One of the secrets of a truly unified and successful remote team is a culture of good work habits. As a remote team, company habits ensure we provide consistent, high-quality work to our clients despite our distant locations from each other. Remote team habits help build a company culture. These company habits help each team member feel connected, and realize he or she is an important part of the team, even if we have never met each other in person.
When businesses make change without a solid plan to create lasting habits, they will struggle with the change like a child who has not yet made shoe tying a habit, or a person who still hunts and pecks his way across a keyboard. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of work. The result? Inconsistency. When their willpower is string and they are committed, they do a good job. However, when they are tired, or frustrated because of the concentrated effort they have to expend, the customer experience is compromised.
–Kyle Havill, “How to Build Work Team Habits”
What are team habits?
Habits in general are automatic actions. Things you do without even thinking about it, like brushing your teeth every morning after breakfast. A team habit is the same thing, shared among the members of a work team. Examples of team habits are: following specific checklists or procedures when kicking off a new project, speaking positively to fellow team members, or using a specific workflow process during a project.
At work, healthy habits help us provide consistently good service to our clients. By creating a culture where every team member is consistently following and building upon established guidelines and best practices, there is an assurance that every project will maintain the same level of quality and consistency. Projects are completed quickly and are able to be accurately estimated. These habits create trust and help our clients know that they can depend on us.By standardizing common tasks team members are able to focus their time and energy on immediate and difficult problems. Click To Tweet The company culture created by these habits pervades every aspect of the business. By standardizing common tasks, team members are able to focus their time and energy on immediate and difficult problems. New team members are brought up to speed quickly and feel relief at the structure, organization, and well-defined expectations the company has established. The clarity that these habits provide creates an environment of happy employees eager to help one another, which in turn produces better results and helps facilitate the spread of knowledge throughout the organization.
How can we create team work habits?
In his book, How to Build Work Team Habits, Kyle Havill explains that the first step in creating team habits is making sure everyone is on board and understands the goal. If people are reluctant to help attain the goal and create the new habit, find out why and persuade them.
Once the team agrees, then you can set some benchmark goals to hit to work on making the new action a habit. If it helps motivate your team, you can reward team members who meet or exceed the goals within the given timeframe.
When the habit has been acquired, you’ll see improved consistency, efficiency, and effectiveness in your team’s work and customer service.
Here are some of the remote team work habits we have developed at RED over the years:
- Weekly team video calls
Our weekly video calls as a team help each member stay connected and understand the areas in which other team members excel. This enables us to reach out to each other laterally instead of solely through the project managers.
- Taking notes and keeping records
When we learn something new, we write it down in a shared Evernote for the team. We create a “Cliffnotes” document for every client website, so someone coming into the project can get a sense of all of the moving parts. We are able to search our task system, Intervals, for past tasks which might be relevant to current tasks.
- Sharing information
In our private professional development blog and in Evernote, we share information we’ve learned or articles we’ve read that might interest other members of the team. During team video calls, various team members make presentations on subjects they have studied that are of interest to the entire team.
- Setting personal goals
During quarterly reviews each team member discusses an area in which they are striving to grow professionally. Stating these goals in front of the team has the effect of holding each team member accountable while at the same time letting other team members know what their peers are focusing on, making it easy to spread relevant knowledge as well as to stay inspired professionally.
- Checking in and asking for feedback on tasks
If a RED team member is unsure about what direction to take on a particular task, or there are multiple ways to complete a task, he or she provides a project manager with a detailed description of the problem and asks for advice. The project manager, who is in touch with the client and has a better understanding of the client’s needs, can then provide guidance on how to proceed. This ensures that the client’s needs are being met in a complete and cost-effective way.
- Project debriefs
After a project ends, we study it. Did we meet our estimate? How did client communication go, and was our timeline respected? What did we learn that we can improve on next time?
- Mutual encouragement
We use the Bonus.ly system where team members can give points to each other as rewards or thank yous for help on a project, making a great presentation, or otherwise contributing to our team’s success and spirit.
- Respecting our clients
Our clients are important, and we want them to know they matter to us. We show this by doing our best work for their projects while respecting timelines and estimates.
- Respecting ourselves
Work / life balance is one of RED’s core values. We encourage team members to find that balance. We communicate when we take time off and plan together to cover the workload.
- Informing our clients
We send out a biweekly newsletter to inform our clients about important news and share news about other clients.
- Measuring our performance
We do quarterly reviews that cover tangibles (the numbers) and intangibles (are we living up to RED’s core values?). This gives us clear indications of the areas we can improve upon and keeps us accountable. It also allows us to revise our goals as necessary.
What habits does your team have? What habits would you like your team to work on? Share in the comments!