It’s been a crazy past few weeks. I’m reminded of that old curse, “May you live in interesting times.”
Many of you will be working from home for a while. And although working from home can be a terrific experience, it’s not without challenges.
Here at Clariant Creative, we’ve been a fully virtual business since 2015. We’ve tried a lot of strategies to manage our remote team, and we’ve finally settled on a rhythm that works very well for us. Hopefully some of our tips and tricks will help the next few weeks be a little less bumpy for you.
First and foremost, we think a lot about purposefully creating opportunities for communication and collaboration.
When your team is physically together in the same office, it’s easy to simply walk over to a colleague’s desk, peep over a cubicle wall, or even go out to lunch with a group of co-workers.
But when you’re working remotely, spontaneous communication can’t happen as easily. As a result, collaboration doesn’t happen as easily, either.
Here’s how we address that.
We start every day with a mandatory morning team call. The first part of the call is spent going over any important company news the team should be aware of. This helps everyone on the team feel in the loop.
The second part of the call is spent reviewing what’s on each team member’s plate for the day. This helps all of us make sure we’re working on the right priorities. It also provides an opportunity to talk through any anticipated challenges someone thinks they might face on that day – which opens up those issues for collaboration and problem-solving.
The call usually lasts about 30 minutes. Occasionally a few people may stay on longer to continue working through an issue if needed.
These morning calls are probably the single most important thing we do to make our team cohesive and productive.
Almost every call we make – whether internally or with a client – is conducted via video call with Zoom. We’ve tested just about every video conference platform out there, and for us, nothing beats Zoom for ease of use and comprehensive features.
Video calls are the next best thing to actually being in a room together. In fact, video calls are much easier than in-person meetings if we need to all be looking at something online, which we often do.
This might be the next most important thing we do as a remote team.
There are many instant messaging platforms out there, but at Clariant Creative, we use Slack. A lot. Slack is where all our informal or super-fast communication happens, both project- and non-project-related.
We have channels for each client, plus channels for fun things (which for us is largely centered around telling silly dad jokes and sharing pictures of our dogs).
Have a quick question on a project? Slack the account manager on the client channel. Want to share a funny meme that made you crack up? Slack it to our “random” channel. I even have Slack integrated with my calendar, so I get notified in Slack of upcoming meetings.
When you manage a remote team, keeping track of all the plates spinning can be a huge, complicated challenge. The right project management software makes all the difference.
We currently use Teamwork Projects. Everything we work on is managed in Teamwork. Everyone on our team is required to log their time in Teamwork, too. We’re able to keep track of our due dates, budgets, and project files all in a single place. Even better, we can see at a glance the status of any project anyone on the team is working on.
In the past, we’ve also used Trello and really liked it. Trello is inexpensive and extremely easy to use, but as our agency grew, we eventually needed a more comprehensive tool.
As the agency leader, I maintain a rigorous schedule of one-on-one meetings with everyone on my team. This includes several types of one-on-ones.
Once a week, I meet with each director and account manager to review the projects they are working on. This meeting is very tactical. For me, this meeting helps me stay aware of everything we’re doing for our clients. For the individual, this meeting enables them to check in with me and validate whether they’re approaching their projects from the best angle, or whether there’s anything they may have missed.
Once a month, I meet individually with each team member to talk about career goals and professional development. Unlike the weekly one-on-one, this meeting is 100% strategic and focused on the individual. It gives me a lovely opportunity to get to know each of my team members more closely, and it gives them the opportunity to let me know their dreams and aspirations. Together, we work out a plan to make sure Clariant Creative is supporting each individual in the way they need.
Additionally, team members often schedule virtual “coffee chats” with each other to touch base, whether to discuss projects or just general chit chat. I love that they take this initiative to build relationships with each other.
I’d like to think it’s a natural outgrowth of the open, collaborative, and purposeful environment we’ve built at Clariant Creative.
So, there you have it – a handful of strategies that help us make sure everyone on our remote team operates at their best every day. We hope these tips and tricks help you manage your remote team effectively too … and maybe make these crazy days a little less crazy.