Having everyone in the same room is a rare luxury for Team Teleport. Here are some of our main behaviours, guidelines and rules for making sure communication stays effective inside our distributed team.
Our employees are currently spread between 5 countries around the world. The company has been remote-ready from day zero – but that also means extra effort by every single person in the team to make sure work runs smoothly.
Picture evidence of the rare and exotic Teleport team meeting.
We’ve previously written about our favourite tools for remote work, and now it’s time to dig deeper into the dynamics of creating clear conversations in a distributed team. This is how we work around not being in the same physical space all the time and make sure communications don’t fall apart because of geographical distance.
1) A good task management system is the first key to keeping everyone in the loop about what’s currently happening as well as what needs to happen next. Team Teleport uses Asana, but Trello and DropTask are also good options. We add tasks that require later action to Asana and assign them to the appropriate team members. Creating projects or boards for different things (marketing, product releases, PR, onboarding etc) helps categorize and focus tasks even further.
2) Our team is quite an international one – we’ve got people from Estonia as well as Guatemala, France, Germany and Norway. Point is – we distinctly distinguish that in whichever format or language we discuss things, we write the decisions and outcomes down in English – this way nobody gets left out of anything important. Speaking of decisions and outcomes…
3) If a longer real-time chat happens on a topic that we think would later be useful for all chat members, including those who happen to not be online in other timezones, we make sure to summarize the key takeaways and expected actions for them for when they wake up. Nobody has time to wake up and read through 200 messages to get to the point. Plus: adding any discussion notes, whiteboard images or napkin drawings is also important for people who were not there for getting a better sense of the context.
4) We make sure all documents are easily accessible to every team member – we use good ol’ Google Drive to keep tabs on most of our documents and files – everyone has access and editing rights, and whenever we make important changes to a document, we make sure everyone is aware of it by:
- Adding a comment to a specific paragraph of the document and and tagging people (“+firstname.lastname@example.org” in Google syntax, if you didn’t know) who should definitely read or comment.
- Sharing the link to the doc in the relevant chat along with an explanation of what’s been changed and why. If we need input or a decision from a particular person, it’s important to ping them directly, too.
5) Having a good team chat system is important – we’re a fan of Fleep. Creating both one on one as well as group chats is easy, important messages can be pinned to a board as well as created as tasks (we predominantly use Fleep tasks for in-conversation assignments when in the middle of a release – non-immediate tasks go to Asana), searching through message history is a piece of cake and there’s also a file drawer in each chat to find that screenshot you sent three months ago without losing your mind.
6) We have a watercooler chat – being apart from each other most of the time doesn’t mean the occasional light-hearted conversation, joke, or funny cat picture can’t or shouldn’t happen. Not that our product chats are 100% deadly serious all the time either, but it’s good to know that there’s a designated virtual space for everyone to let off some steam.
7) The only hard routine we have is our Monday review call where everyone gets together for a 90 minute walk-through of the week, which includes:
- The release calendar – what did we release last week and what will we be releasing next
- Product backlog – what did we build or are building for the releases above
- Marketing topics
- Business operations (like Teleport Scouts data)
- Sometimes a bigger and more important topic, since everyone is present (quarterly reviews, retention updates).
Other than that call, there are a few “interest groups” that gather on regular intervals (like the design review or data science call), which have their core participants and the remaining team’s presence is optional.
8) We get together as often as we can. As much as we’ve gotten quite good at keeping communications clear and relationships good over the virtual world, actual get-togethers are a must to familiarize people at first and learn to really trust each other. European employees try to get together with others for roughly a week a month, and for intercontinental travel, it’s more like a trip across the ocean every quarter – and it’s always a great time!
And that’s how we keep everything running smoothly! What are your best practices for making sure communication is clear and open in your remote team? Is there anything you would recommend we add to the list above? Tell us in the comments!