Despite the fact that our web and mobile development team works remotely from 9 countries in 5 different time zones and up to 7 hours difference, we still don’t have any problems in team collaboration and efficiency. In fact, we always receive wonderful feedback about our work style and processes. Since 2014, we have been experimenting with different processes, tools, rules, traditions, and styles for continuous improvements. It has resulted in a system which we want to share with our readers. Next, we shared 8 remote work rules that datarockets team follows.
Proactive communication brings a lot of value to the team. We don’t need to waste our time synchronizing with each other. Every teammate knows exactly what others are working on. We achieve it by sharing intermediate results in chats and comments under tasks. Apart from this, we also share our thoughts and decisions we make. This helps us stay on one page with our teammates and clients, who also work in different time zones and can easily review our updates at their most convenience.
Additionally, when talking about the problems out loud (in our case – in the chat), someone who has experienced a similar situation can be aware of your struggles and offer help to solve it faster. At the same time, you don’t disturb anybody from their work. People can read your note when they are available without getting distracted. We believe this is the main advantage of working remotely.
Creating an environment that promotes natural information flow through communication can be challenging. Due to the nature of remote work, physical interaction is not possible.
As such, we achieve that by using public channels on Slack, instead of private or direct messages. We never discuss work-related questions in direct messages and don’t hide anything. We add clients to our public chats and consider them as part of our team. No matter what we want to post, from an important update to a casual new meme, it should always be in the public chats, so everyone knows what’s going on with the projects and can also enjoy the funny pics.
In order to track the usage of private and public channels, we use Slack’s basic analytics.
A lot of people blame remote work for not being able to interact with their teammates which causes the loss of information. In reality, you may even lose more information at the office where verbal conversations are never documented and can’t be reproduced.
If it’s necessary to have a verbal discussion, then a summary of the conversation is required to be updated in the chat. Usually, we have video calls for planning meetings, retrospective meetings, weekly standups, or pair programming sessions. Every time we discuss something, we immediately share the highlights or essential insights with the whole team.
We have an established tradition to post weekly project updates at the beginning of a working week on Slack in the #general channel. Such updates allow team members to know more about the projects our company works on, our recent achievements, and indicate if someone needs help.
We usually use bots to make up these updates. For instance, when a person starts their working week on Monday, they share updates with the bot. When all project members share their updates, the bot publishes them to the public channel.
When working remotely, people often miss simple communications. They can’t have small talk while drinking coffee or discuss the movie they have watched on the weekend. To overcome this obstacle, we have intentionally designed spaces for casual conversations in our Slack, including:
- animal_therapy — we share photos of our cute pets,
- cooking — photos of the food we cook. Sometimes we guess what others are cooking from the photo of just the ingredients 🙂
- ihateremotework — support each other during the pandemic, while we can’t work from the coffeeshops, co-working spaces or other public places,
- media — share music we love,
- playground — play computer games together.
All these non-work stuff channels have helped us strengthen the culture within our remote team. We believe it is crucial enough and recommend having them to make the remote work more engaging and enjoyable.
Once a week, we have an informal call on Zoom – we name it check-in. Check-in is a 1-hour meeting within the teammates where we discuss personal updates and talk about non-work stuff like books, films, kids, hobbies, cooking, etc. It has helped us get to know each other better and turned our work team into a close-knit family. Indeed, even the members’ pets join our call. They grab our attention and create a lot of funny situations during the check-ins.
As we work in different time zones, it’s hard to tell when others are available. Our solution is to send a greeting message on Slack whenever we start a workday. We call it the “Hello” rule. It helps the rest of the team and our clients understand when we start and finish our day. Sometimes, it can get pretty creative. For example, instead of only saying ‘hi/hello’, we share the weather from the places we are located in 🙂
A "good night" message could be a good add-on to let the team know when your day has ended. Moreover, if you receive notifications after you officially finished working, you won’t be frustrated and may feel more comfortable not answering them until tomorrow 🙂
At datarockets, we evaluate team performance and personal metrics. These metrics work as a reflection tool and help us monitor the company “health”. In the beginning, it was implemented to care about our team members by asking how they felt and providing specific personalized feedback to help increase individual growth. Eventually, it has empowered a much stronger relationship within the team and become one of the keys to datarockets’ today success.
Every week, we go through these metrics and reflect on how the last week has passed, evaluate our satisfaction and check important metrics such as “proactive communication”, “sharing knowledge”, “professional growth”, “goals completion”, etc.
These metrics help our managers provide valuable feedback, reveal issues, and react fast. For the team, it’s a safe place to share their concerns and acknowledge their weaknesses, which results in personal growth.
Remote work brings a lot of advantages and satisfaction as long as the processes are well defined. The rules we have described above work perfectly for our team size and transparent development values. However, there are other ways of how remote work processes can be implemented. We suggest you experiment with different solutions and tools, discuss it with your team, and allow them to participate in setting up the process since they will be required to follow it after all.
The remote work rules post was originally published in the datarockets blog.