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How An All-Remote Team Gets Stuff Done

Over the past few weeks, my team here at Chadwick Cannon Agency has been all over the place. Quick snapshot:

I’ve been working in Hawaii for two weeks to celebrate my tenth anniversary with my wife, Julie.

Mary Charles just spent a few days in the woods in a treehouse. (Don’t ask, I don’t get it either.)

Meanwhile, Katy was on a week-long cross-country train trip. (Who does that?!)

Emily went to approximately 13 weddings and pretends she lives in North Carolina.

And Alison and Haley and Matt don’t even live in Tennessee at all. (Cheers to California, Alabama, and Canada!)

So, all that leaves is… two college interns to hold down the fort in Nashville.

Summertime is always crazy, and for some reason the past couple weeks of this summer have been particularly busy for our team.

But the beauty of it is, we’ve kept a steady team rhythm everyday–serving clients well and churning out awesome work.

I was describing the current state of our scattered team to a friend last week, and he asked “How in the world does that work?”

The short, easy answer: technology.

The longer answer: see below.

Here are four reasons that our team gets stuff done, even when we’re all remote.

1- Ongoing communication, which means… technology

Even with folks in states (and tree houses) across the country, we are all in constant communication throughout the day. Technology means that all we need is wifi–or a hotspot!–to work.

Our #1 lifesaver is Slack. It’s a work messaging app that allows for real-time communication. We use it all day long, and it’s the hub of our agency. With clients channels, direct messaging options, and document storage, it’s really the cornerstone of our communication… no matter where we are

Zoom is also a really helpful tool. It allows for video conference calls at the click of a button. Some of my staff Zoom with each other 10-15 times a day, almost as if they’re sitting there working side by side.

Personally, I think this is the way the majority of the workforce is going to look in the coming decades.

2- High ownership

We have an unlimited vacation policy–and usually, a “work from where you want” policy–which is only possible if your employees have extremely high ownership. The people on our team are over-the-top responsible and really care about the work they’re doing each day. The power in that is huge. It means I trust them, and it means they can integrate work and play so much that we don’t have to have rules around it. During these weeks of being scattered, each individual’s ownership over his/her projects is the most driving factor toward team success.

High ownership is the key to workplace flexibility, to integrating work & play without rules. Click To Tweet

3- Great teamwork

We’ve been in a groove with this current team for almost a year now, which means that each individual knows the other’s work style, communication preferences, and personality. It’s led to familiarity that functions at a high level–and I’m so thankful for it. It’s not a general promise that months together will mean productivity, but in our case, it’s been a push toward efficiency and excellence. Mediocre teamwork works face-to-face in an office environment, but it takes exceptional teamwork to work screen-to-screen from 3,000 miles away.

4- Understanding of the big picture

At the end of the day, each person on our team knows that our goal is to serve our clients well–and to live well as holistic people while doing it. When their perspective ties into the larger vision at hand, rather than just sitting in the weeds of an individual task and expecting to be micromanaged, work style changes. All of a sudden, they’re more in tune with our mission and feel loyalty to it. When the team sees that these faraway days are little pieces of a much bigger month and year of success, it gives the day higher meaning.

I’ve said all along that I wanted to run an agency that hired millennials–and others too–and served them well (we’re a tricky, picky generation when it comes to workplace/lifestyle expectations), and allowing the freedom to travel, explore, and spend time with family and friends is a key piece of that. We are certainly not perfect at this balance, and there’s been learning along the way for each of us–but it’s important to continue to strive for.

So, when everyone decides to work remotely at the same time, we all supercharge our computers and strap into Slack. It works! And it’s fun at the same time.

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  • Joe Jestus

    Great tips! We use appear.in instead of Zoom and love it. No downloads and it works great! Just can’t use Safari with it.

  • Christy Stroud

    I love this! (But can’t really wrap my mind around unlimited vacation time…that sounds amazing!) Our team recently started using Slack too, but I think we can do a lot more with it to use it to its full capability.

  • Lori Lassen

    How does the unlimited vacation time work with pay? Do you pay all your employees salary or hourly?