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How to Keep the Team Spirit When Working Remotely

by Victor Purolnik
team spirit remote

When the world of work saw a massive shift in 2020, most companies were forced to adjust and work remotely almost overnight. Today, we’ll be sharing some insights from what we’ve learned having worked remotely ourselves and with other remote software engineering teams for more than 10 years now.

Human communication doesn’t just happen through words. To fully understand each other and what we mean to say, we need to hear another person’s tone of voice, see their body language, and interpret their context. Otherwise, misunderstandings are bound to happen.

So if you’re just writing emails and chatting to each other via Slack, you’re likely risking major consequences within just a few days or weeks, including everyone:

  • Losing their motivation to work
  • Losing the context about what others are working on
  • Misunderstanding company goals
  • Misunderstanding each other and the tasks they are supposed to do

That’s horrible, right? But luckily, there’s an easy fix:

Turn that camera on!

You heard me – you need to see each other’s faces! I’ve been working remotely for several years now and I can say with confidence that whenever a team is misaligned, a video call fixes most problems.

Be casual, tell a story, and complain about the in-laws – just as you’d do with your coworker over a coffee in the kitchen.

Studies have shown that seemingly insignificant water cooler conversations are the breeding ground for ideas, progress, and alignment within teams. You don’t want to lose that because of remote work!

So turn on that camera, get on Skype, Zoom, Whereby, or any other tool that allows for video meetings, and have regular, casual standups at least once a week.

Hannes Kleist, the author and the CEO of Stanwood, a 40-people remote-first software development agency, usually finishes off the working week with a beer get-together involving everyone at 4 pm on a Friday. Yes, everyone.

Why? Because it works!

Hannes has a lot of secrets from 15 years of managing remote-first engineering teams and shares all of them in this podcast episode.

The perfect structure for a standup

Standups might sound like a long, boring, daily chore for teams, but they don’t have to be! They can actually be super quick and fun.

All you want your team to do is to be up-to-date with each other and be reminded of how everyone looks and sounds, and how they are feeling right now.

In most standups, every team member is supposed to say one sentence about:

  • What they accomplished yesterday
  • What they are working on today
  • What’s blocking them.

And that’s it! This can be less than a minute per person.

Also, you can use standups to communicate wins and achievements. When you’re in an office, everyone notices that the sales team is having high-fives because of a large sale, and participates in that win emotionally. When working remotely, entire teams may never hear about any positive achievements within the company for months – and that is demotivating!

But standup calls are so hard to schedule

Bob is busy again? Jennifer is out of the office today and Greg is in a different timezone, sleeping in our mornings?

Scheduling regular, team-wide standup calls is hard. Agreeing on a time that suits everyone is difficult enough between two people, and even more so with an entire team.

Even worse, standups get longer and longer the bigger your team is. If you’re a 20 person business doing a company-wide standup, everyone is waiting half an hour just to say their five words. That’s really not productive.

What if there was a better way?

Written standup is your solution

Most teams successfully communicate on Slack, and this can also be a great channel for your daily standup. Creating a dedicated channel will take you a couple of minutes but they will save you hours of your employee’s time spent on daily meetings. To make things more efficient and ensure that everyone remembers about the standup you can use DailyBot.

Every morning DailyBot pings each team member and asks them to answer three simple standup questions: What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? What is getting in your way?

Written standup is not just a time-saver, there are some more cool advantages to it:

  • Transparency & accuracy – during standup meetings, some people can feel some pressure and be afraid to tell about some “blockers” they are facing. With written standup people are more comfortable sharing their honest thoughts and situations.
  • Having a record – for employees it is an opportunity to look back at what they have planned, check their progress, and make sure they are productive, and also they are on the same page with the team. During standup meetings, people can be inattentive, and miss something important, but with written standup, they will always have a chance to get back to it. On the other side, managers also have an opportunity to quickly check the state of everyone’s work and have evidence of their progress.


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Victor Purolnik

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Author, speaker, and podcast host with 10 years of experience building and managing remote product teams. Graduated in computer science and engineering management. Has helped over 300 startups and scaleups launch, raise, scale, and exit.

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