After the Covid-19 pandemic has hit us globally, many companies were forced to resort to remote work; and with this work setup needing to be implemented relatively quickly, many are struggling to adjust.
Brankas, a fintech startup focusing on digital banking technology, is a globally distributed team spanning 10 countries. We have been operating as a remote-first company from our founding in 2016 and we have learned some remote-work best practices over the years. Outlined below are what worked for us and what we are still working on when it comes to remote-working.
The Three Cs: Communicate, Collaborate, and Celebrate
Remote work entails more deliberate communication and with this, setting clear expectations. Many software tools have had to replace the office environment, allowing for smooth communication without the close proximity of an office space.
It is important to agree on tools and have them uniform across all staff members. The main tools we use are Slack for team chatter, GMeet for meetings, and GMail for external communication. We also use Confluence for knowledge sharing across staff members. The use of these tools requires much thoughtfulness, deliberately using tools to meet the needs of the workspace. When in doubt, we prefer over-communication to under-communication.
Mastering collaboration asynchronously is not an easy task, though proper goal-setting and software tools helps make this easier.
Goal setting is important in ensuring collaboration goes smoothly. We communicate company-wide goals during regular all-hands meetings, and individual goals during 1:1s between managers and their direct reports. Goals provide a basis for collaborative work and set clear expectations.
We also use tools to maximize collaboration power and allow for easy collaboration. Some tools we use are GSuite for real-time collaboration on documents and presentations, Canva for collaborative design work, Jira for project management, and Zoho People as our HR Management System. Additionally, Confluence provides an online platform for information sharing, allowing all members to access important information in one place. With all these tools being used and implemented, it has also been important to document best practices. Doing so allows work to be easily transitioned and communicated, ensuring clearer processes.
As a remote team, is it essential to create social spaces online that mimic the physical interaction present in office spaces.
Before COVID-19, the teams in Jakarta and Manila would meet and hang-out every two weeks during our all-hands meeting, which we call End-of-Sprint Friday (ESF). As COVID-19 has brought even more distance between team members, we have begun initiatives such as Quarantini Wednesdays, Virtual Coffee Break every Thursday, and Ask-Me-Anything for new joiners, to keep the bond strong despite the circumstances. We also participate in community events through webinars instead of meetups.
At Brankas, we recognize the importance of providing a sense of camaraderie between staff members to nurture their personal growth as well as ensuring excellent work is being done. Creating online social spaces is key to this, cultivating a healthy work environment even if the team is oceans apart.
What we are still working on
Though we have found many best practices for working remotely, there will always be room for improvement. One thing we are still improving on is managing a hybrid team, with some working in the main offices while others remotely. Often, remote teams feel separate from the main office teams, and much improvement is necessary to create a more comfortable atmosphere regardless of working location.
Aside from this, there is room to enhance our internal documentation of work done, either internally or externally. Working almost entirely online now, it is important to keep and develop documentation that shall be the single source of truth for the company.
Lastly, providing new joiner support is tougher when onboarding is done completely online. The lack of in-person communication may make it difficult to incorporate a new joiner to the team, so we must be more proactive in setting a schedule, communicating protocol, and providing good habits for working remotely.
Different Schools of Thought
There are many schools of thought on the best way to manage a remote team, and there are a lot of companies out there that do remote work differently from us. For now, we are still trying to see what works best for us.
Camera on vs camera off. Most companies prefer cameras on because it is important to see the face behind the name, and this best simulates a physical work environment. We do it cameras off. We just find it less stressful to conduct meetings with cameras off and it allows us to answer calls wherever we are.
Fixed core hours vs. flexible core hours. Some companies have fixed core hours when employees are required to be online. We don’t have that. In Brankas, each employee sets their own core hours in their own time zones. Teammates work asynchronously and adjust to each other’s core hours.
Fixed leaves vs. Unlimited leaves. At Brankas, we have unlimited leaves and employees are allowed to take Time Off When Needed (TOWN). Each employee is responsible for corresponding with her/his manager, making sure work is covered, and that the business can operate smoothly while on leave.
With that being said, it is important to note that there is no rule of thumb in doing remote work; it depends entirely on each company’s culture and working style. Experimenting on different tools and avenues to explore will, over time, create personal best practices to suit each company’s unique needs.
For material on how other companies conduct remote work:
- Shogun Remote Work Guide: https://getshogun.com/remote-work-guide
- Gitlab: https://about.gitlab.com/resources/ebook-remote-playbook/
- Zapier: https://zapier.com/learn/remote-work/
For more information on Brankas, visit our website.