Remote work expert Nick Sonnenberg shares practical advice.
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I recently had the opportunity to meet with Nick Sonnenberg, an expert on remote work and the CEO and founder of Leverage, a 100-plus person fully remote company. Through building his company from the ground up and helping businesses of all sizes increase their productivity and go remote, he’s developed a few tips that any business owner can implement to make remote work actually work.
Face-to-face communication is massively important for remote companies. The intonations, inflections and verbal cues you get from a face-to-face conversation simply can’t be beat. Video conferencing should always be the default for meetings in order to keep personal relationships alive among your team. That said, real-time conversations aren’t always necessary and scheduling them can be difficult. If you need to send a quick message to someone, consider doing it with a video recording. This allows you to keep that face-to-face connection and easily explain your message. Plus, the recipient can view it when it’s convenient for them.
2. Find a meeting cadence and stick to it
Setting a meeting cadence is one of the first steps you should take when transitioning your team to a remote environment. It’s the quickest way to ensure everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing and is working on the right projects. A meeting cadence means a weekly or monthly schedule of routine meetings. These aren’t meetings you can just cancel on a whim. If you don’t rigorously stick to your meeting cadence, you’ll end up with a disillusioned, unproductive and unmotivated remote team. Here are a few of the most common meeting types you may want to include in your cadence:
- Monthly all-hands meetings with everyone in your company.
- Daily stand-up meetings among smaller teams or departments to check in.
- Weekly departmental meetings to discuss projects within a department.
- Weekly 1-on-1 meetings between superiors and their direct reports.
Related: What Nobody Tells You About Remote Work
3. Don’t rely on email
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when going remote is to rely on email alone for communication. If your team is constantly checking their email to make sure they don’t miss a message, they’ll never be able to get anything done. The reality is that email is not designed for instant communication and you should never expect people — whether in your company or outside of it — to respond to it instantly. Instead, implement a chat tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams for internal communication — and use it for that alone. As a simple rule, any internal communication within your company should be done via this chat tool, and any external communication (with clients, prospects or potential hires) should be done via email.
4. No agenda, no meeting
Whether it’s a recurring meeting in your cadence or a one-off, every meeting needs to have an agenda. And since you’re working remotely, pen and paper or a chalkboard in the conference room simply won’t do. Meeting agendas need to be collaborative, in the cloud, and attached to every calendar event. That way, every participant can add discussion topics for the meeting well in advance. This simple action will ensure that all of your meetings go smoothly and that everything that needs to be discussed will get discussed. Once the meeting starts, simply consult the agenda and work your way through it. It’s that simple.
Related: 5 Tips for Hiring and Team Building Remotely
5. Notifications are productivity killers
Whether it’s a phone call, a text message, or a slack message…, notifications will kill your productivity. And when you’re working remotely, the amount of incoming notifications will easily double or triple compared to what you might experience in a physical office.
Make sure your team understands the true cost of notifications. Studies have shown that it takes at least 20 minutes to get into a “flow state” where you’re most productive, and one notification or distraction can take you right out of it. It will take another 20 minutes to get back into that state, meaning you’ve just lost 40 minutes of productivity. Notification settings can help here, but simple behavior change is one of the best methods.
One simple tip: If you need to ask someone a question or send them an idea, consider whether it needs to be sent right now or if it could wait until the next time you meet with them. If it can wait, add it to your next meeting agenda. You’ve just removed one more notification from that person’s day.
6. Digitize your handbook
Many companies have physical binders of their standard operating procedures and other processes. That’s better than nothing, but now that you are remote, you need to make sure all of that information is digitized, in the cloud, and easy to access. Processes can be stored and made actionable in a process documentation tool like Process, and SOPs can live in a resource center tool like Notion.
With everything going on in the world right now, make sure you identify backups for your core personnel and processes. Stress-test them today so that you’re prepared for someone leaving immediately, and rotate roles once per quarter to ensure every role can be handled by someone else if needed.