Working with remote teams can present challenges with communication and building company culture. We asked several members of the Boston and Nashville chapters of the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) to share tips and tricks on how they overcome these hurdles. Here's what they told us:
"Try to be sensitive to time zones. People in Asia don't mind joining your 9:00 a.m. ET call when it's 7:00 p.m. there, but if you make the effort to start at 7:30 or 8:00 a.m., they will probably be more productive (and happier) at the end of their long day. Also, understanding accents can be challenging, as well, if a call has participants from all over the world. Speaking slowly, being patient and explaining yourself again when needed tend to be effective strategies on these calls."
Luis I. Cortes, EO Boston
Head of Partner Marketing, Red Hat JBoss Middleware
Expand Culture to the Cloud
"Remote employees won't typically be able to join in weekly (or even monthly) culture-based activities, but they can still participate in plenty of culture initiatives. Create programs that can be accessed online to ensure all employees - no matter the location - can join in. Try sending an interactive monthly newsletter to the whole team, which can feature internal company updates, birthdays, pictures, videos, employee spotlights and more."
Tom Turner, EO Nashville
Co-founder and Steward of Purpose, DSi
Hold Digital Face-to-Face Meetings
"We have more than 20 employees spread out over 12 different locations in the United States and Canada. The key to success in a remote environment is video. We have a strict policy that states any time we want to communicate internally - even just for one-on-one conversations - we use Skype video calls. This results in efficiency and collaboration. When we meet in-person, it feels like we were never away."
Casey Cheshire, EO Boston
Chief Awesome Officer, Cheshire Impact
Hold Your Team Accountable
"Accountability is a key component of our culture that allows work life balance. We found that many companies have challenges letting the reigns loose. We have a Team Playbook instead of an Employee Handbook - it defines what remote working looks like from an availability standpoint. It also defines the technology to work efficiently and with accountability. Remote work is granted, not just given. Therefore, it can be taken away. The Team Playbook reinforces our organization's culture and is a resource for "how we do things" to our team. Remote working is a meaningful way give back to our team."
Julie May, EO Nashville
CEO, bytes of knowledge (b:ok)
Incorporate a Human Element
"Using video-conferencing is key to communication when working with remote teams. We use Zoom for everything from one-on-one calls to entire team meetings. The video conferences are easy to access from a unique URL. It's also supported on mobile devices, and you have the ability to schedule recurring meetings. Holding video conferences adds a human element to our workday, which can often be lacking if you work for a remote company."
David Hauser, EO Boston
Co-founder and Advisor, Chargify
Share Your Culture on Video
"We make sure potential new hires in remote locations understand the culture of our company by sending them a video of our employees discussing what a typical day is like here, what's challenging and what's great about it, so they know what we believe in and find important. We want them to understand the environment here before they even accept a position. It's important to everyone that we are all parts of one large whole, no matter which office we report to."
Ginger Geldreich Jones, EO Nashville
Founder and CEO, Jones Therapy Services, LLC
Amplify Company Culture
"When you have a remote workforce, your company culture can get lost or weaken across the distance. The best way to keep your culture from dissipating is to amplify everything you do. For instance, we have a high reward/high recognition culture and every year we have a club trip for those who do superlative work. The trip is intentionally better than what they would ever pay for on their own. It becomes a badge of honor, while also bringing the top people to a place where they can get to know each other better. We invite their spouses and significant others, too, because it is also about appreciating them for supporting the work we do."
Kate Morgan, EO Boston
Founder and CEO, Boston Human Capital Partners