Tips for happier, more productive & innovative remote teams

2 problems most cited with remote teams are:

  1. Losing the serendipitous innovations that come with staff talking in the office
  2. Managers and colleagues having less deep and personal relationships

These problems then lead to:

  1. Lower staff retention rates,
  2. Lower team motivation and morale,
  3. Fewer innovations and efficiency improvements.

Below are some ways you can reduce and sometimes solve these problems...

Tip 1:

Use an optional monthly workplace stress rating & suggestions form to get team insights

These quick-to-answer forms can be sent to all staff at all levels every month, with only senior management staff seeing responses. Ideally, this should also be when you share internal updates for company wins and plans. Below are the benefits of doing this:

Benefit 1:

Turn stress ratings into insights for management

For example, on the graph below we can see Peter Parker has been reporting 9-10 stress ratings for the past few weeks. He might need support before he burns out and quits.

You can also group all your team's stress ratings by things like managers and departments for deeper insights, like in the graphs below (click to expand).

For example, below (click to expand) we can see staff managed by Thanos are very stressed on average, so Thanos may need management support. On the other side, the staff managed by Michael Scott are very happy, so this might indicate he has valuable learnings to share.

You can also group by department, like in the graph above (click to expand). If some departments have high-stress ratings it could indicate which departments may need to be looked at for readjustments and signals of things that should be changed/optimized.

Benefit 2:

Empower staff to share ideas, suggestions & concerns to better self-actualize

  1. Having a formal space to share ideas both encourages & facilitates innovation in the organization. This can be helpful to identify high-performers at scale who may be not be being nurtured by their management and team/division cultures.
  2. As you should give some internal company updates along with this form, including things like wins and new plans, this can also become a way to retain and grow along with your high-performing talent. This comes if you also encourage staff to take the initiative should they want to suggest proposals for projects that allign with what the company is looking to achieve (based on the updates you give). This can be a great way to retain staff who are ambitious and looking for more self-actualization and career growth.

Tip 2:

Onboard staff with cross-team mentors & rich introductions

Most companies have very basic onboarding systems. This is how it usually goes:

  1. You get added to the main internal comms channels, such as Slack etc
  2. You get tagged and mass introduced to the team, usually just saying your name + what you do
  3. You get a bunch of generic “welcome to the team!” messages
  4. You get all the documentation and tools for onboarding
  5. You have calls with your new colleagues, and depending on the other person’s social skills you either gradually find common ground, or you have a “highly efficient” remote relationship

Basic onboarding systems like damage company culture and inter-team relationships for many reasons.

For example: In the above stereotypical onboarding experience, the wider team has no idea who the new hire is (apart from their name + what they do). That means Bob in marketing will never even know what Lisa in engineering is like - worse yet, they may never even interact. This naturally limits inter-team bonding and cross-department innovation and knowledge sharing.

Instead, you can solve many of these problems by…

1. Give all new team members a mentor in another department.

The benefits of this are:

2. Give new hires rich intros via personality-focused onboarding forms

This can be as simple as a form that asks new hires about things like hobbies, interests, pets etc. Then, when introducing new hires share these answers with the rest of the team so they can have richer introductions - vs bland "welcome to the team!".

For example: If in my answers I write that I love Age of Empires and reading about UFO’s while listening to Beedle the Bardcore, it might be something another team member is interested in or comments on. Or, it might simply be a conversation point to talk to the new team member, vs. generic “hi”’s and “welcome!” messages. Including a place to share things like pictures of pets on this form is also a great way to get more genuine inter-team bonding for new hires and cross-team relationships.