How to Keep the Team Spirit When Working Remotely
Whether you’re a remote-first team or have been forced to work from home due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak, you’ll certainly be missing one thing the most: face-to-face updates.
Human communication doesn’t just happen through words. In order 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.
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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
What is a standup meeting?
A team meeting organized on a daily basis to present a status update to all a development team's members.
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 communicates 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 the they will save you hours of you 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 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 in 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 to share 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, make sure they are productive and also they are on a same page with the team. During standup meeting people can be inattentive, 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 the evidence of their progress.
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Remote software engineering expert with CS and engineering management background, having built remote product teams for 10 years.
Author of the Complete Outsourcing Playbook and podcast host.
CEO of Trustshoring.