It’s been a couple of months since the coronavirus pandemic made thousands of companies go remote. Many teams are now facing a dilemma: “do we go back to the office (at least temporarily), or do we embrace the remote mode for good?”
As a company leader, you might be less scared of remote work than you used to be back in 2019. Plus, researchers predict that employees’ demand for remote work will be growing. On the other hand, however, the fact that your company survived the enforced remote work period doesn’t mean you’re making the most of it.
If you’re leaning towards staying remote-friendly in the long run, make sure you learn from companies that are successful at it. Get inspired by their ideas, try to avoid their mistakes, and consider their advice. In this blog post, we want to share some remote work tips from seven agencies that thrive in the remote setting.
So, what can we learn from them?
Facilitate great collaboration
Animalz is a full-service content marketing agency with team members located in different parts of the world. We’ve asked Haley Bryant, their COO, about ways to ensure smooth remote collaboration. This is what she had to say:
Collaboration is the foundation of our business. We know that content is a team sport and we win as a team. We rely heavily on each other to give feedback, share ideas, think through problems and creating best in class content for our customers.
Great collaboration requires building trusted relationships, and we are able to build trust through leading by example and creating systems support remote collaboration in a few ways:
– We help people connect informally through team meetings, skillsharing sessions and random 1:1s to foster connections and break down silos.
– We set clear expectations about what channels to use for what purpose. E.g., Slack is for urgent issues, Quip is for projects that can be managed largely asynchronously, meetings are for brainstorming or hashing things out, and our internal wiki is for memorializing resources.
– We try to be available to jump on a quick call or Zoom chat to talk through problems live when possible.
– We create mechanisms that encourage asynchronous work and collaboration so that team members can work together across time zones without having to work around the clock.
Our collaboration stack includes Front, Quip, Slack and Airtable.
As you can see, successful remote collaboration is possible when you have the right tools and processes in place—your team members will be able to do their best work even when they’re not sitting in the same room. If you want to get more tips on maintaining good performance when working remotely, check out our guide on remote productivity.
Give valuable remote feedback
Remote employees might be wary of giving each other’s feedback because they may feel that it’s easier to get their message across during a face-to-face conversation. Sure, when communicating remotely, you have to be precise with your words and communicate clearly. Truth be told, it would be great if your employees communicated this way in any circumstances, but they need to be extra aware when chatting via Slack or Zoom.
At the same time, giving feedback is necessary to make sure your team members grow professionally. What’s a viable solution for remote teams? Hanno, a digital product team specializing in the health industry, shared their remote feedback approach in a blog post. First, they made sure to explain the purpose of feedback, made a clear distinction between feedback and performance evaluation, and established time-wide feedback guidelines. When Hanno’s team was ready to give each other feedback, they set up a Zoom call for everyone to participate and a virtual Mural whiteboard to collect sticky notes with feedback written on them. You can read more about their structured feedback video call here.
Support your employees’ well-being
When investing in tools that positively affect your team members’ work life, you shouldn’t forget about their life-life. Acknowledging and supporting employees’ mental health is very important. Of course, a large part of that is making sure that your company culture and business processes don’t take a toll on employees’ well-being. On top of that, however, you can also offer tools and opportunities to help them stay happy and healthy.
When you’re a remote organization, you can also look after your employees’ mental health.
Take Pandable, for example. It’s an SEO consultancy partnering primarily with finance and tech companies. One of the elements of Pandable’s employee benefits package is access to Headspace, a mindfulness app. Their employees can use the app wherever they are to combat anxiety, relieve stress, and sleep better.
Use tools that support remote project coordination
Being able to deliver projects as a distributed team is likely one of the biggest challenges that newly-remote companies face. Team handoffs, design reviews, client workshops—all of these processes may seem way easier when you can just get in the same room. However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t deliver high-quality projects when working remotely—many successful remote digital agencies prove otherwise. What’s their secret? Tools that facilitate project coordination.
Series eight, an award-winning creative studio, is fully remote and fully productive in part thanks to powerful tools. They use InVision to preview designs and collect feedback and Trello to overview tasks in their project management pipeline.
We have recently compiled a list of 45 apps for digital agencies. It includes many apps that support remote collaboration and communication, including our own Teamdeck, a tool for resource scheduling, time tracking, and leave management.
Offer flexible employee benefits
When you’re allowing your employees to work from anywhere, you’re already giving them much flexibility. To make your agency team even happier, you could add more of the same approach to other perks you offer. Take a look at weekly schedules, for instance. Perhaps a 4-day workweek is a good system for your team?
Flexibility is essential as it enables you to cater to the needs of different team members. Tinuiti, an independent performance marketing agency, is embracing its people-first philosophy by offering their team members flexible perks. For starters, they have an unlimited PTO policy and Flexible Fridays—employees can work shorter days on Fridays. A flexible employer should also react timely to the changing needs of its workforce. Knowing that it’s currently really challenging to work remotely when you’re a parent, Tinuiti provides support programs for parents working from home with their kids. Their efforts are acknowledged by the industry: Tinuiti has recently been named #1 Best Place to Work by Ad Age for the second consecutive year.
Benefit from communication guidelines
For many newly-remote teams, setting up a Slack company account is a logical first step. At Teamdeck, we’re huge fans of Slack and how it can support remote collaboration and productivity, but just giving your employees access to a chat-based tool won’t seal the deal. Sharing some guidelines with your team can increase their efficiency and effectiveness when communicating remotely.
Ellen Jantsch, the Founder of Tuff, a growth marketing company, told us:
Opening up Slack with your team is a very big step. It eliminates back and forth emails and helps remove that blocker question of ‘should I send this in an email? Or wait till we meet in person?’.
But, to make the most of Slack, it is important to set the right expectations. Deep and focused work is critical to the success of our business so we don’t want team members to constantly get pulled in by Slack notifications. If you’re going to get meaningful results together you need the time and space to focus on strategy and execution (without pings!) which is why we work to protect this with specific Slack expectations.
At Tuff, when people first join our company, we take them through our internal Slack and communication guidelines. These help us get really clear on ‘how’ we use Slack and as a result we’re able to work more efficiently as a team.
Build camaraderie among your remote employees
Remote team building is possible, and companies like Buffer inspire many others with their impeccably organized team retreats. But how to raise team spirit among your remote employees when borders are closed, and even company restaurant outings are not possible? It turns out you can utilize Slack and Zoom to foster camaraderie among your team members.
Let’s hear from Hector Giner, the CEO of Z1, a digital production studio.
To build camaraderie we rely mostly on Slack and Zoom. We have many different Slack channels not only related to work, but also to different hobbies like cooking, pets, videogames or music, and they are very lively!. We’ve recently created also a Teambuilding bot that, every now and then, encourages the team to join different activities. Also, every Friday by 13:30, we have an informal meeting where everyone joins Zoom to have a relaxed chat.
In the end, it is all about building a company culture based on communication and trust. We make sure all our employees feel valued, no matter where they live and work, and everyone takes responsibility for their workload.
Over to you
Now is the time for you to take a minute and analyze your company’s situation. Can you adapt any of the solutions tested by these remote digital agencies? Which ones would fit your company culture? Perhaps, having read this blog post, you came up with new ideas for improving the way your company works? We’d love to hear from you—drop us a line in the chat.