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How to keep the team spirit when working remotely

Victor Purolnik
3 min read

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.

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, 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 watercooler 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!

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?

Have video standups without ever scheduling another call

Yes, you read that right. It is possible to have proper, fun, informative, regular standups with video without having any video calls.

It’s actually quite easy, with a small, free tool called Standup Stories that we’ve built internally at Trustshoring for this very purpose.

Just add it to your Slack workspace and go to a channel you’d like to have a standup in. You type “/standup”, and Standup Stories will ask all members to record a short standup video. Whenever someone records their standup, it gets posted on the channel.

This way, Greg can do his standup when he wakes up and watch everyone else’s standups during breakfast. Jennifer can catch up on standups when she’s back from her meeting and record hers, sharing the news about signing a large contract.

And nobody needs to be waiting around for everyone to have their microphone settings worked out on a company-wide call anymore.

It’s like Instagram stories, but for your team.

Brilliant, isn’t it?

Give Standup Stories a try today. It’s free and it brings remote teams closer together ❤️

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