Successful remote teams understand the need to develop the fundamental skills necessary to function efficiently and effectively in a distributed environment, but they also iterate on best practices that work for their particular organization. We reached out to fully remote teams and companies to ask “what are some habits or rituals your team uses to stay healthy or productive?”
Here are some habits they shared that we can all learn from.
“Schedule flexibility is key to health and happiness, and GitLab is consistent about prioritizing time away from work. Every Friday is a meeting-reduced Focus Friday; About once per month, the entire company shuts down for Friends and Family Day.
In 2021, we piloted an experiment in Async Weeks: every sixth week, my team clears all non-critical meetings from our calendars to create space for deep work and innovation. It’s a breath of fresh air to have a wide-open calendar and all the time you need to focus! The pilot has been a success, and we’ve seen other teams scheduling their own Async Weeks.”
+1 from our team at Workplaceless. Async for the win!
"For every sync or async meeting we do a so-called Traffic Light Checkin. Basically you get to choose from 3 colors—Green, Yellow and Red. Sharing your color at the beginning of a meeting, with some added context if you feel open enough to do so. This helps to understand where everyone is at, what is the energy in the team, and how should or could this influence the meeting. Also this levels the playing field by making it ok to sometimes feel Red or Orange."
+1 for this idea from Workplaceless! We use the same approach at the start of many of our meetings.
“Loudly celebrate the everyday wins. We often hear from remote professionals that they feel unheard and that their work is unseen. Therefore we have ritualized and rewarded the celebration of all team member accomplishments. We’ve dedicated a “#wins” Slack channel to highlight successes across the whole team. Equally important is the time we take to emphasize the smaller wins and contributions that every team member makes that ultimately add up to achieving our goals and mission. Not a single day goes by without a HeyTaco shoutout and recognition for a teammate. This habit not only helps team members feel appreciated and their work seen, but can also help to diminish the effects of remote worker burnout.”
“Biteable is a remote-first and global company with team members all over the world. One productivity challenge we’re up against is time zones—some of our colleagues are hitting the snooze button as others shut their laptops for the day. To keep the team aligned on what matters most, our CEO creates and shares a short video update each week. These weekly video updates are the perfect ritual to keep our global team connected. Video is easier (and more fun) to digest on a Monday morning than an email, and the play button is waiting to welcome each time zone into the new week.”
“Transparency is imperative in a remote environment, and the most efficient way to accomplish this when your team is spread across multiple time zones is asynchronously.
Instead of hours wasted in synchronized standup meetings, at Doist we each devote 10 minutes per week to our snippets, which we publish in our async messaging platform called Twist. Twist structures conversations in threads around a given topic, and information is easily searchable. Every Monday, we update our core teammates on the most impactful activities we’ll be working on through the coming week, and report on the previous week’s wins and shortcomings. Each team has a new dedicated thread every week, so it’s easy to review what someone is working on, without the distracting teamwide notifications.”
+1 from Workplaceless! We use a similar async approach for our daily standups by sharing our top three priorities for the day, any blocks including tagging team members if support would be helpful, and “something good” that adds a little context and positivity to start the day.
Chase was generous enough to share a specific example of what his “snippet” looks like:
“Take a meeting sabbatical. The meeting sabbatical started as an experiment when I reached burnout due to too many meetings. In short, I had agreed to too many things, resulting in so many meetings I couldn't get my productive project work done. So I decided I'd invent an experiment to take a week off of meetings to focus on the project work I find fun. It was a wild success. So much so that SafetyWing is now implementing it company-wide. The company experiment will be the entire team taking a meeting sabbatical week. The idea is that if we take it all together, it will a) be less disruptive since everyone will plan around it and b) give a collective sense of productivity for the week. If it works we'll do one every quarter!”
“At SupportNinja, we understand that mental health is an important element to wellness. For this reason and more, Ninjas receive a monthly stipend for their health for things such as gym memberships, get a chance to participate in weekly games, but the most sacred is our team standup meeting.
In our weekly standup meeting, we take time to speak about our struggles and triumphs at work. Opening the conversation helps reduce stress while also keeping each other accountable. Since we are growing quickly, we have even mastered the use of a template that looks a little like this:
“I would have to say my favorite Oyster wellness ritual is our bi-weekly meditation sessions. This is one of the many new innovations driven by our growing Remote Experience team. The meditation sessions are open to the whole team and drop-in participation is encouraged. It's great that it's there when you need a dose of zen in the middle of the week.”
“Here at Epos Now, we ensure that we create a culture that values mental health and provides support without stigma. With less visibility, we wanted to ensure that we implemented some virtual support for our employees. One way we do this is by providing everyone who works for Epos Now with the Engage wellbeing platform. This online platform provides education, support and tools to live a healthier and happier life. Employees can access free confidential counselling and advice on a wide range of issues. The platform also offers fantastic yoga and meditation classes, healthy recipes for them to try out and articles on financial wellbeing.”
“One habit we’ve developed is signing off our chat every Friday by wishing everyone a good weekend. We also usually open conversations with a “How are you doing?” or “How was your night?” rather than just opening by saying what we need from the other person. I’ve found this to be vital in maintaining the spirit of our office. I think remote work unfortunately encourages some work environments to become 100% business-oriented. Even if you don’t necessarily have the pressure of a line at the water cooler to start chatting with your co-workers, it’s healthy and positive for everyone if you take the time to show you care about them as people.”
