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Navigating the challenges of remote work: Best practices for team communication and productivity

Post-COVID-19 a lot of businesses, big and small are aspiring or already operating as a fully or partially remote teams.

For many this might have come with challenges, but for us at upcover this has been the way we have operated from day one. We are fully distributed around the world and also fully remote. 

When we founded our startup, we always envisioned a remote team would play a role in our make up. With founders based in Sydney, Melbourne and NSW mid-north coast, and a pandemic locking down cities, we quite quickly built some key systems and procedures we needed to put a fully distributed team to work.

As we’ve grown, our team of 22 has become even more dynamic and is now spread across 9 countries. We actively encourage our team to work from anywhere in the world and we haven’t noticed any negative impacts from this structure.

We’ve learnt a lot along the journey and here are some of our tips for creating a thriving and connected team when working remotely:

  • Find a good match for your cultural fit of remote working: Working remotely doesn’t suit everyone but it certainly suits many experienced professionals, particularly those who are looking to balance their life with their family, and or personal or other commitments. This is the biggest win to working remotely for so many. Ensuring those people also work independently, autonomously, and in our words at upcover – have a ‘hustle mentality’ really helps ensure they will be motivated to come to work every day firing on all cylinders. 
  • Regular check-ins: Check-ins are fundamental even for office-based teams, but these catch-ups are even more crucial when you’re working virtually. We check-in with our team daily and ensure we host one-on-one fortnightly or monthly personal catch-ups to stay in the loop with how our team are doing on a personal level.
  • Over communicate when in doubt: We don’t ever assume that someone understands something the same way you do. Over communicate and break tasks down to ensure there are minimal wires crossed.
  • Default to writing: Following on from the last point, putting tasks and ideas into notes and emails should be a default. Writing makes tasks less prone to misinterpretation. You can trick yourself into thinking you understand something but often it isn’t until you have completed drafting and writing something down that you have truly crystalised your thoughts. The process of writing helps to communicate, articulate and explain. 
  • Be culturally switched on: There are more to remote teams than just thinking about the time difference. Being sympathetic and aware of what is going on in each geography, region, and political climate will help you to support your team in the most effective way.
  • Give the benefit of the doubt: When communicating virtually by email, message, or video call it can be harder to gauge a team member’s tone, emotions, gestures, eye contact, facial expressions and body language. Sometimes this can lead to misunderstandings. If you’re unsure of how a team member is feeling after a virtual interaction, always give them the benefit of the doubt, check-in with them and investigate further. 
  • Utilise Slack for both work and play: We utilise Slack heavily within our team, and as well as it cutting down on our inboxes and making communication quick and accessible with our team, we have also created a ‘watercooler’ channel where we share non-work related news, celebrate birthdays and share important milestones with our teams. This channel is heavily used and it’s such an important tool for us to create human connections in a virtual workplace setting.
  • Don’t take time away from your team: One of the reasons people love remote work is that it gives them more time back in their day. So when you’re looking at ways for your team to connect, ensure it’s within work hours and not something they need to commit to after-hours.

Do you work remotely? We’d love to know what processes and strategies you use to connect and engage your team members. Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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Skye Theodorou

Skye Theodorou

Skye Theodorou is CEO & Co-Founder of upcover, an award winning insurtech platform bringing insurance for SMEs in Australia into the 21st century. After completing her studies at UTS (B.Bus (Mgmt, Hons), LLB), and training as a lawyer, Skye spent her career working with global insurance giant Zurich, as well as a stint doing regulatory reform in NSW state government. As well as completing a thesis on emerging risks for small business, her passion has been to help any SME owner manage their own risks, without a lawyer or insurance broker. As upcover is now ranked #2 start-up in Australia, this dream of helping Aussie businesses access simple, easy and hassle free insurance is now becoming realised and Skye couldn't be prouder.

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