Make Remote Work More Than Meetings
The same team success formula you used before you went remote won’t work but you can take a lot of the same principles you know and adjust to make remote work for you and your organization.
This guide is for leaders looking to make remote work more connected, productive and engaging.
1. Get Your Water Cooler Moments Back
We have all heard it, people don’t want another meeting. They want to connect in a more organic way.
Pre-Meeting Connect Time
Remember when getting to a meeting early meant you could talk to your co-workers about life outside of work and not wait for a host to show up and kick off the meeting? Since there’s no ‘waiting for host’ in LexGo, encouraging team members to jump into the room a few minutes ahead gives time for authentic conversation not driven by agendas but by people as they arrive.
After Meeting Momentum
The moments after a meeting can be pure gold and cut down on additional meetings. You could stay in the room or walk out to discuss a few follow up points that keep things moving. You can find a huddle or stay in the conference room to connect with those key people to iron out details and you don’t need another calendar invite. Give time to keep the momentum going with shorter meetings (at LexGo we use 25 minutes instead of 30 and 40 instead of 60 to leave time for follow-on conversations).
For decades, sitting in an office lounge, cafeteria or cafe has signaled “I may be working or having coffee, but I’m open to a conversation, please grab a chair.” Create the same space in your digital office. And use it. It’s amazing the kind of relationship-building that happens when team members know they can start conversations without formal invitations or agendas. The same works with office hours and encouraging team members to drop in to chat or ask questions.
2. Set Clear Communications Expectations
Your company’s communication norms can be anything. They just have to be clear.
Where and why a message is sent should generally be a matter of context. And when people don’t have a clear way to categorize the urgency of a message, they tend to reach for whatever’s closest, and everyone gets buried in confusing chat conversations and status meetings about status meetings.
Align your team around clear expectations and everything happens smoother.
“Documenting expectations for communication is especially important for remote and distributed teams—having a guided conversation that results in a communication agreement ensures consistent interpretation and execution of expectations, no matter where team members are located or when they are working.”
Tammy Bjelland, CEO Workplaceless - global leaders in remote work training
As an example of setting expectations, here are our Communication Expectations at LexGo
But you can’t expect your team to adhere to expectations you’ve never put into words. So write them down. Answer these questions to get started:
What do you expect from people in meetings?
- Cameras on? Cameras optional? If so when and for what reason?
- Is it okay to catch up on messages during meetings? At which point is the varying brightness of Chrome tabs illuminating your face considered a clear indication you aren’t paying attention?
Does your team know when to rely on sync vs async communication tools?
- Do they know the difference?
How is urgency of a message defined?
- If the topic is important and progress can’t be made without an answer?
If you use a chat tool, (Slack, Teams, etc.) how should it be used?
- What emails should it replace? All internal emails?
- What response times does a chat warrant? 2 hours? 24 hrs?
When should a conversation in chat be taken live?
- Should live meetings require a follow up to clarify next steps? Should that come via email or chat?
How should communication be handled in collaborative applications like Google Docs or Notion?
- Should comments stay as close as possible to where a document lives? Should they be duplicated in chat or email? What about notifications?
Do you have a project management tool?
- if so, what messages should be sent there? Which tool should be considered the primary source of up to date information?
Is it okay to tap people on the shoulder for a quick conversation?
- What steps are necessary to indicate someone shouldn’t tap you on the shoulder? (status indicators, stepping into focus time room, etc.)
When a message is urgent, how should it be conveyed?
- Call? Text? What about chat?
In LexGo: Less invitations, more conversations.
When there is a problem critical to business function or blocking a team members productivity how do you pull the needed people together? In LexGo you join an open room and invite the others to join from the map. Don’t lose the opportunity to quickly solve problems by sending an email or Slack message, or worse - a meeting 2 days out. Conversations are always the fastest route to resolution.
3. Feel the Pulse of Your Team
Know Who’s Available
Imagine walking across the office for a coffee. You see the marketing team has a few early birds chatting at their desks. Sally from Accounting is in but stepped away, and a new team member is waiting in the lobby.
In just a few minutes, you felt the pulse of your team. That simple magic is possible working remote, it just depends on visibility beyond whether your camera is on/off.
In LexGo, we call it the Office Map: one central view of your entire digital office. Know’s who in, who’s stepped away, even who’s waiting in the lobby.
Know what they’re doing
Truly seeing your team requires more than knowing whether they’re busy or not. Context is everything. In the Office Map, see who’s talking to who, where and why. Follow up with someone on their way out of a meeting to build on new insight while they’re still fresh. Know a project just kicked off without scheduling another status meeting. No matter the role or rank, greater context helps everyone. In LexGo, it’s as easy as looking around.
Manage by Walking Around or Don’t
Just like in a physical setting. In LexGo, walking the digital office floor is just as intuitive as it is in person. Poke your head in an active conversation to share a relevant update you just learned. Tap someone on the shoulder to chat quick. And perhaps most importantly - stop wasting time worrying about your team’s activity and watch it for yourself.
4. Gather Naturally
Go beyond a couple talking heads at all hands, team meetings and workshops.
I’m convinced the 'second stories', the conversations that occur within groups of people at tables, is the true magic of live meetings. Encourage those crucial before, during and after “at the table” moments, without pushing people into breakouts.
Brian Burkhart, Founder & Chief Word Guy @ SquarePlanet - helping courageous company elevate people
Use small table seating
Ever wonder why in-person events are often designed around small table seating?
It’s not just so you have a place to set your coffee cup. Small tables naturally encourage conversation.
Trade your grid of muted thumbnails for small table seating. Talking at the team in a video call while they ‘multitask’ and aren’t really present isn’t engaging. Starting at smaller tables immediately engages participants, rather than waiting to be pushed into breakout rooms later.
Before & After Connect Time
Nudge participants to turn on their cameras so they are present, part of the experience and get them engaging with each other with a conversation starter question. Dedicating the first few minutes of the session to connect time is a great way to get everyone more present rather than rushing in breathless from their last meeting.
Continuing the conversation into post-session sidebars allows reflection on a speaker’s presentation while the iron is still hot or more relationship building. The bottom line: A well-designed environment gets people talking. Be intentional. Then be comfortable getting out of the way.
Give people agency
Don’t abuse the chat window
Chat windows are where questions go to die. And nothing takes the wind out of people’s sails faster than watching a thoughtful question get buried in an avalanche of haphazard comments. If you have a highly active chat window, you’ve likely created an entire secondary experience for your audience. Fragmented attention is never a good thing.
A more deliberate approach will ensure participant enthusiasm doesn’t lose momentum. Allow participants to ask questions live. Having a moderator pose a written question is very different than one asked live with potential back and forth between the participant and the presenter. Turning Q&A into an active dialogue is a huge experience win for participants who seize the opportunity.
5. Helpful Resources
- How to break silos using LexGo for team all hands - detailed guide for cross pollenating team time
- Host Like a Human eBook - playbook for events worth attending
- As an example of setting expectations, here are our Communication Expectations at LexGo
- The Workplaceless team has a Communication Charter Template to help think through communication expectations