Working from home has some amazing perks: no commute, shame-free jumping-jacks breaks, and more lunch options than 1) that sad sandwich sitting in your backpack, 2) the overpriced salad from the local bisto. However, the pants-optional-life of remote work isn’t all glamorous; a lack of strong communication can leave one feeling isolated and lost in their work, making even the greatest couch-lover miss the office.
With our team being spread from New York to San Francisco, we rely on a number of tips and tools that help us connect and collaborate across the country. Here are few of our favorites:
1) Slack - our company headquarters
Calling Slack a team messaging app is like calling ‘Inception’ a movie about a guy’s crazy dream; it’s true but there’s so much more to it (check out this site if you’re like me and still enjoy reading plot explanations and fan theories 6 years after the movie’s release).
We use Slack for everything from organizing teams, brainstorming projects, and sharing files. But perhaps most importantly, Slack strengthens our community by providing a virtual water cooler where our international team can exchange the challenges, fears, and success they’re experiencing on their personal journey to becoming the best Pokemon GO trainers in the land.
You’ve heard plenty about this app before, now start using it!
2) Zoom - video conferencing that works
Zoom has a handful of useful features but the exceptional video and audio quality are enough for us to sing its praises.
Every Friday afternoon we use Zoom to host our team meetings where we share accomplishments, nominate the employee of the week, and if we’re lucky, get serenaded by Marcelo Reyna (a masterful guitar player and developer, the true renaissance man).
3) 15Five - a weekly check-in on company culture
15Five sends out a weekly survey geared towards getting employees to open up about their accomplishments, frustrations, or challenges. For those working remotely, opportunities to bring up concerns don’t come up as frequently or as naturally as they do in an office setting. However, as our company grows, honest and open communication isn’t something we are willing to sacrifice; this quick practice makes sure every team member’s voice is heard no matter where they are across the country.
4) Trello - a collaborative to-do list
Trello makes organizing, prioritizing, and tracking work simple by letting you break up projects onto different boards, lists, and individual cards. With it you can assign tasks to team members and comment on their progress. Plus, its easy drag and drop interface makes it simple to understand for new employees (like me, #week4).
5) In-person time together - like without a computer
This one isn’t as cheap or as easy to implement as the others, but the benefits are huge! If your company has employees across the globe, finding the time and money to gather everyone in one place might seem impossible. Maybe it is. But if company culture is one of your priorities, consider investing time in brainstorming ways your company can increase good ol’ face-to-face interactions.
This is the second year we’ve celebrated Di Week, a time where our entire team gets together to review the company’s vision, strategize big-picture goals, eat lots of food, and just have fun. One night this year we went to Breakout Cincinnati, an escape game where a team has 60 minutes to break out of a room by cracking codes, solving riddles, piecing together puzzles and finding clues. For some reason, it’s easier to build friendships when you’re running around a room channeling your inner Sherlock Holmes together than it is when you’re sending emails back and forth.
No matter how good your system of communication is, in-person gathering will bring up questions, insights, and stories that otherwise would have remained unknown, as well as create a sense of trust and understanding from shared experiences.
Looking for more tools? Check out 43 Online Collaboration Tools to Help Your Team Be More Productive
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These practices have helped our team stay connected and focused as we continue to expand, but we’re always looking for ways to improve! I’d love to hear more about what tools and tips you find to be most useful on your own team. Seriously. Let me know!