Does your team have what it takes to work remotely and do you know what tools are needed?
The flipside was that the work environment wasn’t all that great. Most of the blame for that was on me. I was a beginner in the field. At that time, online marketing was still considered to be the regular marketing’s poor cousin. Sure, I understood how important it would be for long-term success. But I could not articulate it to my colleagues. The result was that I got the “you’re a waste of our resources” look more often than not, and that was not pleasant.
Another problem: management wanted the marketing team to work at the clinic. Their reasoning was that the clinic’s USP was their impeccable work ethic and culture. Marketing needed to be immersed in it to convey it to the public.
Here's the kicker: there was no real space for marketing to make their office. There was a desk on a broom closet where only one person could fit. The others had to make do with whatever dental offices were unused. We would be distracted by dental assistants in search for materials, or cleaning. If not that, then we would fall prey to the constant drilling noise from the adjacent offices.
This experience convinced me that having marketing work on-site was, at best, unproductive.Millennials seem to agree, favoring companies that provide remote options. Of course, this brings up a couple of questions. How to keep people on track? How to communicate? How to keep the team accountable and synced?
I’ve been working at it for a while now, at my current position as DistantJob’s head of marketing. I’m happy with the tools we’re using to answer each of the questions above. It is, as everything, a constant WIP, but what follows are the tools that my team relies on, at the moment.
Slacking at Your Virtual Office
The team’s day starts (at flexible hours) on Slack. That’s where you go to catch up on anything that might have happened while you were doing silly human things like:
We used to have a mess of channels - one per event, and per project. This approach satisfied my personal OCD issues, but damaged productivity. We are a small, seven-person team, so usually many people have work to do on each project. Keeping each project to its own channel meant that someone would always miss out on some random bit of info.
Now we have a single, beautiful #marketing channel, where everything happens. We only create specific channels if a single conversation is drowning out to much of the rest. As a bonus, everyone’s work is now much more transparent!
Of particular use is the #brb channel, a must for any remote team. At least if schedule flexibility is a concern. We use to announce when we arrive at the virtual office, and when we leave. The point is not to keep track of people's time, but to know when someone is available or not. There’s not a lot of bureaucracy involved, we just type something like “BRB [expected amount of time], cat on fire.”
A caveat here: Slack can get expensive for small to mid-sized companies. Consider any other asynchronous chat tool with good responsiveness and search functions, instead. Find what makes sense, and pick your poison. We’re currently looking into Basecamp as an alternative!
Zooming In on a Meeting
There’s not a lot to say about Zoom - it works! It’s such a good video conference experience that we use it with clients as well. The meeting organizer sends a link to participants, and that’s it. No assembly required! Whether they have the software installed or not, participants get in with no hassle.
It works across platforms, and in the rare event that the app or web technology fails, participants can call in from local numbers.
We use it daily. The no-brainer use is for one-on-ones. It’s quicker than chat or mail, there’s less room for communication mishaps, and screen sharing lets us talk about projects as we see and edit them. But, in true Agile fashion, we also have a daily, quick ( 15 minutes, max) meeting with all hands on deck.
In this meeting, each team member lets the rest of the team know what they’ve been working on since yesterday. They go on to tell us if something is blocking them from accomplishing their tasks. The goal with this approach is to make sure everyone on the team is on the same page. It will also allow people to offer suggestions or help when their colleagues are stuck.
We do a larger, 45 to 90 minutes version of this meeting every Monday. Here, we set the goals and tasks for the week ahead and review our performance from the previous week. The point is to come away with improvements that we can put in place immediately as we head into the new work week.
Trello it All Together
As a manager, it’s important to have a bird’s eye view of everything the team is doing. The daily meetings provide that on an immediate basis, but you also need to know what’s ahead. Enter Trello.
Trello is where all the stuff we talk about on our Monday meeting ends up. Left to right, we’ve set it up as a Kanban board, with the following columns:
The idea is that each card we create will travel from left to right over the course of the week. Except for the Epics, that are there so no-one loses sight of our goals. All cards in a sprint should contribute in some way toward achieving one or more of the epic goals.
In practice, cards often move a step back from Feedback into Doing, because as soon as a task hits Feedback, it’s announced to the whole team on Slack. Most things have to go through one or two iterations before the whole team is happy. This process keeps us accountable.
Remote Marketing Made Easy
So this is the flow that the DistantJob marketing team uses to get results, working remotely. We start the day with our stand-up meeting via Zoom. After that, we get to work on our assigned tasks in Trello. We keep in touch through Slack all the while, and jump on Zoom when needed. This is our holy trinity, and it works so well for us that most of the company's other departments have adopted it. Of course, we use other tools as well. If you'd like to know more, we’ve compiled a list of ourmust-have tools for remote teams in 2018.
What tools do you use for the day-to-day management of your team? Could they work remotely?