The trend towards remote work has been gaining momentum over the past few years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this shift dramatically. Many startups have found themselves operating with a remote-first mindset, relying on digital communication and collaboration tools to keep their teams connected and productive.
However, while remote work provides many benefits, it also presents some unique challenges, particularly when it comes to creating a company culture that focuses on employee engagement. As a remote first company, we @Apyhub have faced all possible challenges related to operating in a remote team. In this blog we will talk about some of our findings.
First, it is important to understand that there are people who have never experienced working from an office. For these folks things can perhaps be easier than the ones, like me, who are old enough to remember having to commute 1 hour every day to reach the office, back in Athens, Greece. In any case, for both categories, we do our best to offer support. For example we have curated a course that aims to introduce everyone to the ins and outs of the remote-working culture and setting. The course covers important topics such as setting up a productive workspace, effective practices for virtual meetings, optimizing morning routines for increased productivity, prioritizing self-care to avoid burnout and even throwing some enjoyable home workouts! It’s like a virtual handbook that provides the tools and guidance our team might need to navigate the remote work environment with ease and confidence.
Here are some of the resources we found interesting:
How to set up your workspace: Working from Home: How to Set Up Your Workspace
Virtual meeting etiquette tips: 21 Virtual Meeting Etiquette Tips — Dos and Don’ts | Notta
Build your own morning routine: Build Your Own Morning Routine Working from Home That You Love
How to combat poor at-home work posture: How to combat poor at-home work posture | CNN
When we’re working remotely with team members spread across the globe, keeping track of everyone’s availability across different time zones can be quite the challenge. So we came up with a solution where we’ve created a special channel on Slack where we can display our status and availability. It’s like our own virtual hub where we can easily see who’s online, who’s busy, who’s away for lunch and out for a walk. This helps us to stay in sync and ensures smooth communication, no matter where we are in the world!
We also value flexibility and strive to find overlapping timings that accommodate everyone’s needs. It’s all about teamwork and making sure every member’s voice is heard.
(if you’re looking to work at a startup, we’ve put together this guide on what startups like ours look for when hiring developers)
One of the things we miss the most about working in an office though, is the social interactions and spontaneous conversations that can take place in an office environment. Not having this possibility can lead to a feeling of isolation or disconnection, particularly for the ones that are not used to working from home (or better said — for the ones that have experienced working from an office). Startups need to find ways to bring remote teams together and foster a sense of community, even when they’re not physically in the same place. At Apyhub we have folks spread literally across the globe, working in different timezones, operating in different teams. How can you do that in such a setting?
One of the (obvious) key things that we do and that startups can use to strengthen engagement is team-building activities. Such activities can help build trust, encourage collaboration, and create a sense of belonging amongst everyone. The good thing: they are not right or wrong. It’s just a matter of what works best for you and the team. Here are some team building activities that we are playing with at ApyHub:
Friday Drinks and Virtual Games
We use these events as an opportunity for us to unwind after a long week of work and connect with each other in a more informal setting. During these get together we talk about the weekend plans, movies and music that we love or we play virtual games. More pictionary please:)
One of our favorite virtual games to play is Skribbl! We had a blast playing Skribbl, it’s a game that shows our team’s drawing skills and leaves us guessing what on earth they’ve doodled! It’s all about unraveling the mystery behind their creations and having a good laugh along the way :)
Another virtual game that we like to play is Typeracer, where we engage in friendly competiton to showcase our speed and accuracy in typing. This seems easy but it’s a thrilling and challenging experience that keeps us on our toes! While it may be a bit of nerve-wracking, we find it incredibly fun and a great way to push our limits and gauge our typing skills.
When it comes to wordplay, our team knows how to bring the heat with online Scrabble battles! We dive into the world of letters, strategically piecing them together to create words and rack up points. It’s a battle of wits and we aim to make as many words as possible, all while keeping an eye on the scoreboard to see who’s leading the pack. This exciting game not only tests our vocabulary and creativity but brings our competitive spirit!
Group and 1:1 Discussions
Regular group and one-on-one discussions are essential for maintaining effective communication and building relationships within remote teams but also to discuss feedback, goals, and any issues that may arise. These discussions help ensure that everyone is on the same page and can help to identify and address any potential issues early on.
Real-time collaboration is essential for remote teams to work together effectively, especially when different time zones are included. The use of online tools can help foster a sense of teamwork and make remote work feel more like a team effort. At ApyHub we use slack and Asana for most of the day to day communication and collaboration.
Meet in Person at Real Events
Ultimately, we have to make sure we don’t fool ourselves, so repeat after me: There’s still no substitute for face-to-face interactions. It’s a very good idea for startups to organize real events at least once a year (or at whatever frequency works best for you), where the team can come together in person. These events can be anything from a team retreat to a conference or a hackathon (for dev startups like us).
Well, I hope some of this info is useful — remember: this is a never-ending journey so coming up with new things to keep everyone engaged is always crucial.
(P.S: Looking to work for an inspiring role in a remote-first company? Check out our open roles here)
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