“We are striving to get away from the isolation remote working can create. We have initiated a Custom Neon care plan that gives every employee access to online counselling. 100% confidential, we don't know when or who it is used by, but it was important to us that everyone has that additional support, especially during these difficult times. Our employees are our best asset and it's their energy that ultimate drives our success.”
“Since we are a completely remote, and international, company, a lot of our communication is through WhatsApp. Instead of just sending text messages through this platform, a lot of us send voice notes instead. This way, it’s a lot clearer what they’re trying to say and nothing can get mixed up as text tone can often make things sound different than they were intended to be. If you’re unable to send voice messages, we encourage our employees to use emojis as well because, while some people may argue that it is unprofessional, it really shows how you’re feeling and gives off warm energy to the recipient. In addition, we have weekly team meetings and smaller training meetings throughout the week as well to encourage "face to face" contact with each other.”
“Being efficient with synchronous meetings is critical. Everyone’s time is valuable, so when we ask our team members to meet live, we want to make the most of the conversation. We typically host blended meetings; it’s extremely rare that we get together without some type of asynchronous prework. We leverage MURAL for virtual prework collaboration, and prioritize of sync time for connecting, innovating, and decision-making, per the Placeless Taxonomy. We leverage proven practices for effective virtual meetings, like sending an agenda in advance, to help attendees proactively prepare for conversations. And if sync participation isn’t required, attendees will be listed as optional or can choose to contribute asynchronously.”
“One thing that we did that really helps everyone feel better is not having any work hours. Everyone in the company (except for customer support) gets to work whenever they want. 7AM, 5PM, midnight, whatever makes the most sense for our employees and makes them feel productive. Outside of the occasional meeting, everyone works at pretty random times and we get lots of work done and we have been running a successful business this way for years. Anyone can do it this way—it’s all about trust.”
“Setting clear and achievable goals every quarter. I know this might sound cliché, but having a clear goal in perspective always helps motivate and organize oneself, especially while working remotely. At Tidio, every employee sets up quarterly goals that are ground for their career development. Those goals are quantity + quality metrics, and they act as the basis for performance reviews. Additionally, our employees can choose when and where they work. There is no requirement that tasks need to be done during the typical 9 to 5 shift, especially that many people work best outside of usual working hours. As a result, our employees stay motivated, work independently, and improve their overall results.”
+1 from Workplaceless for both the goal setting and flexibility in schedule advice.
“We have this great tradition where we have each member of an employee's team write a few nice sentences about them and put it in a "newsletter" that they'll mail you on your anniversary. When I got it this year for the first time, it made me feel good seeing all the nice things my coworkers thought about me. In addition, the company keeps sending us shirts and sweaters with the company logo on them. We take pictures with the shirts on and post them on our Everyone channel. It gives us a sense of community that I find refreshing.”
“Through Zen Media’s internal messaging system, there is a companywide group chat platform that allows all employees of the company to communicate. Every day of the week has a theme that encourages employees to chat, joke around, share good news, and bring an overall sense of joy. There is share your favorite meme on Monday. Tuesday is kudos day where employees shout each other out for their good work. Wednesday is hump day, where camel pictures are shared of course. Good news Thursday is pretty self-explanatory, and lastly is fun fact Friday. This allows employees to interact and get to know each other. Employees not only willingly participate, but interact with each other by replying and commenting on others posts. This allows employees to build healthy relationships while uplifting and supporting each other through remote communication on a daily basis.”
“Our biggest ritual is what we call "standing by the water cooler," which has eventually evolved to just "coolering." We treat it like you would treat grabbing some water in a real office—effectively just free chats about whatever you want, whether it's business, personal, or anything in between. This gives us the freedom to have those random encounters where you overhear what another team is working on and chip in some useful advice, as well as boosting camaraderie across teams who don't often work together. If you want to do this, the #1 tip we can share is to not make it at all forced. Let people show up if they want to lounge and chat, and try not to monitor the "water cooler" too closely.”
“We hired an in-house wellness coach. Best idea I ever had, though I can't take credit for it! My Creative Director, Julia Boback, came up with this winning approach to professional cohesion and personal balance. Our in-house wellness coach meets with staff individually, should they request it. Topics can be anything from "show me how to eat healthier" to "why am I tired all the time" to assistance through personal life challenges. Everything about our staff's personal wellness affects work performance and morale. When CEOs begin to understand that, they can really increase their bottom line while also elevating the greater good. It's a priceless feeling!”
“Transparency and trust. We lean heavily on our work management tool, ClickUp, to document and assign ownership of tasks but also leverage the platform to demonstrate how those tasks ladder up to our goals and mission. By using a system of task-based performance management we steer clear of micromanagement across every department, and empower our team members to accomplish tasks on their own time while seeing how everything we do is interconnected. Along the lines of transparency, I also regularly share my own performance rubric with the whole organization. I highlight my wins, but also my misses which further strengthens the trust we have in one another.”
We hope you find inspiration from these habits for remote teams! Let us know if you start implementing any of these habits and please consider sharing your own team’s rituals and best practices with us!
When you need support in optimizing your remote team practices, habits, and rituals, we are ready to help.