As we’re entering these turbulent times due to COVID-19, the world is shutting down, and everyone is staying home. At Readdle, we’ve also started working from home to protect our employees and their families. We’ve made a guide on how to stay productive and created a list of 33 apps that can help you with that. I hope you find these articles useful.
Despite all the challenges, we at Readdle are fully operational and have an extensive roadmap for all our apps.
I believe tough times provide opportunities for individuals and companies to stand out, grow and evolve. Moreover, as we’re building an international team, it’s the perfect time to switch to the remote mode.
In this guide, I’d like to share how we've organized the 100% remote work for our team.
At Readdle, we all share the same values and principles when it comes to teamwork and collaboration. At the same time, it’s up to each team inside the company to decide which tools to use or how often to make video calls, which processes to adopt and how to do it. The ultimate goal is to improve our ability to get things done and continue shipping great products for our users.
Here’s what I’ll cover in this guide:
- Our principles as a team
- Our communication practices
- Team sync & project management
- Meetings & brainstorms
- Company-wide tools
- Communication Cheat Sheet
- Tips for remote work
Our daily tasks and goals for 182 people at Readdle remain the same as they were before the pandemic. What has changed though, is the way we operate, communicate, collaborate and drive results.
Our goals while working from home:
- Stay safe, healthy, and motivated
- Deliver even better results as one strong team
- Learn how to work remotely and efficiently
- Execute the strategy
- Enjoy it as a team
Our principles as a team
From day one, we’re building relationships based on openness and trust in one another. This works from bottom to top and vice versa. Trust empowers people to take responsibility. Everyone knows that even if they fail, there are always other teammates whom they can trust and who will help.
It’s crucial to communicate openly inside the entire team. That’s why from time to time, we host the Q&A sessions with the Readdle founders where everyone can ask any questions related to our business, goals, and company life. We believe it’s a great way to build trust across all company levels.
I learn from my team every day and show them respect for their decisions. At the same time, a leader must be a couple of steps ahead and think long term. A manager should be able to wisely guide their team, suggest better solutions if needed, and assist the team in achieving the best results.
This goes without saying. At Readdle, we’re always respectful to each other, our opinions, expertise, personal life and involvement. It’s not about ego, or who’s right, it’s about making the right decisions for the business and for our customers.
Readiness to take responsibility and ownership of a task is crucial on the remote. Each manager at Readdle has to rely on the maturity of their team and let them do the job for which they were hired. Importantly, you have to explicitly let them know they’re welcomed to do so not just on words but in deeds.
Here’s some advice: Never take a peer's unfinished job and do it on your own because you know it better. Your goal is to grow and guide them. It’s better to suggest ideas, explain what and why should be changed, and work together until you’re both satisfied with a result.
5. Great relationships and having fun
We support each other and have fun from the whole process together. Occasionally, we have calls just to know how everyone’s doing, share what’s new in our lives, or just discuss common interests.
A survey about remote work inside our company has shown that people miss other people from Readdle, and this is the biggest challenge. It’s rewarding to work with great people who you trust, respect and have fun with while creating something great for millions of users.
Our communication practices
Communication is a key challenge for remote teams. That’s why as a team we follow these principles:
1. Overcommunicate and be responsive
Being remote allows people to focus on their tasks without distractions. Yet, the speed of communication is crucial to get things done.
In our team, we’ve agreed on the speed of reply we expect from each other depending on the communication channel. These are not strict rules, but our expectations from each other and our professionalism:
- Slack – up to 30-60 minutes during work hours.
- Email – up to 3-4 hours. If it takes longer, confirm that you’ve seen an email and need more time to handle it.
- Phone. This is the last resort. We can use it only for urgent matters or if a person isn’t replying anywhere during work hours.
I always ask my team to overcommunicate while they work from home. If someone isn’t replying, it’s OK to ping them once more.
2. Don’t know what to do? Stuck? Please ask!
This is self-explanatory. Sometimes each of us can be stuck. We may be waiting for someone to reply, and it takes ages. Or we don’t know what to do, or a task may feel too complicated. Whatever the reason, it’s crucial to ping a relevant person and ask for help. As a team, we’re stronger together.
3. Document major decisions
While being remote, it’s easy to miss some important decisions made by the team. That’s why it’s crucial to document all the major decisions and have a few sources of truth. We are only at the very beginning of this journey, but we plan to use Confluence as our knowledge base, Jira for everything product development related, Abstract for everything design related, and so on.
Team sync & project management
(with the marketing team as an example)
What our team does hasn’t changed that much. However, how we do it is something we had to update, given the circumstances.
As an example, I’ll list some practices used by the marketing team. As I mentioned before, other teams at Readdle may employ different practices to sync with each other and keep track of the progress. Each team has flexibility on how they choose their tools and processes, because what’s important is the final result, and we let our smart people figure out how to do that.
I’ve taken this name from the Radical Candor book which I highly recommend everyone read.
How do Weekly Snippets work? Our team has a shared spreadsheet where each person fills in their main goals for the week. It’s important to formulate these things in terms of results, not just processes or actions. For example, instead of “Work on onboarding emails,” we write “Design and launch 7 onboarding emails by Thursday.”
Weekly Snippets help everyone on the team set priorities and stay focused as well as provide a general overview of the whole teamwork.
Each morning we have a quick 15-minute call to share our plans for the day, talk about any blockers we have, or any help we need.
Project Management in Asana
Once each of us has prioritized their tasks for the week, we add all of them to Asana. This is our go-to app for task and project management. In Asana, we have different projects for app updates and releases (e.g. Spark with Dark Mode) and other activities (e.g. creating How-to videos, launching new partnerships, etc.).
