Remote team working is brilliant for roles that require deep work, especially creatives who have to physically produce something.
One of the struggles, however, is keeping everyone happy. When we’re not next to each other, the easy-breezy, natural team building is gone.
We have to actively get that back somehow, or new starters and junior team members will find it hard to work well in a remote team.
In a marketing or creative team, everyone is usually involved on projects together, but each bit doesn’t happen at the same time. It’s important to find things that the whole team can do together, live.
That collaboration leads to good chat and new ideas. It’s also great for juniors because hearing seniors’ thought processes out loud as they’re happening is a brilliant bit of training that we can do without even noticing.
Tasks that can easily be done collaboratively:
- Competitor research – looking at apps and websites together is visual, fun and something everyone can comment on
- Scamping – everyone in a marketing team can have input into how a bit of work is structured and scamps (rough layouts) don’t need to be good, so everyone can sketch ideas and hold them up to camera to explain their thoughts
- Sharing work – it can be daunting sending finished work for review when you don’t get to vibe off people or show them the progress as easily, so internal team reviews can get over that hurdle
Leave the Zoom open and people can come and go, asking questions as they work. It’s great for maintaining team relationships and getting people comfortable with asking for what they need on an informal level.
Even for teams spread across the country, it should be possible to set up a regular day IN THE CALENDAR (or it won’t happen!) where everyone can meet to work together. The focus should be the social aspect, so don’t plan a bunch of deadlines.
The success of these days will directly impact the success of remote working, so don’t let it fall by the wayside. It’s critical that humans get to interact on a physical basis, so our brains know where we’re at socially when it’s back to remote.
One of the biggest drawbacks of remote working is the lack of natural mentoring. More senior roles probably welcome the peace and quiet, but juniors may feel less able to ask questions when you’re not sat next to them.
They’re also not overhearing conversations and seeing work happening in front of them, so they don’t pick up on the little social or discipline quirks that will help them in their careers.
Any senior that has a junior role reporting to them should be having regular one-to-ones to talk through priorities, review work, have some industry chit-chat and give some reassurance. Think back to the beginning of your career when you felt like you knew nothing. Juniors now feel the same way – but they’re sat by themselves with no one to help grow their confidence.
It matters that seniors also spend time with juniors who don’t directly report to them, because the cross-over of disciplines and how they work together is vital knowledge. Juniors also need to be exposed to a wide range of working styles, including how different people communicate, give feedback and brief projects.
Keeping up with training is a challenge in and of itself when you work remotely, but inter-discipline training is even harder. It just ends up…not happening.
I’ve put my juniors on Skillshare now so they always have access to something to enrich them. But working on that by themselves isn’t enough – so we also work on topics that are relevant to all of us together. They get to pick training they’re interested in and that they think we should all know about. It means we’re all on the same page and we’re spending time together.
Structure and processes
Ugh, I know. But unfortunately, things used to ‘just work’ when we were all talking to each other all day long, and now they don’t. Less communication means we need more structure.
I had one of my juniors tell me she wasn’t always sure what she should be working on, which made her anxious. Absolute failure on my part and it broke my heart that she’d been feeling like that. It’s not her job to hassle me for work – it’s my job to make sure she feels confident and has lots of interesting stuff to do.
So, I’ve implemented some processes to help everyone feel organised and informed.
Everyone has an official list of areas that they’re responsible for (which often gets left back at the recruitment stage) on an ongoing basis, so they know there’s always a project they can be working on. This helps make sure work is shared out properly and everyone has a sense of ownership.
I used to handle our team’s work stack, but now I’ve put everyone in charge of their own tickets. They set them up, they progress them and they keep them updated with tasks. That means they’re never staring at a ticket not sure they fully understand it and they’re not waiting for me to find time to update them. We go through our tickets once a week to discuss priority and progress.
We’ve created an official brief form that everyone fills out with or for the person briefing them. They know what they should be asking, what specifications they need to hit in the piece of work and who’s involved. The brief gets attached to the ticket for the work so there’s visibility of what’s been asked for.
Just doing these things has led to so much more discussion, facetime and learning, so I know I’m helping them with skills they’ll use for their whole careers. THAT is the key to a remote team.