A quick in-person chat about an upcoming project or a catch-up while preparing a coffee is something only our Lithuanian-based team members have the luxury of doing. For the rest of us, teamwork happens online.
Clear communication is key in any business but for remote companies, it doesn’t necessarily mean we can rely on common communication strategies.
We need to do things a little differently. It comes with its challenges, but for the most part, we’re doing well when it comes to managing our team remotely.
In fact, we believe that we know each other better because of our online communications.
This is thanks to a couple of great tools that encourage us to share information and make it easier for us to communicate!
Curious which tools help us run a remote company with ease? Read on…
If you’re working in a bigger company, you’ll probably know this tool. Slack is one of the most popular real-time messaging and archiving tools. We love it for its many integrations, making it easy to automatically send important updates or reminders and ask the team questions.
In Slack, we use Geekbot for our stand-up “meetings”. This tool automatically sends out a private message at 4 PM on Fridays, asking people what they’ve accomplished that week. Each individual answer is then automatically forwarded to a collective channel, so everyone stays in the loop.
We also have channels that display automatic updates when our team makes edits to the website, when unusual app behavior is recognized or when our IT releases updates.
Furthermore, we have channels specifically for certain departments, a random one for miscellaneous internet happenings and a #proudmoments channel where we share messages from excited customers.
But Slack shouldn’t be solely a remote work collaboration tool. There needs to be space for "coffee machine" moments too!
That's why we encourage our team to add their own creative channels. In these channels, we talk with people from other departments, bond over personal interests and have conversations that bring us closer together. Content Writer Megan hosts a #questionaday and #goodtunes channel, Lawyer Marta created a channel dedicated to movies and Customer Support Specialist Fawzia started a travel advice channel.
A good video call tool is essential in a remote company. Most of us only see each other twice a year in real life (during our workations). By observing how people write and what emojis they use, you can get a sense of their personality. However, when you hear someone talk, see their facial expressions and feel their energy, it’s much easier to paint a picture of what they're like. Plus, some projects move forward faster when discussed via a quick video chat.
For these reasons, we use Zoom.
Some teams have more regular calls, while other teams just check in with each other every so often. Just like real-life meetings, we believe that video meetings should be organized only when they’re necessary.
Every now and then we organize “just because” meetings for the entire company. As we’re growing fast, we welcome a lot of new faces to our team regularly. To overlap the time until the next workation, we’ll organize 30-60 minutes of video meetings on a variety of topics.
During our last one, the team was divided into different groups and each group discussed something that inspired them lately. Some of the women connected over their love for yoga, we heard great travel stories and realized many of us have picked up coding on the side. On another call, we talked about our summer plans for about 1 minute. These casual meetings are a great way to see everyone’s smile and discover similar interests.
When you see someone in the office day in and day out, you can usually spot when something is off or when a colleague needs support with their tasks or wellbeing. With remote employees, it’s harder to recognize any dissatisfaction or challenges within the team.
15Five makes it easy for team leaders to collect feedback and make sure everyone is happy at work. Of course, we’d like to hear about achievements and obstacles, but the focus is on finding out if everyone’s wellbeing is on point.
Each month we ask all employees to reflect on the previous 30 days and to share things like:
Team members can also give virtual high 5’s to each other, which is a great way to show gratitude and remind colleagues they're doing a great job!
We got inspired to start our own handbook after reading GitLab’s 3,000-word handbook. When you’re running a remote company it’s useful to have all your company’s information in 1 centralized spot. Notion was our preferred tool to do so.
In Notion, we save our onboarding documents and guidelines for different departments. New people can e-meet the team and check out everyone’s picture, details and fun fact on the Team page. In this space, we also host our content style guide, meeting notes, training and company values.
Our developers have been working with GitHub for years, but more recently we’ve started using it more team-wide to manage tasks, releases and bugs. This was needed to keep everyone on the same page.
With a small team, it’s easy to divide the tasks among each other. For example, for a long time, we only had 1 Content Writer and 1 Designer. Every task would automatically be assigned to that person in the department. When our team grew, we knew we needed a tool that would show each task, the responsible person, progress and deadline. GitHub does exactly that, making it easy for team members and Project Managers to keep an overview of the ongoing tasks and roadmap.
Within GitHub, you can set up notifications that’ll automatically let you know when someone commented or tagged you in an issue. Individual team members can also create their own tickets, for example when they find an improvement for the website or want to forward a customer request. Easy and efficient!
Google Drive includes everything from Docs to Sheets and Slides. Though we don't use Sheets that often as it lacks advanced features that Excel does offer, we do love Google Docs. It's the perfect tool for our team to collaborate. By adding comments we can discuss things directly within the document and by using the suggestion mode, our copywriters can easily proofread texts.
Google Drive is a good remote team communication tool as it allows you to quickly share files and folders. As everything is online, we don't have to bother with uploading files to share them with team members. Instead, we just share the Google URL or invite people to collaborate using the Share button.
Password managers like 1Password are super important, both for personal use and work purposes. Especially in remote teams, where it’s harder to guarantee people’s connections and security, you’ll want to keep things neatly locked up. 1Password security stores login data, so you don’t have to remember passwords by heart or use the not-so-secure auto-fill option. Plus, the tool lets you securely share logins with other remote team members.
The remote team collaboration tools above definitely help us to create a better work environment and thrive as a remote-first team, but at the end of the day, they’re just tools! It’s the team and their participation that needs to make it happen. When everyone is engaged and making an effort to keep each other in the loop, it’ll feel like we’re all working in the same room.
Start with a set of clear company values, bring together like-minded people and use these collaboration tools to grow a remote team that rocks!
Editor's note: This post was originally published in January 2020, but has been updated with an additional tool we love to us as a remote team.
I’m Megan, Content Writer at MailerLite. You can find me in Berlin, NYC or somewhere escaping winter in Asia. I have helped many start-ups grow their online visibility. Blogging has always been my thing—from running artist fan pages as a teenager to now discovering upcoming talent on Sign This Kid.