12 Tips for More Productive and Happier Remote Teams
There’s no question that remote work is already the way to work. The only concern is, are you ready for it?
If you want to be successful in this new way of working, there are a few things you need to know.
After over a decade of working remotely, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to make it work for me. Here are my top 12 tips for productive and happy remote teams.
1. Just Ask the Damn Question
Don't send messages like "Can I ask you a question?"
Instead, just ask the full question in the message you're sending.
Your colleague will reply when they're available.
It's called async communication. You've just saved a couple iterations there.
2. Fewer “Brainstorms”, More Async Collaboration
When starting a new project:
Don't book a meeting with 11 people to "brainstorm"
Instead, create a Notion doc outlining:
- Why the project matters?
- What's your proposed approach?
- Input you need from each person.
Then, ask for async comments in Notion.
3. Spare Your Colleagues From Those Useless Notifications
Don't send 3 separate messages:
- How are you?
- I need...
Learn to send just one message with all content:
- Hi... How are you? I need...
Spare your colleague from hearing 2 useless notifications.
They will thank you.
4. Fewer Slide Shows Presentations, More Notion Collaboration
When presenting something to your remote team, don't use a slideshow (Google Slides, PPT, etc) as they're:
- Not searchable.
- Rigid format.
- Hard to link.
Try using a Notion page, which is:
- Adaptive & flexible format.
- Easy to add content.
- Easy to link & share.
5. Reduce Meetings at All Costs
Never force your colleagues into meetings. That kills everyone's flow and adds logistics.
Instead, make it easy for everyone to contribute async.
Use collaborative tools like Notion, Miro, airtable, etc. Ask clearly what input you need from them.
6. Document Frequent Questions
If a colleague asks "What's the country code for Portugal?"
Don't just reply with "PT".
Reply with a link to where country codes are documented. That link can be reused multiple times asynchronously.
This way, knowledge becomes documented for all the teams.
7. Be Clear About What Blocks You
Don't send messages like "Do you have time for a meeting to discuss X?"
Instead, ask what you need in a message like "I'm blocked at X, I need Y input from you".
Your colleague will reply when they're available. You'll have a meeting only if necessary.
8. Mix Meetings With Async Onboarding
When onboarding a new team member:
Try not to force them to have back-to-back meetings all day. It's exhausting.
What you should do is provide written and video documentation on how to get set up. And mix it with a couple of meetings with introductory + social purposes.
9. Avoid Ambiguous Language
Don't use acronyms.
Eg: "PR" means "Pull Request" for an engineer and "Press Release" for a marketeer.
Some meanings change for different roles/contexts/cultures/etc.
You can use the full words instead.
If you must use acronyms, make sure they are documented and shared.
10. Use a Common Time Standard Across Time Zones
Always try not to say "I'll do it this afternoon". Because afternoon, in such cases, means different things for people in different time zones.
To convey clearer messages, say "I'll do it in 3 hours" or "I'll do it today by 7pm UTC".
Make sure to use absolute time references that mean the same for everyone on the team.
11. Ask Follow up Questions Ahead To Reduce Async Iterations
If you send a message to a colleague 8 time zones away, don't just ask a "Yes" or "No" question.
You'll likely need to ask follow-up questions and wait again.
Consider asking “If yes, then what? If no, then what?”
Include follow-up cases in your question already.
12. Use Time Zones to Your Advantage
Here's how you can do so:
- QA Tester in India reports a bug.
- Backend Engineer in Greece fixes the bug.
- DevOps Engineer in Netherlands deploys the fix.
- Sales Rep in Brazil onboards new client.
- Customer Success Rep in the US checks metrics.
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