remote team

5 Secrets for Thriving as a Remote Team

Working remotely has never been more important or relevant.  Back in 2009, PeopleG2 decided to move 100% of its employees to work from home, a remote team under the leadership of its CEO, Chris Dyer. Originally, this move was purely a financial decision. With the recession in full swing and the mortgage industry imploding, PeopleG2 knew it could only survive by going remote. 

It turns out we did survive, and even thrived, by making this bold move. That is just the beginning of the story. We may have gone home to work to save the company money, but over the next year we made some incredible discoveries. We got more done, we enjoyed our work more, and communication and collaboration improved. 

Our culture solidified, and out of that recession, we emerged with higher performance, productivity, and profits. In fact, PeopleG2 has been named a fastest growing company on the Inc’s 5000 list 4 times. Our employees have also ranked us an Orange County Register “Top Place to Work” every year since.  

In 2009, we sent everyone home by choice, and we understand many of you are now going home to work, without a choice. The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting so many businesses and employees that remote work is now the new normal. 

As many companies look to work-from-home solutions, these businesses must ensure company collaboration excels. To do this, there are a few key concepts to implement, and it will take a shift in your mindset.

 

Video is a Must for a Remote Team

Regardless of the platform you choose (Slack, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, Zoho, UberConference, etc) seeing other people and allowing them to see you is surprisingly important. We rely on our ability to read body language, facial expressions, and get a jolt of oxytocin when we watch someone else smile.  

Whenever you can, be on video. You will have a better day, feel better, and get more done.

 

Stop Meeting 1-1

In most cases meeting 1-1 is not effective; it is the guaranteed way to slow productivity down. There are situations when that kind of meeting is essential, but 95% of your meetings should be with multiple people—ideally 5-7 employees. 

In a group setting, you can figure things out faster, ensure communication and transparency, and avoid having 5-7 additional calls that day. These meetings can be 5 minutes long or hours long, based on the agenda and need. Having tons of quick team-based meetings is the key to fast progress. 

It might feel counterintuitive, but for 11 years we have tested this concept and found success. 

 

Curate Remote Team Meetings

Your meetings should have strict rules and norms that you always follow.  Doing this will ensure a fast-moving, highly engaged team. 

First, don’t have a meeting if an email or slack message could have been utilized. 

Secondly, no agenda, no meeting. EVER! 

Third, all meetings start on time, or the late person sings (or has some other fun punishment).  

Finally, always end early.  If you set a meeting for 15 minutes, see if you can get it done before your time ends. 

There is an interesting phenomenon that comes into play with company meetings called Parkinson’s Law. It tells us that we tend to fill gaps if we set a block of time for something. If we set 30 minutes for a meeting, our brains want to meet for exactly 30 minutes. So, we talk about other issues, like our day, and we engage in useless chatter. 

But if our goal is to end early, we stay on task, and everyone can enjoy the gift of time.

 

Remote Team Meeting Types are Important

Not all meetings are the same, and yet we ask people to show up the same way each time in traditional companies. Team members wind up sitting through meetings that have very little to do with their specific expertise and ultimately feel their time is wasted. As a result, it becomes harder for you as a leader to rally the people you need when you need them.

To get those relevant players on board, we created a sliding scale of meeting types, based on the degree of urgency:

– Cockroach Meetings 

These meetings involve low-priority issues about which anyone can provide input. When we call a cockroach meeting, people can opt in or out, and don’t have to put aside more important work to attend. Quick issue, quick meeting (15 minutes or less).

– Tiger Team Meetings

This is a larger meeting with a full agenda (1 hour or more) to share information, solve problems, or move toward objectives. Tiger team meeting announcements only go out to those involved, on a need-to-know basis. Attendance is mandatory, but we still try to end early.  

– Ostrich Meetings

Let one employee get help or information from key players who can best inform them. If you call an ostrich meeting, people with the facts know you just want background on an important issue, fast.  These are usually 15 minutes as well, and we always try to end early.  

– Tsunami Meetings

These less frequent meetings involve big concerns that can make or break the company’s viability. Tsunami meetings typically consider ‘what-if’ scenarios to arrive at backup plans for sudden or significant events, such as a worldwide pandemic, illness or death of an executive, or quicker-than-expected sales growth. 

This also gives employees the practice of brainstorming and disagreeing, while ensuring leaders create a psychologically safe place to discuss big topics.  

 

Remote Team Bonding

Now that you are home, it can be harder for people to know how each of their teammates is feeling, and more difficult to express their own feelings.  

This practice is great for any meeting (remote or not), for meetings 30 minutes or more:  

At the start, have everyone go around the room (real or virtual) to answer this question: “How are you showing up today?” 

This question will give you a wide range of answers. It allows leaders (who should go last in this scenario) the opportunity to see who is excited, feeling overwhelmed, or who is about to sabotage your meeting. Deal with what you can before you move on to the meeting at hand. 

When you are done meeting, ask everyone: “How are you leaving the meeting?”  

Often this is our best chance to catch misunderstandings, key takeaways, and understanding. Again, leaders go last.  

Working remotely has been the best framework for PeopleG2. Using this model, we have excelled, become a top workplace, and provided our customers with world class customer support (NPS average of 74). 

Now that companies are forced to work from home, it is our hope that with these important shifts, any company can find a better way to work, survive, and soon thrive throughout this strange time.  

How else can we help?