June 19th 2020
Although WFH is now the new normal because of COVID, managing a remote startup presents unique challenges. As first-time founders of a fully-distributed team, this is the advice and playbook we wish we read when we started out on this journey.
Coming from larger organizations like Coinbase and Google, it took some time to learn best practices for running a remote startup team. Today, we have a small and elite team living across 6 cities, from San Francisco, to Utah, to Canada, and Singapore, and we’ve built a system that keeps the team on-track and connected.
Here’s how we did it.
1. Set up good collaboration tools
As a remote team, you need a system to collaborate effectively. Here’s what we use:
- Notion: Notion is our operating system. All our documentation — from meeting notes, to PRDs, to Engineering Tickets — is stored here. They give $1000 free credits for startups.
- Slack: What we use for real-time communication.
- Equipment: As a manager, ask and make sure your team has everything they need to be successful working from home. We’ve invested in better wi-fi, standing desk converters, and even had to buy a desk for a team member!
2. Meetings are the pulse of the organization
If a company is an organism, meetings are its pulse. It’s important to keep meetings short, lean and with a clear objective. At Shuffle, we have 3 types of team meetings:
- Team Sprint Meetings: We start the week with a team sprint, where we share our team goals for the week, make important announcements, and choose the tickets we’re focusing on.
- Mid-week check-in: Do a quick check-in with the team to update them what you’ve completed and where you’re blocked.
- Retro & Demo: We end the week by showing off demos, celebrating what went well, and reflecting on what we could’ve done better.
3. Be deliberate about team bonding
One of the biggest downsides about not having an office is not being able to bond in-person. You don’t want work interactions to end up feeling transactional. We’re constantly experimenting with new tools to build authentic connection:
- #Watercooler slack channel: For all the random things that you would say if you bumped into your colleague in a watercooler
- #Team_wins slack channel: Our favorite slack channel where we highlighting our personal and team victories, big and small!
- Weekly remote lunches: We livestreamed the SpaceX launch yesterday, and shoot the shit.
- Icebreaker.video: This is a fun tool to bond by pairing us up 1-to-1, and providing interesting prompts (example: What’s one thing you’re grateful for last week?) that make it easy to share and connect. It’s free and fun to do over happy hour.
- Icebreaker slack bot: A bot sends prompts to our team every Monday asking what the highlights of our weekend were, or asking them to share an interesting article.
- Happy hour games: There’s a ton of team online games out there like Jackbox.tv, Codenames, Skribbl, etc.
- Team offsites: COVID-19 put our first team offsite plans on hold, but I think this is incredibly important to do twice a year. We’re inspired by pictures of Notion’s retreats. 😉
In a remote team, building a culture of closeness isn’t going to just happen, so be deliberate in creating time and space for people to bond.