Remote Collaboration Best Practices & Tips for Teams
Did you make the decision to make your team remote? Did you just land your dream work-from-home job? Are you working remotely temporarily? Aside from designing the ultimate home-office set-up, there are a few things you need to know before your telecommuting life starts.
As an internationally distributed team ourselves, we’ve picked up some tips, tricks, and best-practices every remote worker should know. Whether you’re an employer or employee, this sage advice is for you.
Best practices and tips for remote employers
One of the biggest advantages of remote work is flexibility – by giving people more autonomy, you make sure they can manage their energy levels to produce their best work. So a lot of tips and best practices revolve around personal productivity. However, there are some things that you can do as an employer as well.
1. Establish communication standards
To avoid pesky misunderstandings among your team, make sure to set communication best-practices in your daily routine. Use communication platforms, like messengers and video-conferencing tools, then set up regular check-ins. Keep dialog open and flowing on the daily. Don’t go a day without checking in with your team via some form of communication.
2. Optimize your tech stack
When communication and connection is hindered from being in different places, the last thing you need is technical difficulties. From hardware to software, good tech is key. Invest in ensuring your team has stable WiFi, good monitors with cameras, and remote collaboration tools.
Here are the top tools we’ve found to be most effective:
Video conferencing. Face-to-face team meetings are an important part of building trust in the team. Make sure you actually turn a camera on to read each other’s emotions better. Try Zoom, Google Hangouts or something else.
Real-time collaboration. Use Miro or other tools for brainstorming ideas, sharing visual references, or collaborating on a Kanban/Scrum board.
3. Hire the right talent
Not everyone is cut out for working remotely. Many prefer to work in an office environment every day. That’s why it’s important to screen candidates who are into the idea of being independent from a company headquarters. There are many ways to screen for remote employees, but the main goal is to focus on their ability to communicate, be proactive, problem solve, and manage their time.
4. Focus on onboarding and training
When it comes to managing remote employees, it pays to make time to fully onboard and train them upfront. We’re not talking about giving them one Google Doc with a million action items and setting them free to sink or swim. We’re saying you should have a 30 to 90-day plan to get them up to speed on the structures, guidelines, and processes of your company and team, and a full understanding of their role.
Make sure training and coaching happens regularly as well. There’s always more to learn, and these sessions will help you evaluate their skills and build a bond.
5. Reinforce company culture
It’s one thing to tell your employee about the company culture, it’s another to embody that culture. You are the example your team will follow—never let yourself forget that. Make sure you practice what you preach and reinforce the company’s mission, values, and beliefs regularly.
6. If possible, make time to gather in person as a team
This may not be feasible for every remote work situation, but if you can, make sure to schedule off-sites, summits, or other in-person gathering with your team at least a few times per year.
You’ll be amazing by how connected your team will be after having some one-on-one sessions together. The fact that IRL time is so rare will cause them to want to make the most of it—and that means more team bonding and better collaboration down the line.
7. Create team rituals
As a remote manager, you have to take the extra step to make sure people know what you expect. Setting up team rituals helps everyone develop a mutual understanding and have an opportunity to check in with teammates. Think about meetings that help the team align on projects, but also schedule time for less structured brainstorming, ideation, and culture-building.
Many teams at Miro work in two-week sprints, gathering around a digital whiteboard every other Monday for a retrospective and sprint planning. A lot of people also do regular stand-ups (on Slack or on Zoom) to work through blockers. We set ambitious goals, acknowledge what we can’t do or need help with, and what could be better. From there, everyone feels empowered to move fast and get work done autonomously.
Here's a template we often use for stand-ups at Miro:
8. Make space for celebration
Focusing on team morale is super important when you have remote employees. Don't forget to take time to stop, celebrate wins, and express gratitude to people for their contributions. Creating virtual spaces for socializing and celebration strengthens the bonds between teammates and lays the foundation for better remote collaboration later.
At Miro, we do our best to express gratitude often. We practice a ritual called "Friday Wins" where we close out the week listing our accomplishments. This not only give teams a chance to call attention to their work and feel pride about their accomplishments, but also creates a culture of accountability.
9. Encourage informal meetings
After a new person joins the Miro team, we always tell them it’s important to get to know people from different office hubs, even if they aren’t important stakeholders or direct reports. We find it helpful having these meetings, especially with colleagues they don’t work with on a daily basis. It’s another tactic to avoid isolation or anxiety. We like replicating the casual experience of chatting with coworkers in a remote setup.
