Remote work, how my startup does it

A coherent and capable team is essential to the success of any startup. But how can you build one that will thrive in a remote environment?

Here at Keepek we’ve decided to go remote at an early stage and so far that has worked beautifully for us. Today, I’d like to share with you a few insights we’ve learnt whilst working remotely.

1. Hire the right people

By far the most important ingredient to building a successful remote team is hiring employees who have a ”can do” attitude. Such people are easy to manage and with a minimum amount of guidance get the job done, even if they are based in the North Pole.

Hiring good startup employees is simply not good enough because a remote environment is not for everyone. Most people lack the focus and the inner drive to stay productive while working remotely. To put it simply, programming or designing from home requires a discipline that most office based employees have never had a chance to develop.

Ideally you’d like to have someone who has worked remotely and independently before. We’ve found people who’ve been freelancers and entrepreneurs in the past are the ones that cope the best with remote work.

Of course it’s not easy to find theses type of employees but the good news is that hiring from around the world will give you access to a larger talent pool.

2. Look for solid communion skills

You cannot afford to hire poor communicators because they create communication barriers, which disrupts the flow of information.

In an office environment employees can share knowledge by simply walking over to a colleague’s desk and speaking to him or her personally. But in a remote environment, knowledge is largely shared through writing – emails, one-to-one messages, and team chat. This is not a bad thing, because writing helped us to focus and cut out a lot of redundant noise associated with oral communication.

So when we hire someone instead of calling them, we conduct the conversation through emails. The process is little slow, but it gives us valuable clues about how responsive the candidate is, and most importantly, if they able to make their points succinctly and effectively.

3. Nothing can be done without trust

Without trust a remote team cannot function. Therefore, we spend a great deal of energy building and maintaining it.

Firstly, we don’t micro-manage. Instead we give our employees enough room to organize their schedule as they wish. We only ask them to be online during their workday and we encourage them to write two to three sentences each morning telling the team what they are working on that day.

Secondly, we have established a culture where we share our successes and failures straight away, without judging.

For instance, a product manager can start a discussion about a new feature he is considering, and then everyone will join in and give his opinion.
By not allowing our people to judge one another, we encourage them to communicate openly and early in the creative process so they feel they are supported, which in turn fosters trust.

As you can imagine, building a culture of trust is a lot easier if you team is made of people who have a ”can do” attitude and who are responsive communicators.

4. The team still need to meet in person

Our team is still small so we have the luxury of getting them all in one place for about a week, three to four times a year. During these times we do a lot of work-related group building activities. We also leave plenty of room for fun activities such as drinking and football. The idea is to create bonds that will cement the group as well as working routines that will be used when working remotely.

When we hire a new person, we make sure that the entire team introduces themselves and spends a few hours having a friendly chat to explain what they are working on. We also share a repository of past photos and videos that give the new person a sense of who we are.

5. Use the right tools to increase productivity

Choosing the right tools is important for remote work because they enable you to organize the team and keep everyone on the same page. However, tools alone are not enough, you still need to do the hard work of building and nurturing a collaborative culture in your company.
Having said that here is a list of tools that we use at Keepek. Read more about it in our blog tools for remote teams stay productive and connected.

6. Define clear goals and tasks

For the team to all pull in the right direction, you need to have crystal clear goals. As Albert Einstein once said “If you don’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough “. In addition, you have to get everyone on board by explaining why your startup needs to achieve those goals.

Getting this part right will encourage members of you team to become autonomous because each individual will know what decision to take without having to consult their manager.

The second part of the equation is to define clear tasks. This will help each one to efficiently manage their schedule.
Here at Keepek, we have developed a task system where each person has the ability to access a list of tasks. Each task has priority tag associated with it. The team meet online each Monday to check it, add new tasks and estimate the time each one would require. Then anyone can pick a task and start working on it.

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