can be improved for the next sprint.
This is the current state of play for our remote work software stack and meeting workflows. As mentioned, we aim to calibrate as we go, given we have new team members and new dynamics. We’ll aim to reduce our number of tools and perhaps add more meeting times to brainstorm or have less structured interactions.