10. Use incentives to drive productivity
There are different ways to support your team’s productivity and well-being while they are working remote. Here are several incentives that we think are effective:
Some companies offer a monthly coffee shop stipend to encourage workers to leave their home, get in front of clients, or just change their setup. The flexibility is empowering. You have to find creative ways to keep your team engaged, especially if you see each other very rarely.
Hosting virtual happy hours with smaller intimate groups of 10 to 15 is really fun. People can talk and get to know each other.
Consider starting an employee recognition and rewards solution like Bonusly, Blueboard, or Kazoo. Each employee can be given a small monthly bonus to credit their coworkers. If someone helped another person with a project, you can gift or reward them.
Best practices and tips for remote employees
Working remotely can feel like one of the best or worst decisions you make in your professional life – when you make this transition, your success depends on your intentions and motivation. With the right mindset and some patience, you can set out on a journey that will allow you to learn a lot about your energy levels, productivity, and environment that make you feel inspired. Whether you plan to work from home for a long time or will come back to the office soon, all this self-knowledge can be super valuable.
Here at Miro, everyone on the team has experience with remote work, so here are our best tips to feel productive, energized, and motivated while working from home.
1. Create an optimal workspace
First things first: decide how you should set up my home office. And we are not just thinking about your tech setup. Consider the environments I’ve worked in throughout my career. What did you like and dislike about them? Is it important to have lots of natural light? Or do plants around you make you feel better? What kind of chairs are the most comfortable? Create a list of important office characteristics and try to create a comfortable space.
2. Establish your rituals to feel better
It’s important to have a routine that makes you feel energized and helps avoid burnout and anxiety. Maintain the same (or similar) morning routine you used for going into the office. The only thing that should really change is that, instead of heading out the door, you’re heading towards your work space.
Create another ritual for the end of your workday. Leave your house, take a walk, and come back to your house, so you feel like you finished that chapter of the day. Then you can start living your life at home, instead of working.
3. Calendar out your day
To get the most from your daily schedule, block time on your calendar for various tasks as well as meetings. To make sure we’re all productive and don’t feel overwhelmed by a dozen of 30-minute meetings a day or a weird schedule because of time zones, we use a couple of tricks:
We set working hours on Google Calendar. If we can’t take meetings super early in the morning or late at night, our teammates can see it.
We block time for meaningful work. Putting a name of the task or just saying you are ‘Busy’ during a certain time clearly shows that you are working on a big project or task.
Some people also add their workouts/appointments to show that they will be slow to respond during this time.
4. Know when to work and when not to
It’s important to figure out your most and least productive hours in the day. Plan your most important tasks accordingly. At home, it’s easy to overwork and go into three hours of back-to-back meetings or hours and hours of deep work without any rest. Take breaks to avoid burnout and make sure you are always tracking your energy levels.
“When I’m working from home I give myself the freedom to take a little break and play a game for 20 minutes. Your brain needs breaks, especially after something like a phone call with a customer.”
—Matt Mulholland, Customer Education Manager at Miro
5. Install extra ways to be accountable
Accountability can be the toughest part of remote work. Ideally, you can be a self-starter and self-motivated, but not everyone has developed those skills. So, it’s important to create ways to hold yourself accountable. It can be a daily standup on Slack, a Kanban board for tracking progress that is visible to your team, or something else.
"A coworker and I started sharing what we had to accomplish that day with each other, so we could hold each other accountable. Owning the process ourselves really helped us stick to it, and it made a huge difference in my productivity."
—Ryan Cooper, Account Executive at Miro
6. Set boundaries
When you work from home, it can feel like there’s extra pressure to respond to messages right away. The truth is that it’s far more important to “close your office door” and focus by turning off Slack, or stepping away to get some fresh air.
Instead of feeling guilty, let people discover where you are by setting up calendar blocks or updating your Slack status to let people know when you will be available or that you might be slow to respond due to another priority – typically, that’s all people want to know.
“As a remote worker, you’ll be tempted to keep up with notifications when you can’t possibly be doing your best work. Open apps only when you’re truly ready to take on the day’s work. This could mean deleting apps from your phone or plugging it in at night far away from your bed.”
—Suzanne Holloway, Director of Demand & Growth marketing at Miro
7. Invest in yourself to invest in your career
Remember that working remotely doesn’t mean you can’t progress in your career. Connect with your peers within the organization and in your local community, find ways to stay visible online, and – if you’re the only remote person – find someone in the office who can be your eyes and ears, filling you in on what you may be missing.
“Being remote gives you a great opportunity to connect with a community of peers. Speak at a conference, attend meetups and workshops, and share learnings with your team. This also demonstrates your initiative to stay up-to-date on your industry. “
—Ashley Fryling, Senior User Experience Designer at T. Rowe Price