Remote Workers

How to Keep Your Remote Workers Connected

How to Keep Your Remote Workers Connected
Image credit: Help Scout
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Few things motivate more than a strong connection with the team. Closeness creates and sustains a drive to overachieve.

Remote teams can be very close-knit, but the distance involved requires better planning and deliberate effort. Not to worry, you’ll just rely more on organization and less on water-coolers.

One of the best ways to make improvements is to take a bit of inspiration from other companies, remote or otherwise. We’ve certainly learned a lot this way.

With that in mind, here’s a look at how we make connectedness a priority at Help Scout.

Friday Fika

Inspired by the Swedish tradition it’s named after, our Friday Fika is a weekly 15-30 minute break to talk with a randomly chosen person on the Help Scout team. Coffee and pastries are not required, but they are recommended!

Friday Fika addresses the fact that birds of a feather do tend to flock together—people usually hang out with those in their own department. Fika brings folks across teams face-to-face to talk about life, the universe, and everything.

The topics of discussion can run the gamut and don’t require structure, but I’d recommend setting a kickoff topic for each week so it’s easy to break the ice:

For all team communication, you should strive to keep things frictionless. The solution we use is Slack + Appear.in, where video chats like this can be started through a quick command of /appear {room name}.

No log-ins or usernames required. Remember, what’s easy to do gets done.

The Weekly Video Update

We used to address “status updates” with a conference call on Monday, but we found that it just didn’t work once our team hit a certain size.

These days, we send out a weekly video—inspired by Wistia—that covers what’s happening in the world of Help Scout: new hires, big company news, or important personal updates (new baby, moving across the country, finally found that old sweater you were looking for, etc.).

The video is sent through email and posted in our #huddle channel on Slack, which is where we share long-form content with the team.

Video updates have a few key advantages: they scale, they’re asynchronous, and you’ll have more time to plan and revise what’s shared.

Regular One-on-Ones

Starting one-on-ones can seem awkward at first. Despite nodding vigorously at all notions of “the team being everything,” many folks have trouble committing, and these all-important sessions are soon dropped.

You should make sure that doesn’t happen. Regular face-to-face time remains crucial even after you’ve settled in, because as the research shows:

…in about 85 percent of companies, employees’ morale sharply declines after their first six months—and continues to deteriorate for years afterward.”

Yikes!

A great working environment is the fix, and one-on-ones have no substitute. They surface issues early, serve as the catch-all for getting ideas, thoughts, and concerns on the table, and give you time to connect with your team lead.

We have a post dedicated to the topic, in addition to an internal team doc. We also introduce new team members to the idea if they weren’t already having one-on-ones at their previous company.

Team Retreats

Friday Fika, video updates, and one-on-ones certainly help with connectivity, but they can’t replace spending time together in person.

Twice a year our company gets together for a weeklong retreat. With a few team meetings and plenty of downtime, they give us a chance to hang out as a group and learn a lot about each other.

Earlier this year we met in Colorado for a mix of skiing, tubing, mountain hiking, and overeating. Work-wise, we divided up support shifts so customers were taken care of, and we planned smaller group sessions for reviews and brainstorming.

Retreats are certainly no small commitment, but the bonds built are meaningful and won’t happen without getting everyone together in the same place.
Help Scout team retreat
Help Scout team retreat
Help Scout team retreat
Help Scout team retreat

Learning as You Go

Your people define your processes in the world of People Ops. You’ll have to rely on practicing over “best practices.” Know that everything about your working environment is a big experiment benefitted by testing and tweaking.

We certainly have a lot to learn, and as the team grows, I know what works now won’t necessarily work forever. But for the all-important purpose of staying connected, we’re striving for constant and never-ending improvement.


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