30 tips and best practices to help your company make the transition to remote work and distributed teams
⚠️ Warning ⚠️ Before reading, please note that all the tips and tricks in the world won’t help if your company doesn’t have a culture that supports work from home.
If you didn’t have a remote company culture before, now is the time to make the switch. It all begins with trust and accountability. These principals must become core values in order to thrive as a remote business. When any organization transitions to remote, both strengths and weaknesses of the corporate culture will be amplified. Hidden dysfunctions will be exposed and intensified to the point where they might become a threat to business survival. Take this opportunity to remove existing weaknesses and continue to improve cultural strengths and company processes.
⚠️ End Warning ⚠️ You’ve been warned 😉
For the vast majority of companies, distributed teams and an entirely remote workforce are uncharted territories. Although not 100% remote prior to the current pandemic, here at Favro we’ve been structured since day one to collaborate with distributed teams and employees working from home. Based on our experiences from being partially remote and distributed to now being a fully remote organization, here are 30 tips and best practices to help your company make the transition.
1. Manage flow not people — Stop managing people and assigning tasks. Focus instead on determining desired outcomes, prioritizing the objectives and key results to achieve those outcomes, then managing the flow of value once a direction has been set. Favro makes these objectives clear to the entire organization and enables teams to remotely collaborate together to achieve them.
2. “Like a Servant”— “Like a Boss” is dead. In a remote organization, supervision and micromanagement are almost impossible. Embrace this as a positive and move to a servant leader mindset. Company managers and leaders should provide direction and clear the way instead of delegating tasks, requesting reports, and requiring constant status updates. Servant leaders unlock the potential of self-managed teams and lead by example: how are they adding value to the organization and how can team members do the same.
3. Executives are people too — As a leader, you need to be more open and personal online. Be personal but not private. Level up on being personal and approachable. Choosing a Zoom background that reflects your personality can be a good place to start 😊
4. Blur the social media lines — Leaders might also consider opening up a bit on social media. If you use Facebook for friends and LinkedIn for business, be a little more personal on LinkedIn. Maybe share how you’re staying healthy during shelter in place, like Favro VP, Stefan Frank, did in this post.
5. No place to go — It’s no longer about just showing up. When employees are colocated in an office environment, simply showing up is an indicator that they’re working. With no office to go to, showing up means adding value. Individual contributors should think more like business owners and less like traditional employees.
6. No judgment zone — Especially during the transition to remote, everyone is going to have a different situation. Some might now have children at home. Some might not have a private area in their home for online video meetings. Be patient and respectful of everyone's unique situation as they adapt to a new way of working.
7. “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes”— Volatility and uncertainty are the new normal. Remote organizations and distributed teams should move to more agile ways of working. Embrace change instead of fearing it by moving towards not only team but overall business agility.
8. Prioritize! Re-prioritize! and Prioritize some more! — Make sure everyone in the organization is working on the right things. Large business initiatives, all the way down to the product features and services that drive those initiatives need to be prioritized constantly by business value. How value is quantified is up to the organization. Here’s an example of how to determine and prioritize value based on cost of delay. And, here’s the way Dwight D. Eisenhower did it for an entire country.
9. One team to build it all — In order to respond quickly to change, wherever possible create cross-functional teams. Small teams made up of all the disciplines necessary to deliver value to the customer will speed the time from idea to delivery and will be able to pivot much faster than large siloed teams and departments. Definitely ditch the business people vs. technical people mindset. Business people and technical people need to work together on a daily basis to deliver the right products and services to customers.
10. Granular is good — Break big goals down into smaller goals. A Favro backlog is built for breaking down big things into smaller, more achievable things. They also make it easy to see the progress towards completing the whole.
11. Never stop planning. Never stop delivering.— Instead of doing all of your planning and analysis upfront, break projects and deliverables into smaller chunks. Prioritize the most valuable initiatives and deliver those first. Create a regular cadence across the entire organization of small, cross-functional teams planning, creating, and delivering value in short two to four week iterations. You’ll be receiving both revenue and customer feedback much faster. Here’s how to make it happen in your company.
12. You get what you measure — Stop measuring activity. If you measure activity, you’ll get plenty of activity but possibly no results. Stop measuring the number of tasks completed. Being always online and completing a lot of tasks does not mean that an individual or team is productive. Visualize progress with Favro Kanban boards, allowing everyone to see the real-time flow of value from start to finish. Track real results and outcomes vs. planned results and outcomes.
13. Never enough synchs! — Using Zoom or another online video conferencing app, the daily standup is now more important than ever. This is not a status update meeting, where the boss asks direct reports to account for their time. The purpose of the standup is for team members to communicate with each other on progress towards goals, make sure any impediments towards those goals are identified, and form a plan for the day.
