How to Navigate a Remote Company: 7 Tips From Deel’s People Ops Manager
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Joining a globally distributed company can be intimidating and overwhelming. You may not know how to meet colleagues and establish an internal reputation without gathering in an office.
But all employees, even remote employees, thrive once they feel established within the company and on the team. Only then can you maximize collaboration and complete shared goals.
And while you invest energy into getting to know the company and team, spend equal energy figuring out how you work best. Understanding your own communication style, peak productivity hours, daily routines, tools, and software is a huge asset. You should communicate these insights with your collaborators and peers to work more efficiently, both as an individual and team.
We asked Colby Splaine, our People Ops manager, to share her top tips on navigating a globally distributed, remote company as a new employee.
1. Build boundaries into your tools
First and most importantly, make clear and intentional boundaries to prevent burnout. During the first year of the pandemic, remote employees reported working almost a whole extra day every week, which caused an increase in burnout in remote teams. Don’t just ponder boundaries; embed boundaries into your schedule and tools.
Especially with a globally distributed company, various time zones, and all working within your individualized roles, boundaries quickly become blurred. By building boundaries into your tools, others will learn how to work with you best, and you can bring your full, intentional self to work daily without becoming overwhelmed or burnt out.
- Schedule micro-breaks throughout the day, especially before and after meetings
- Use tools like Google Calendar or Clockify to set your working hours so they’re visible to your team
- Embrace asynchronous communication instead of replying to Slack messages in the middle of the night
2. Step outside of your comfort zone
Challenge yourself to meet someone new each week. Start within your team, then your organization, then branch out to people outside of your organization to other company colleagues and even leadership.
Scheduling meet-and-greets may sound intimidating and uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re introverted, but it will make you more comfortable and confident in the long run. By doing this, you will know who to go to for what, build trust and friendships with people worldwide, and have a better understanding of the business. All three are key to your success in your current role as well as future growth.
To set up calls with your co-workers, ask your HR or people team if there are any ways to start connecting with people in the business. Most fully distributed teams use technology like Connections by Deel for employees to opt into a system that randomly pairs people across the business for a 1:1 every other week.
Start with your team if your company doesn’t have an offering like this. Set up a 15-minute chat with each teammate to simply connect, get to know each other, chat about hobbies outside of work, and more! Be comfortable with setting up meet-and-greets, and welcome them when others start on your team.
Build connections on Slack
Spark conversations with a remote team with meeting roulettes, watercooler prompts, and interest groups, all in Slack.
You can drive the conversation. Come up with icebreaker questions to get the conversation going. Ask questions like:
- Where are you based?
- What do you like to do outside of work?
- What is your favorite holiday, and how do you celebrate it?
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
- Who is your ‘go-to’ person at work that you go to with any questions?
3. Seek out a mentor
Finding a mentor is not easy. Mentors are typically people with more experience and tenure who can provide you with guidance and support in your career to help you reach your goals.
Find someone in your network who inspires you (this can be someone outside of your company). If you have a personal connection with them or are connected through a friend or your network, ask for an introduction. If you want to reach out to them directly, but upfront and transparent:
- Let them know that you are seeking a mentor
- Include why you are interested in finding a mentor (you’re looking for guidance to navigate a fully diverse workforce or to build your network with intentional connections, you’re inspired by their work and what to learn from them, you have similar interests, you need guidance in finding your passion, etc.)
- Be intentional about their time: prepare questions, ensure you show up on time for meetings, ask personal and professional questions, identify common grounds, and make sure it is a give-and-take the relationship
If the mentorship is not serving you, let them go and find someone else.
4. Organise and participate in team-building activities
Ask your manager to set up opportunities for new employees to meet the rest of the team. Be intentional about setting some time to get to know your team personally. An online game or a casual hangout can go a long way to improve team bonds.
Camaraderie is crucial to reducing burnout and increasing strong relationships within the organization (leading to longer tenure). Workplace friendships also lead to higher team productivity and engagement and even higher company profitability.
5. Learn about each other's working styles
Ask for as much context on everyone’s working styles as possible. This will help make your team more successful in working together and collaborating, especially when you have cross-team projects to coordinate on.
Some teams even encourage each person to create a working style document, where they list preferences, pet peeves, and other information coworkers should know while collaborating.
6. Take time to organize your work
Use project management tools to ensure you can work effectively together in real-time while also providing appropriate visibility to reduce duplication of efforts. Think “one source of truth.”
To work efficiently, avoid meeting overload and keep a good balance of blocks for execution and planning. Really think twice: can this meeting actually be effective as an email or IM?
7. Be adaptable and empathetic
Be mindful of different cultures within the team. Some practices and traditions may seem normal in one country and strange in another, so be aware of the diversity of experience and inclusion in communications.
Don’t assume. When in doubt, ask questions. Always lead with empathy in a globally diverse company. Diversity is an important catalyst for positive workplace experiences, increased productivity, and idea innovation.
Positive remote work culture is a conscious effort
Joining a remote-first company with a distributed team requires flexibility and patience, as multiple time zones, language barriers, and different cultural backgrounds can be challenging.
Once you get used to new processes and figure out how to be productive in a new work environment, you’ll fully experience the benefits of working in a distributed team.
If you want to build solid relationships with colleagues worldwide and make a difference in a globally distributed company, you need to make a conscious effort to make it happen. Our seven tips are a great place to start.