I believe this is the only way to stay organized, and it gives me an overview of what’s going on with each team member, so I can delegate efficiently.
This is a 30-60 minute Monday meeting where each team member shares their results and learnings from the last week and describes their priorities for the current week.
After going remote, our team holds weekly syncs in Zoom. We always do it with the cameras turned on. For the remote team, it’s crucial to feel connected. I’ve read many articles and research papers that favor video over audio. In short, video calls are much more personal and engaging.
What we love the most about Zoom is an option to pick custom backgrounds for video calls. Some of my teammates have become really creative with it :)
Marketing Pulse is a short daily update from each team member. We post it in a short form to our #marketing-stream channel. Basically, it’s a “Today I’ve done …” status update. This helps all team members see the progress and better support each other.
Bi-weekly marketing reports and reflections
Every other Friday we host an hour-long reflection meeting on the past 2 weeks. This is the perfect time for discussing our ideas, learnings, and progress. Before a meeting, we prepare a general report on all our marketing activities for 2 weeks.
Meetings & brainstorms
This is probably the biggest change for us, as we’re used to having a lot of face to face meetings in meeting rooms.
Here are a few tricks that make our remote meetings more productive:
- Connect to a conferencing tool 2-3 minutes before the meeting, so you have enough time to test your audio and video and be ready to start on time.
- Mute your mic when you don’t talk to reduce background noise. And make sure to unmute the mic when you’re speaking.
- Make sure the connection is decent. During our first call, my internet was pretty bad, and this was a good lesson for me.
Here are the tools we use to replace in-person meetings:
- Scheduling and coordinating meetings — Doodle
Doodle can help you save a lot of time spent on coordinating meetings together.
- Meetings with < 20 people — Google Meet
When setting up a meeting, you can enable a conference call directly from Google Calendars.
- Meetings with more than >20 participants or with people outside of Readdle — Zoom
This tool is more stable for larger groups. Plus, our Spark email integrates with both Zoom and Google Meet, so we can make calls right from its built-in calendar.
- Whiteboards and brainstorming tool — Miro
I use it for personal brainstorming and mapping out ideas as well as collaborative sessions.
These are the apps and services the entire Readdle team uses and loves.
Password Management – 1Password
This is our password management tool used to create secure passwords and share passwords, login details and notes by using 1Password groups and 1Password shared folders.
Daily communication — Slack
This is the central hub for our communication. We use it to communicate and receive updates from teams and multiple connected tools. It’s also our “go-to” app to check if someone is available.
At the same time, I recommend my team members avoid long-winded work-related discussions or debates on Slack and move these to Discourse instead.
Email – Spark
As the team that builds Spark, we eat our own dog food…and lots of it. Spark is where we communicate across teams about things that require long-form updates or information. In Spark, we can share and comment on emails, delegate emails and assign tasks, and even draft emails together.
While ever more companies start working remotely, we’ve created a guide on how Spark can help your team work from home.
Virtual office — Tandem.chat
When you switch to remote work, it’s crucial to stay productive and feel connected with your colleagues, just like you did in the office. That’s where having a virtual office may help. One of the best real-time voice and video tools for this is Tandem.chat. Here is a guide on how to best use it. Tandem.chat enables us to work together on the same screens, see what we are all working on, or start voice conversations.
Non-chat based discussions — Discourse
This is our tool for official team announcements and non-chat based discussions. We use it for leave announcements, company updates, key product decisions, research results, etc. Discourse also works well when you need to ask the rest of the team for in-depth feedback on your work.
Product backlog — Jira
We use it to manage, plan and update the Readdle product backlog. Product and engineering teams also employ Kanban boards for weekly iterations.
Knowledge base – Confluence
This is our knowledge base. Every department has its own space here. We use Confluence to document our processes, procedures, how-tos, and much more.
Time off and sick leave — BambooHR.com
This is where people ask for time off and sick leaves. Before taking the time off, each person should inform their team and make sure someone takes over their projects and tasks during their absence.
Company meetings and customer calls — Zoom
We use Zoom for large company meetings such as weekly demos and monthly recaps. CSMs and marketers use Zoom for webinars and for Hotjar customer demos and calls. Overall, this app has a lot more features than Hangouts. For example, with Zoom, the host can record calls.
Communication Cheat Sheet
I’ve made this cheat sheet for all Readdlers who need to share a message but aren’t sure which tool to use. You can create a similar table to help your team.
Tips for remote work
Working remotely isn’t always easy; nor is it for everyone. We all get tired, we all get distracted. Balancing our working and personal lives may feel hard or even impossible at times.
Here are a few suggestions my team members have shared from their personal experience. Keep in mind that what works for one person does not necessarily work for all of us, and this goes for remote working itself.
- Check out this blog post: 19 ways Hotjar's remote team stays focused and productive
- Force yourself to take scheduled breaks (e.g. by using the Pomodoro Technique).
- Don’t have a break while at your computer: Get up, exercise, go out for a walk, do something else.
- Disconnect a few hours a day.
- Schedule your day. You can add tasks to your calendar. This helps you focus and time-box properly, yet your schedule can still be flexible.
- Use a calendar to block out time to meet a friend or have a meal with your family.
- Enjoy small rewards for accomplished tasks.
- If you can’t focus, stop working and go outside to clear your mind. While you’re not at your desk, solutions will definitely come to you.
- Use time management apps to review your productivity and pinpoint activities that are distracting you.
- Test out which type of location works best for you, be it your home, a coffee shop, or a co-working space. Perhaps a combination of these throughout the week is what helps you maintain focus.
I hope our practices and approaches will help you on your remote journey. Now, I’m curious to learn how you organize working from home for your team. Let me know in the comments!