14. Instant Replays— While on the topic of Zoom… We’ve all been there — you’ve just wrapped up an in-person meeting and you totally forget a few action items. With Zoom’s recording feature, you can easily record and playback meetings. Use Favro to document these next steps, attach necessary files, and collaborate to get them done. Maybe even share the entire recorded meeting on a Favro card for reference.
15. Communicate where the work lives — It’s great to use a tool like Slack for general conversation. But, when it comes to getting actual work done, it makes more sense to communicate where the work lives. Commenting on Favro cards, representing planned deliverables, keeps your communications in context.
16. Swarm the Problem — Provide tools for team members to collaborate ad-hoc, in real-time whenever possible. Team members should not feel that they have to work on things in isolation. It’s been proven that swarming complex problems — which amounts to team members with different specialties collaborating together to figure out solutions — is much more successful than working alone. A powerful combination: colleagues can use Zoom in tandem with Favro to resolve any impediments or problems together in real-time.
17. Virtual Show and Tell — Nothing is more important to the success of a remote organization than cadence. A regular cadence of sync points creates alignment across teams of teams no matter how large the organization. A good example is to organize a weekly show and tell, where teams show off what they accomplished during the week. Give them the credit they’re due with an unmuted round of online applause 👏
18. Cameras On = Pants On — Some say that online meetings are more intimate than face-to-face meetings because you can see everyone's face so clearly. Of course, in order for this to work, everyone must have video cameras turned on. Don’t forget to put your pants on too, especially during remote stand-ups 😊
19. “Breaker, Breaker 1-9”— Especially in large meetings, make sure all participates not currently speaking have their microphones muted. Think old school walkie-talkies and CB radios to drastically cut down on background noise and distractions. Classic CB Slang
20. Share coffee and a “Donut” — This one’s a must for remote companies using Slack. Use the Slack Donut app for random one-on-one chats or video calls and get to know more people in your organization.
21. Asynchronous Communication — Teams distributed across multiple geographic locations and time zones are typically not able to communicate in realtime for ad-hoc questions and conversations. That being the case, your organization needs to understand and facilitate effective asynchronous communications. Apps like Slack or Teams are built for this and a great email replacement. Here’s a complete guide to remote team asynchronous communication.
22. Virtual Executive Briefing Center (EBC) — It’s not just about remote teams, presenting to and building relationships with prospects who are also now remote is another key success driver of any business. A virtual Executive Briefing Center is a great way to facilitate these types of interactions. Here’s a guide on the best way to set up your own virtual EBC.
23. Use the Boat retrospective. It’s the best!— Now that you’re remote don’t cheat on retrospectives. Team retrospectives are a chance to reflect on the process and the team itself. It’s a commitment to Kaizen, which means change for the better. If a team isn’t holding regular remote retrospectives that’s an indication that they’ve chosen to not improve. There are many different ways to run a retrospective and using various methods is encouraged to keep things fresh. The Boat Retrospective is the best! Bonus: here’s an article detailing how to practice Kaizen with Favro.
24. Everyone 💜 a challenge — How about offering rewards for the employee who comes up with the best weekly online challenge. Things that encourage interaction such as having every team member recommend their favorite online course or work-related book, taking a photo of their remote workspace, and sharing with the team. etc.
25. Don’t forget the Europeans — There are quite a few tools that help you schedule distributed teams working in multiple time zones, but none of them offer a better visualization or as many features as Every Time Zone.
26. Favro + Slack = 😍 — Don’t forget that Favro has a native Slack integration. If something changes in Favro instantly post it in a Slack channel or DM. Here’s the integration guide.
27. It’s Fika Time— Along with collaborating online for work, it’s important to stay social with colleagues. You’re no longer in an office having impromptu conversations and meeting for coffee breaks. Take a tip from the Swedes and stay connected with a weekly or even daily virtual Fika. It’s a time to talk about all the things you would if you were having coffee and treats face-to-face.
28. Don’t forget to breath — Encourage people to get outside, take breaks, and stay healthy. At Favro we’ve set up a weekly Fresh Air Challenge. Everyone posts weekly photos of beautiful things they see during walks around town or in nature. We’ve also created weekly Favro boards to voluntarily enter daily steps, with very achievable goals. It’s fostered a great sense of camaraderie and friendly competition.
29. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere — A danger of remote work is always being online and always working. There isn’t the same separation of office life from home life. Along with setting well-defined core hours, managers and executives must lead by example and ensure they’re offline and not available themselves outside of work hours. A good best practice is to create an always available, continuously updated remote company calendar.
30. Play Apart Together — It’s not likely that most distributed and remote teams will have the chance to meet up at restaurants and bars for after-work socials. A fun alternative is online gaming. We’ve written a handy guide to help you start up your own Online Gaming After-Works.