Tools to Startup Your Remote Team: Everything You Need For Success
Going virtual? Learn everything you need to know about online tools and communication to successfully start up your remote team.
The Flow Marketing Team had an office space for about 6 months when we first launched the agency. Once we realized that business could be conducted from anywhere, we went the remote route and have been 100% virtual ever since.
Most businesses are changing the way they work due to stay at home orders from COVID-19 – but adapting isn’t always seamless.
Though the transition to a remote team affects each business in different ways, there is no doubt that each will struggle with:
- Tools: Finding, understanding, and using the proper remote tools.
- Communication: Staying in touch and making sure expectations, projects, and tasks are clear.
Lastly, almost every business is in the same boat, struggling to adapt to the sudden changes brought upon by COVID-19.
Everything around us is different thanks to Coronavirus, and it will take time for people to accept that, course correct, and readjust.
If your team is struggling with the switch to remote work, we get it. You need the tools, tips, and hacks to help your remote team succeed in this uncertain time ASAP, but not knowing where to start can make you want to pull your hair out.
Which is why we want you first to take a deep breath and tell yourself you got this.
Now that you’re centered, you’re ready to learn the tools and tips we’ve collected over the past three years operating remotely, implement them like the badass leader you are, and pull through and beyond this crisis stronger than ever.
The Tech Stack: Operational Tools Your Remote Team Needs
The most significant part of fostering high performance and collaboration in your virtual team is going to be choosing the best online tech for your business that is available today. Remote teams need robust and reliable tools, and since our entire team works from home, we’ll help you pick out the best ones without all the messy trial and error.
To keep your business meetings smooth and get facetime with your team despite the distance, you must invest in a video conferencing app.
The features to look for in a video conferencing app:
- Desktop and mobile: Ability to use computers and phones to join meetings.
- HD video and audio: Ability to have high-quality video and audio despite the number of attendees.
- Recording: Ability to record calls for later reference.
- Collaboration tools: Ability to screen share, use the ‘raise hand’ feature in meetings, and use brainstorming whiteboard features for interactive sessions.
- Conferences: Ability to hold up to multiple attendees with features such as calendar integrations and ‘mute-all’ function.
- Webinars: Ability to register a multitude of attendees and host webinars at scale.
- Chat: Ability to drop comments, notes, and files in the chatbox during a meeting.
The Clear Winner: Zoom
Unsure how to use Zoom? Check out the Zoom Help Center and guide to getting started.
As we’ll talk about later, the key to fostering a super successful remote team lies in its ability not just to communicate well and often, but also to build culture and connection about things that aren’t work-related.
The features to look for in a communication app:
- Channels: Ability to bring together the right people into one place for communication.
- Archives: Ability to easily search through past messages based on keywords and channels.
- Mobile and Desktop: Ability to communicate from any of your devices.
- Push Notifications: Ability to get message notifications as desk pop-ups or delivered to your phone in real-time.
- Integrations: Ability to connect to other vital remote tools like Google Calendar, Docs, and Drive.
The Clear Winner: Slack
Unsure how to use Slack? Check out the Slack Help Center and guide to getting started.
The runners up: None, Slack is just too good.
If your video conferencing app does not have collaborative tools where your team can brainstorm ideas and take notes, then we suggest adding a brainstorming tool to your remote tech stack.
The features to look for in a brainstorming app:
- Real-time collaboration tools: Ability for teams to chat, comment, and screen share.
- Organization: Ability to easily organize and manage projects with folders and templates.
- Integrations: Ability to connect other vital remote tools like Slack and Google Drive.
The Clear Winner: Miro
Unsure how to use Miro? Check out the Miro Help Center and guide to getting started.
The ability to manage projects efficiently and keep your team on task no matter when or where they work will keep your business moving towards its goals.
The features to look for in a project management app:
- Organization: Ability to map out and organize projects with folders, boards, templates, and calendars.
- Timelines: Ability to manage time and make sure your team hits their deadlines.
- Comments and Mentions: Ability to leave comments and messages directly on projects and tasks to avoid confusion.
- Automation: Ability to simplify project workflows by not having to adjust deadlines and tasks manually.
- Upload Files: Ability to attach pertinent documents straight to tasks and projects.
- Integrations: Ability to connect other vital remote tools like Slack, Google Drive, and Google Calendar.
The Clear Winner: Asana
Unsure how to use Asana? Check out the Asana Help Center and guide to getting started.
The runners up: Basecamp
The Number One Tool You Need: Clear Communication
Your remote team’s ability to communicate now more than ever will determine their performance. Since we want to help your organization not only survive but thrive online, here are some quick tips and hacks to promote a culture of communication.
Set Clear Expectations and Be Transparent
While it’s always important to set clear expectations, it’s even more vital while virtual.
And as the leader of your team, once you’re online, it’s going to be clear which employees need more direction and more explicit expectations versus those that don’t. You have to communicate early and often with more transparency than you think suffices to make sure the entire team is aligned.
