From day one of considering hiring my very first employee until the day I’m writing this, working with and leading a remote team has been a learning experience, and one I know I have to stay open to. Remote work is powerful, but I was worried in the beginning about how to help my team feel connected from so far away. Would they communicate well? How would we efficiently share the workload? Would I be able to share the vision over the Internet? Does collaboration function well if we’re all in different places and time zones?
I didn’t want it to feel like I was juggling a handful of siloed-off employees. I wanted a true team. A community in this shared vision with me. And, if I’m honest, I wanted people to do life with, too!
As the team has slowly pieced together into what it is now, I feel immense joy and satisfaction that I get to work with these humans, that they choose to share in my vision and do this work with me, and that they’re a happy and connected team. They each play a massive role in making remote work happen smoothly, and I’ve discovered a handful of ways I believe help a remote work ‘environment’ and community function well!
Have you been curious about hiring your first employee? Or maybe you’re considering taking your team out of the office and going fully remote? Let’s dive into how you can build an effective, peaceful, and connected remote team that is truly a community.
Successful remote work starts with how you communicate.
And not only how… but for us, it came down to where. Early on, I knew that one of the easiest ways to breed confusion and frustration would be having unorganized methods of communication. You don’t want to log into work for the day and see 100 pings on 10 different apps and websites. That not only slows down the work and clogs up the creative flow, but it also makes way too much space for miscommunication— and everything that comes with it.
So, I made Slack our primary hub. We jump into the workday on Slack and that’s where we end it. It’s the epicenter for communication, and it feels so easy to keep our projects and conversations smooth, easy to track, and open. But Slack is just a tool… one that some teams, even small ones, can misuse. It can still be a source of pings and dings and chasing down which conversation was the right one— so, in order to keep our minds and workdays as clear as possible from distraction, we hold to team and individual boundaries per day, per project, and per human. That’s the beauty of a remote team! Because of everyone’s working on something different, I couldn’t possibly expect them to have the same kind of workday availability as someone else. Need to be in the writing zone for the day? Fabulous, we love and create space for that.
Have team meetings that are meaningful.
We are not that team that is on and off Zoom calls every single day. In fact, we avoid them at all costs.
How many times have you been in a meeting that could have been an email? Or a single Slack message? Or perhaps didn’t need to happen at all? Chances are, you can think of more than enough instances that make you cringe at the thought of a ‘team huddle’. I am not a fan of wasting anyone’s time (it’s our most precious resource!) so I wanted to rethink the concept of team meetings.
So, when we have them, we make them COUNT. It’s not about carving out an hour or making everyone give an account of the work they’re doing — especially when they’ve already been busy communicating that in Slack or in a Google doc. Nobody likes to repeat themselves just for the sake of it, right? So, we create a fun, prioritized agenda and stick to it. 9/10 times, we’re out of our meeting way earlier than planned.
And sometimes when we know we’re already all caught up on the work stuff but we’re feeling a little detached and being on the LIFE stuff, we hop on a Zoom call to reconnect together as humans. There are marriages, babies, moving houses, and meaningful life moments that we take a moment to share in together. There’s celebrating, there are tears, there are moments where we can be vulnerable. And this is the kind of team I crave — one filled with real people.
They’re not robots. I aim to consistently remind them that while we work hard, the ultimate aim is for us to live well. Don’t take work home with you. Log off and go live! Your health and peace matter are worth protecting because that’s how a team of humans truly thrives.
Move from remove to real.
What was instantly one of my favorite things about managing a remote team? Just how sweet and soul-filling it is to come together from all our corners of the planet to actually be together in person!
We plan semi-regular team retreats (like mini-vacations) to just bask in one another’s presence. I know this might look differently depending on your remote team (i.e. one of your employees cannot travel, it’s not in the budget, etc) but if possible, I would say that some kind of in-person connection is a necessity.
First, I love the kind of rapid and honest connections that happen in person that are full of magic and deep connection, unlike the ones we build as we pop in and out of Slack all day. Our team retreats are a treasure to each of us. We get to bask in the sun, swap stories over shared meals, stay up late laughing around the fireside, and enjoy open-ended days away from our usual routines. It’s reinvigorating to see, touch, and connect with the people we’re collaborating with day in and day out!
