Remote 101: How to Work Remotely with your Team

We are a 100% distributed team & we have been testing out tools and tactics that enable us to work effectively. And we want to share how we do it.


A lot of people are finding themselves suddenly moving to remote work but without the systems and tools in place to do it properly and effectively. Respondent is a 100% distributed team so since our inception we have been testing out tools and tactics that enable us to work effectively as a team. And we want to pass some of this knowledge along to help you!

Set up a dedicated workspace

A dedicated workspace is more conducive to working effectively than sitting on your bed.

Your workspace is your first tool of productivity. Comfort is key — but not bed-comfortable. You need a proper work station with your screen as close to eye-level as you can get it. An area separate from your living space is also helpful. Avoid the kitchen table if you can.

We send all new employees a home office kit. As much as possible, we recommend mimicking this setup for comfort and productivity:

  • Laptop
  • Laptop stand
  • Second screen
  • Wireless keyboard
  • Wireless mouse
  • Desk
  • Chair
  • Water bottle
  • A headset with a microphone
  • A lighting stand for quality video (you’re really taking it to the next level here!)

If possible, send temporarily out-of-use desks and chairs from your office home to your employees.

Establish time zone norms

At Respondent, everyone works in a US Continental Time Zone, with a maximum of three hours difference between us. We ask everyone to be available 8:30am-6pm in their local time zone, which enables overlap as well as the possibility for ad hoc meetings.

Maybe everyone at your company works in the same time zone. Establishing norms around when everyone is expected to be available will prove essential to productive remote teamwork and communication.

Establish standard communication procedures

Now that everyone is working from home, make clear what communication tools you will be using as a group and how. Should you expect a response in Slack in 1 hour? 2? Everyone should be on the same page.

Here’s our software use breakdown:

Deliberately manage your calendar and make it visible to everyone

Suddenly not working from an office can make some people feel aimless. Create a schedule in your calendar. Things we recommend including:

  • “Commute time” — instead of a car or train ride to the office, use this time for yoga or meditation, or whatever works for you to “arrive” at your desk ready to work.
  • “Heads down work” — block off time for fully focused work with no interruptions. Following norms are integral to making this work.
  • “End of day” — Set an end to your day before you start. Without coworkers in the office it can be difficult to remember when to log off.
 

Create a meeting routine

Working remotely means no running into people in the hallway, no joint lunches, no office pop-ins. In order to see your coworkers, collaborate effectively, and ensure you’re on the same page, you will need to set up a meeting routine. We recommend:

  • 1:1s with your manager and/or direct reports weekly
  • Department meetings biweekly or monthly depending on size
  • Recurring meetings with any team members you work with on a regular basis

Deliberate meetings ensure you have time dedicated to connect with the people you need to in a systematic way. Funnily enough, these meetings tend to limit interruptions such as Slack messages and impromptu meetings because people know they have a reserved time to cover what is needed.

We always recommend meetings are intentional with:

  • Prework
  • A meeting goal
  • A meeting chair
  • A meeting agenda
  • Follow-up tasks

Embrace asynchronous communication.

You can’t be in meetings all the time with your team — nor should you — so plan for asynchronous communication. This is when you ask a question and don’t expect an immediate response. This is the opposite of a meeting, which is synchronous communication (Racheal asks a question in the meeting and Drake answers in real-time).

Tools like Github and Google Drive enable asynchronous communication with your team. Instead of booking a meeting to discuss a project, why not work on a Google doc together? This also facilitates transparency across the team.

 
Asynchronous communication used by our engineering team in Github
 
Asynchronous communication for this article in a Google Doc

Change your mindset to “outcomes” oriented

In an office, you can see everyone around you working — or watching youtube videos. Some people, especially those in leadership roles, equate being present with being productive. If this is you, then you will have to fundamentally change how you think about your team’s work. You will need to start thinking more in terms of outcomes. Your team won’t get any work done if you are constantly pinging them to see if they are working. Instead, ask them to create clear plans with scheduled milestones and proactively communicate their progress.

Our engineering team has a daily video standup meeting. The company as a whole uses Lattice to house our OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), which we’ve integrated with Slack to allow people to post updates on their goals.

Plan social events for your team

There are many ways to form and strengthen relationships remotely, but you have to build them into your schedule to ensure they happen.

Here are some fun activities we’ve added to our routines at Respondent:

  • Monthly lunches over video
  • Biweekly “coffee chats” over video through Donut
  • A reminder to share pictures through Polly (ex: pets, weekend trips)
 

Use proper tools

Working remotely means you’ll likely need to switch over to a few new tools. Here a few that we love:

  1. Zoom for all video meetings
  2. Google Drive (Docs, Sheets, Forms) to collaborate on work together
  3. Slack for chat
  4. Slab as our resource library
  5. Loom to record videos and share them with teammates
  6. Github for issue creation and documentation
  7. Otter.ai for transcribing meetings
  8. Miro for team collaboration on design reviews and research insights
  9. Invision and Sketch for product design (we are also testing out Figma)
  10. Asana for project management
 
Rayaan posted a Loom video to Zoom to show the team some changes he was working on

The switch over to remote work can be a challenge, however, small intentional changes and frequent communication, especially in the beginning, can make a huge difference.

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