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This article was published on May 19, 2015

    24 ideas to change how your remote team works

    24 ideas to change how your remote team works
    Paul Jun
    Story by

    Paul Jun

    Paul Jun is on the customer success team at Help Scout, the invisible help desk software. Learn how Help Scout takes the headache out of ema Paul Jun is on the customer success team at Help Scout, the invisible help desk software. Learn how Help Scout takes the headache out of email support.

    The culture of work may be changing, but the value and effectiveness of clear communication is not.

    In fact, as people spend less time in the office—which results in less face time with the team—clearly communicating ideas, emotions, and concerns is necessary when body language and the benefits of proximity are absent.

    Teams that work well together communicate effortlessly. Technology and software facilitate various styles of communication; it’s important for your team to test different platforms so your thoughts and ideas flow freely.

    Since more than half of the team at Help Scout works remotely, I curated some ideas from our archives and insightful resources from other sites. Together, these should provide a general framework on how remote teams are communicating effectively, what tools they use, the roadblocks they face, and underlying strategies that coalesce various remote work components to ensure productivity and progress.

    working remotely

    If there is anything that drives ideas forward, builds morale, and unites a common cause regardless of time zones, it’s the words that we use and—more importantly—how we use them.

    Below are 24 insights on the topics of communication, tools, and productivity.


    Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone. —Fred Rogers

    1. The Lost Art of Candor In The Workplace
    “Candor among teams hinges on the ability of information to flow freely and uninhibited.” Without facial cues or obvious body language, candor can only be consistent and fruitful if there’s a shared understanding of how to give and receive feedback.

    2. Three Hidden Keys to Successful Communication As a Remote Team

    Janet Choi from iDoneThis says: “The biggest challenge of working in remote teams isn’t dealing with the physical distribution of your teammates but reducing the psychological distance between everyone. Bridging that distance is probably a test for all types of teams but requires more work as a remote team.”

    3. Buffer’s Virtual Water Cooler: How We Connect, Celebrate and Have Fun as a Remote Team

    Sometimes we don’t know what fun is until we see an example worthy of emulating. Buffer put together a fantastic list of how they communicate and connect—from bonding sessions, HipChat conversations, and sharing books and jokes on Facebook, Buffer is a company that understands remote culture.


    4. 6 Tips for Communicating Effectively with Remote Teams

    Hiring and onboarding are important prerequisites for inducting a new team member into a remote work culture. It’s about finding the right talent in a different state (or country!) while also matching it with the necessary personality that fits the culture and values of the team.

    5. How Remote Teams Prefer to Communicate

    Communication is the main problem observed in virtual teams. Of the 247 working adults surveyed, 38 percent indicated that communication is their top concern when required to work with a virtual team. This ties in closely with the next two concerns, mainly technology to facilitate communication, as well as productivity that could be indirectly affected by the lack of communication.”

    6. Seven Tips for Communicating with Remote Workers

    “When communicating with remote workers, you need to make sure that your emails and messages come across in the tone that you intended. Always re-read your emails before you send them. Try reading them in different emotional tones to see if there’s any way the recipient can misinterpret them.”

    7. Make Your Writing More Meaningful

    Writing is one of the greatest skills you can hone as a remote worker. Clear writing conveys ideas and emotions properly, champions clarity, and acts as the glue to form bonds with your team. With emails, notes, letters, or even a quick ping, it’s not so much what you say but how you say it.



    The Five Levels of Communication in a Connected World

      Sometimes an email should have been a call or a call could have been an email. Knowing which styles of communication are appropriate for specific contexts is important in reducing wasted energy and time.

    Tools and Strategy

    “We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” —Marshall McLuhan

    9. Best Collaboration Tools for Working With Remote Teams

    Dan Martell, CEO and founder of Clarity, compiled a list of the best platforms for communication, task management, and file sharing.

    10. How We Manage Work in a Remote Team

    Mathias Meyer at Travis CI talks about why communication is asynchronous, why face time is invaluable, and why remote work is about happiness.

    11. Why Remote Teams Are the Future (and How to Make Them Work)

    Here are some insights from Help Scout on how you can prepare your team for remote work and what it takes to be effective.
    team developer app
    1. Remote Team Building: Trust, Communication and Human Interaction

    GoToMeeting shares four quick tips on improving interactions and communication within a team.

    1. 21 Months In: How to Manage a Remote Team

    Wade Foster at Zapier believes that there are three ingredients for making remote work great: team, tools, and process. This is an in-depth read chock-full of great insights.

    1. 10 Academic Insights on Building, Motivating, and Managing an Exceptional Team

    “It cannot be understated how important a great team is to a business’ success. The quality of the work you do will never exceed the quality of the team behind it. To many entrepreneur’s and manager’s dismay, team building often seems as complicated as watchmaking—there are a lot of moving parts, and things have to be just right in order to create something magical.”

    1. Remote By Default: How Github Makes Working Remotely Not Suck

    With 245 employees, 75 percent of whom work remotely in 100 cities around the world, Github knows a thing or two about making remote work not just possible, but great.

    github enterprise azure


    “Most importantly, sleep. . . .Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?” —Maria Popova

    1. Six Ways Remote Teams Can Crush Their To-Do Lists

    After two years of working remotely, Greg Ciotti shares his reflections on the differing styles of work and how your team can stay on top of its game.

    1. The Science of Productivity

    “In today’s crazy world, productivity is on the minds of many. So what can science tell us about the human brain and productive work? How do we become more efficient at working, and spend less time working overall?”

    1. 10 Online Tools for Better Attention and Focus

    Here’s a great, curated list of tools to help you stay focused and productive. In the comfort of your home or workspace, there are elements of distraction that must be kept at bay.

    (A personal favorite of mine not included in the list: Noisli).

    1. How Music Affects Your Productivity

    A scientific deep-dive on how different kinds of noises—white or ambient noise, lyrics, classical music—affect the way we work.

    Google Play Music
    1. The six Best Tips For Being Super Productive While Working Remotely

    Remote work requires more self-awareness. You must be conscious of your habits, environment, and energy levels. Tinkering with little things like your office space or desk can make a difference in your output and overall mood. It takes time, but it’s worth it.

    1. The Perfect Workspace (According to Science):

    “The spaces we occupy shape who we are and how we behave. This has serious consequences for our psychological well-being and creative performance. Given that many of us spend years working in the same room, or even at the same desk, it makes sense to organize and optimize that space in the most beneficial ways possible.”

    1. How to Succeed? Get More Sleep

    Disconnecting from work when we’re in our homes seems easy at first, but if you really love your work, it’s hard to let go. Working longer hours can be a byproduct of getting lost in a state of flow. However, if we aren’t mindful, we can burn ourselves out. This TED talk from Arianna Huffington on rest is a must-watch.

    procrastination sleeping in
    23. Single-Task Your Way Through the Day: How Focusing Unlocks Extreme Productivity

    Does the sudden ring of your phone break your focus? Does having multiple tabs on your browser seduce you to, you know, click around? Kevan Lee at Buffer shares some scientific insights into productivity, distractions, and why being vigilant toward one specific task forces us to actually get it done.

    24. Meetings

    Meetings are important, no doubt, but without meticulously planning and understanding the objectives, there is often nothing more wasteful than time spent in a meeting. Seth Godin says, “It’s a huge mistake to just show up in a conference room and have a meeting. If the expectation is ‘yet another meeting’, then the odds are, you’ll have yet another meeting.”

    Pair this with Paul Graham’s Maker’s Schedule.

    Read Next: Why silence is a startup killer

    Image credits: Shutterstock, Unsplash.com

    This post first appeared on HelpScout.