And I live for those aha moments that come through shared stories where we learn about how someone operates, how they work, and why they create they way they do. This is vital info for how to strategically and efficiently work together. We learn each others strengths and weaknesses. And we get to soak in the voice that lives behind the words we see on the screen. This makes for way less miscommunications and amplified abilities for anticipating what each other needs and how to support every single project. There’s BIG payoff and I see it in every launch, in every new idea, and in every problem that is solved through teamwork.
Celebrate and welcome people’s differences.
At the time I am writing this, my team has more beautiful variations and differences than ever before. From owning their specific roles, to being contractors, salaried, or fractional, to being administrative or more creative or a blend of the two — the range is spectacular. I want to honor and celebrate those differences!
So, I dive deep in understanding each person’s communication style. What’s their personality type? When do they feel most energized and focused during the day? How can I and their coworkers communicate best to them (i.e. how much or how little details would they appreciate? Do they want a conversation or more of a tasked-out action list?) Are they night owls or early birds? Do they have kids and need to be able to step in and parent at the drop of a hat?
I’ve learned that this spectrum of difference doesn’t hold a team back. It actually rockets it forward! We’re all so different that every time we bump into each other, we’re sharpened. We not only learn something new about another human, but we also see every project from different angles. From angles I wouldn’t have known existed on my own! When it comes down to creative ideas, strategic approaches, new methods to try, this diverse team is a deep well of wisdom and insight. I want to harness that, encourage it, and reward it!
We’re not here to blend together into a sea of little Jennas. I’m excited to see each person’s imprint on the work we do. The experience is incredible, and you know what else is? The results. Your business will grow with a team that looks and functions differently than you!
Remote work is all in the details.
Now, this might seem like one of those “is that really worth mentioning?” pieces of advice, but I think it’s far too easily overlooked: remember their birthdays.
Not only birthdays but find ways to remember pieces of information about them that they wouldn’t expect. This will come in handy many times over! First off, remember that if your team isn’t all in the same timezone as you, respect that your 8am isn’t their 8am! You can show you’re aware of their life and boundaries when you don’t ping them at 5am because of the time difference. They’ll appreciate that!
What’s their favorite meal? Have it ordered and delivered to them when they’re sick. Knowing details about their favorite hobbies, authors, musicians, and pastimes will help you send them a gift that goes deeper and makes them feel known and understood!
Take time to check in on their real lives. Ask them about their hobbies and what’s new in their out-of-work life! Celebrate their passions and ask curious questions. Check in about their families and friends, and if you need to, make a note about these things. Schedule reminders in your calendar to check-in, too.
We’ve walked through tough times together on our team because that’s how life is. People have lost loved ones, gone through scary health journeys, and worked through intense and important things that they have chosen to open up about with us. We even have a Slack channel dedicated to everything that isn’t work — people can share hard things and we can be with them and support them through it there as a safe space.
Life is made up of all these little details. So, to support a remote team, you have to remember you’ve hired a whole, entire, beautifully complex person. When you create space for that, they show up and, if my experience has taught me anything, they’ll continually surprise you with the work that comes out of that place of respect!
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As much as I wish I could hang with these amazing humans on the weekends or not need a stack of connecting flights just to see them face-to-face, I wouldn’t change a thing about this remote team.
Everyone gets to do two beautiful things at once: love the work they do and build the life they want, where they want it. They can take advantage of making their own schedules, working from wherever they are, flexing that work to curve around the unexpected, and grow the role they step into from day 1 to day 1000. We’re not stuck in any way at all. It’s truly working freely, and with that, we get to make some amazing stuff together.
As you consider a remote team or look for ways to support the one you have even more strategically, I hope you remember YOU are a part of that team, too. Listen to what your life needs and create a team that helps you harness that vision in full. Not just the work. Recenter on the vision of why you started your business in the first place. What does that vision need? Find those people and create the best work (and life) environment for them, and the rest will follow!
Build a business and life that you love!