By Colin McGuire, CEO at Boomn, an e-commerce portfolio growing direct-to-consumer companies through incubation, acquisition, and strategic partnerships.
Having in-person office collaboration and meetings are, in my opinion, one of the most powerful and efficient ways a company can be productive. In-person experiences help to forge strong relationships and create a solid foundational company culture. Working remotely and joining scheduled video conference calls removes the majority of small talk and sharing of personal stories. It's also much more difficult to collaborate on projects when you're not in the same room or office. That in-person excitement can often deflate over routine video conference calls.
Keeping, or creating, a strong culture and building a highly productive remote company takes very careful consideration. My company has been fully remote since 2017 and we've built a system that I believe allows us to thrive.
Here are the five fundamental parts of building a highly productive remote team.
1. Eliminate the overwhelming email inbox.
Internal communications and external communications both get confusingly intermingled in email inboxes and can slow teams down. To combat this, use internal chat software, such as Slack or Discord, to have organized and segmented internal employee communications. Email is great but highly efficient teams operate best with streamlined procedures that are easily attained on internal company chats. The file-sharing and organization of threads in an internal chat is easier and less overwhelming than sorting through a sometimes-cluttered email inbox.
In addition, internal chats help create that in person-like small talk that you would normally have in the office kitchen or at lunch. It allows people to chat on personal threads and share smaller, more bite-sized ideas. I also recommend encouraging team members to call each other using the chat service when needed.
2. Implement a highly organized file-sharing system.
My company uses Google Drive for file storage and sharing and it couldn't be easier, but there are nearly endless options like Dropbox, Sync, or OneDrive that accomplish the same goals.
The most important aspect of the file-sharing system is the naming conventions and folder structures. Creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) with naming conventions and folder structures will allow all team members to effectively upload and download files with minimal friction. The main goal is for team members to upload or find files without the need to ask someone else where it is or how to do it.
3. Use the same project management software across the company.
This is the ultimate remote work efficiency fundamental. Having a systematized workflow for your team members will allow your team to work and collaborate as efficiently as possible. Project management software will allow your team to delegate, collaborate, and communicate on projects with ease. It provides clear tasks, sub-tasks, file sharing, and context to every project. My company would be in chaos without the use of software platforms such as Asana, Teamwork, or Trello.
4. Standardize leadership check-ins.
In the same vein, it's also important to communicate company vision and goals regularly. Your team is at home, mostly in isolation in their office. And minimal personal conversations are being had between co-workers. They don't hear about exciting things in passing at the office or out at lunch.
Leadership at the company needs to regularly have company or team-wide meetings to celebrate wins, recognize people on the team, and most importantly, share an exciting vision and goals. People want to work on teams and for companies that are exciting, and where they feel recognized. Working remotely removes this, but regular check-ins are needed to create a strong company culture.
5. Organize regular in-person meet-ups that are not work-related.
At the end of the day, great and highly productive companies have strong teams, and strong teams are built on strong relationships. Make sure that you have smaller regional meet-ups or a large annual meet-up for everyone to get together to create personal bonds with one another. People burn out and get stressed over their job often, so it's nice to have personal friends and relationships on the team to keep them going. The act of gathering your people together to build relationships has a high return on investment (ROI).
After managing and leading a fully remote group of 30-plus employees on eight different teams, I have had some very clear realizations. Remote teams operate on well-defined systems and processes to work smarter instead of working harder. Streamlined processes and collaboration efficiencies are often the keys to productivity, but it's really personal relationships that unlock the true potential of your remote employees.