For some of your team, this may require you to do an individual weekly check-in to monitor progress and re-clarify accountabilities and project expectations. We recommend checking in with everyone weekly, whether it’s positive or constructive, to maintain a frequent connection, especially if the change to remote work happened suddenly and abruptly.
The thing about remote teams is that 95% of the time, every person wants to do an excellent job for you, but it’s unfair to them if the finish line continues to move out of reach, without setting the expectation of what success looks like first. Thus, set the expectations early and often, be transparent, and lead with trust and accountability rather than micromanagement. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but allow your team to perform once you’ve given the direction.
Schedule Weekly Leadership and Monthly Team Meetings
Schedule recurring weekly and monthly meetings with your video conferencing app so your team can have the chance to:
- Get facetime and connect with both leaders and as a team
- Realign and clarify business projects and goals
- Voice problems and issues
- Celebrate successes
As the leader moving your team through the change, it’s essential to create a non-judgemental environment where your team can openly discuss anything – especially issues and concerns.
The group setting is the perfect place for people to find support from their peers, realize that others are potentially experiencing the same struggle, and find innovative solutions as a team. It’s also an excellent way for you to pinpoint the problems you can tackle universally or identify single issues that may require follow up or a one-on-one discussion.
Have an Open Door Policy
The transition to a remote workspace will no doubt raise questions and concerns from your team, at the very least. Though some may be comfortable expressing their issues in a group setting, some may not be.
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to make everybody feel heard and seen. A great way to keep lines of communication open is to make yourself available with an open door policy.
You need to support your team and a simple, “Hey, we can hop on Zoom. Do you want to talk through this? I’m here,” is the fundamental acknowledgment you need to give.
Remember, while you’re having these conversations to keep an open mind, that with every complaint, there is an underlying request or belief that prevents people from optimal performance. Therefore, it’s crucial to set aside judgments and ego, listen openly with empathy, and work together to find solutions that fit both your needs and the needs of the business.
The bottom line is, encourage your team to come to you no matter what. That way, they can feel comfortable reaching out for help and know that they can rely on you to find the solutions they need.
When you transition online from a brick and mortar or even if you have been operating a remote business for years, you must bring pieces of your culture and office into your remote workspace. In other words, you have to integrate the “water cooler conversation” into your Slack channel, so people have outlets to create a conversation and get to know their coworkers outside of a work environment.
Some great ideas you can implement for your team are:
- Remote happy hours
- Weekly media clubs reviewing books, podcasts, or shows
- Video coffee and lunch dates
- Water cooler Slack channel
- Personal development Slack channel
Making these available to your employees is a great way to encourage and foster the trust, communication, and bonding that would organically happen in an office setting.
Acknowledge Your Team Early and Often
When you don’t see your team face to face, it’s easy to forget to say “Thank you! Great job!” or give them the praise they would typically get when they see you in the office.
Words of encouragement and positive feedback are imperative to keep your team motivated and focused in an environment that makes it easy for them to check out, get distracted, underperform, and frankly, not care.
A great solution is to implement an acknowledgment Slack channel, where you can publicly acknowledge a member for their outstanding work and let the team shower them with praise.
Words of Encouragement for Your Remote Team
Change is not always easy.
Right now, the entire dynamic of your roles may be changing with the shift to remote work. Thus, the transition to an entirely remote team that is manageable and self-operating can quickly feel confusing, overwhelming, and honestly make you feel like, “Oh shit.”
We want you to know what you’re feeling is entirely normal.
We also want you to know that a remote workplace is achievable with the right technology, leadership, and open communication.
Right now, there are loads of opportunities for large companies and small businesses alike to learn from their employees and create a better working environment online.
But as you’re transitioning, don’t expect normalcy immediately.
Don’t expect perfection immediately.
Allow things to get messy.
Expect there to be a trial period of figuring it out.
Don’t put the pressure on yourself to have all the answers.
Give yourself grace, give your team grace.
Be in the thick of it as a team and understand that you’re on the learning curve just like them.
In this time of transition, there will be challenging moments, but in the end, remember to lean into your team and work things out together.
More importantly remember, that it gets easier!
Right now, we understand that each company has its own unique needs going completely digital and handling the COVID crisis. Some other great resources that can help you alleviate the stress are:
- How to Build Your Audience, Engage Your Customers, and Market Your Business During Social Distancing
- How to Transition From Brick and Mortar to E-Commerce
- The Wartime Business Playbook by our founder Andy Seth
- What is Flow State? The One Skill to Double Your Productivity by Andy Seth
- Bruce Tuckman’s Stages of Team Formation
As a digitally native company, we’ve been remote for over three years. In this time, we’ve learned a lot from trial and error, mastered techniques, and are always looking for improvements.
Thus, we have a ton of different examples, resources, and advice that we’d love to share with any company that needs extra help during their transition online or through COVID in general.
Feel free to reach out to us anytime with your unique needs and let us know how we can not only help make your transition to a remote team smoother, but also your business more productive than ever!