5 Remote Working Tips from a Remote-First Company
For most of our 3-year existence, Tykn has been a remote-first company. Our Sr. Sovrin Engineer, Product Manager and Marketing Director are fully remote. Working from India, the UK and Portugal respectively.
We support the scientific community’s opinion that social distancing & behaviour change as well as the constraining of mobility patterns are the best deterrents for the spread of COVID-19. We believe it to be our civic duty to help stop the virus’ proliferation. If not contained, its escalation is certain to overload medical facilities with tragic consequences.
From our remote working experience we’ve learnt a few best practices that might be useful to other teams:
Every morning, our team dials in on Zoom for a quick call (usually around 15-20 minutes long).
In this Daily Stand-Up each person answers the following questions:
“What have you done yesterday?”
“What will you do today?”
“Are you feeling any blockers?”
We believe adding a daily stand-up to our routine has had a tremendous positive effect on the teams’ productivity. It enhances everyone’s focus and organisation on the tasks at hand, progress is better tracked and small blockers are, sometimes, easily solved right there. But most importantly this daily call allows for social contact and it creates a feeling of unity within the team.
We also use a Slack Bot – Geekbot– to help us further account for our daily goals. Every morning the bot prompts each member to answer those questions and they are all compiled in a Slack channel. Even if a team member is not able to join the stand up, everyone knows what the others are up to.
The Daily Stand-Up, also known as Scrum Meeting, is a process originated in Scrum, an “agile process framework for managing complex knowledge work” (you can read more about it here)
Every Monday, the team dials in to state the goals they want to achieve that week. In every Weekly Goals meeting, one team member takes the lead as Master of Ceremony and registers everyone’s goals in Notion.
Notion has been one of the great discoveries we have made for collaborative work and documentation. We previously used Google Docs but, unfortunately, while Google is great at search they tend not to be within their own Drive. Using it, we felt clumsy, unorganised and lost at times.
Notion lets us work on the same written documents collaboratively while having an intuitive and smart folder architecture. It also comes packed with great templates ready to use, such as an Engineering Wiki, Sales CRM or Roadmap! This blog draft is going right in there for the team to comment on before publishing 🙂
Meeting documentation is important not only for future references but also for enhanced clarity within the team, each person documents their meetings on Notion. Be it internal meetings or ones with partners, clients or prospects. That way, a member who does not attend can always refer back to the meeting memo to be up to date.
Open Communication & Cultural Awareness
Clear and efficient communication is key to great remote work. It’s important that the entire team clearly understands what someone else is conveying without having to second guess.
In our case, we have 6 different nationalities in the team so we are especially conscious about it. Could cultural backgrounds affect what the other is perceiving?
At Tykn, everyone has read Erin Meyer’s “The Culture Map”, which masterfully describes cultural differences across spectrums of feedback (direct vs indirect), context (high vs low), hierarchy and more. For instance, in Arabic cultures, direct negative feedback can be perceived as rude, while in Dutch culture it is embraced and welcomed. It’s important to be cognizant of these nuances and Erin highlights this with many more examples and anecdotes. Great book for multicultural teams!
Also, in our day to day, everyone needs to be able to openly say they did not understand something or ask someone else to clarify. Do not leave room for interpretation (as adopting low context communication leads to less miscommunication across multi-cultural teams). This applies not only to video conferencing (where we favor Zoom) but also to written communication (where we favor Slack, Email & Notion).
We like everyone to know everything. We are transparent about the challenges and welcome any kind of feedback on ourselves and the company. We want everyone to feel included in the decisions and why they were made. You may be far but we want you to feel close.
By the end of the week, the team dials in again for a cool-down call.
Everyone talks about the progress made in the Weekly Goals and also how they felt during that week. One of the purposes of this meeting is to celebrate our achievements. In a high-paced work environment, it’s easy to be constantly consumed by our stresses and to minimize the achievements. It’s an hour for compliments and constructive feedback!
A great tool to get feedback on how our team is feeling is Officevibe. It sends everyone regular emails with several prompts asking how that person is feeling towards their work, colleagues and company. It sends back the results, anonymised, to the person in charge of the team.
Schedules and Boundaries
While working remotely, routines and disciplined schedules are important.
Starting at the same time, having lunch and small breaks at consistent times, and, most importantly, finishing at the same time. Since your work space is your home space, it’s easy to fall in the trap of working non-stop.
Or letting yourself procrastinate and then having to work late hours to finish your tasks. A disciplined schedule let’s you go all in on work during “work time” and relax during leisure time, without the guilt of thinking “I have stuff to do, I should be working”. There will always be more things to do. Rest is important. Be mindful about it.
This also means respecting each other’s boundaries. We only use Whatsapp for emergencies or urgencies. Meeting calls end at the time they were programmed to end and we try to keep meetings as short (and rare) as possible, without going on tangents.
Working in an asynchronous manner has several benefits. First of all, it becomes easier to filter out what is really urgent from what is not.
“Does this matter really require a Slack or can it wait for tomorrow’s stand-up? Do we really need this meeting after I’ve documented my thoughts and given everyone the opportunity to comment on it?”
Since your colleagues are not a “tap on the shoulder” away, people become better at planning. Work flows become better aligned and communication is more thoughtful. This leads to less stress and less fires to put out. Also, it allows people to work in the time period they feel more productive on. If you’re a night owl, great! You do you.
Especially during this period, take into consideration that parents with younger kids will have to spend a considerable amount of time helping them with their remote classes during the day. Asynchronous work may be a necessity. Be flexible with them!
We hope these 5 tips can help you have a productive remote work experience. They’re just guidelines, each team will probably have a different flow. Just find what works best for you 🙂
And remember, keep safe!