How to Design Powerful Rituals for Successful Distributed Companies

How to Design Powerful Rituals for Successful Distributed Companies

By: Laurel Farrer

Q: What kind of remote "rituals" do you have? Any daily/weekly/monthly activities that you regularly perform?  -Marius V.

A: This was a really great question that was asked during the Out of Office Conference after Jeff Robbins’ presentation about remote management strategies. There wasn’t enough time to answer with the level of detail that Marius deserved, so we decided to respond here!

Because distributed business management doesn’t really differ from brick-and-mortar business management, let’s focus on how distributed team management differs from that of a co-located staff. Implementing these regular habits will ensure that communication, culture, and unity stay strong within your team, regardless of where you’re all located.


Daily Rituals

Team Standups. To ensure your team feels connected and supported, it’s important to quickly check in with each member at least once daily. Some teams like to have a casual standup conference call, while others prefer an agile scrum on Slack. How you do it isn’t important, but gauging accountability and tracking progress is. (Tip: Here at Yonder, we use an automated slackbot and love it!)

Catch up on email. Avoid future “Have you followed up on this, yet?” emails by encouraging all of your team members to zero out their inbox at the end of each workday. Trust us, your clients and vendors will notice and appreciate your team’s accessibility!

Plan your tomorrow. This tried and true productivity method is easy to integrate into your team’s daily routine with a slackbot.


Weekly Rituals

Casual Chats. Remote employees may need to be reminded that they work and interact with real human beings. Make sure to integrate efficient (but sincere) personal conversations into your work week by asking about kids, pets, trips, hobbies, or anything else that is exciting or unique about your coworkers. If you’re not “naturally blabby,” block a quick one-on-one chat with each of your team members into your calendar or randomly pair employees with each other (including yourself) to connect during a scheduled time.

Live Meetings. Every team, regardless of size, should come together at least once a week to report, plan, celebrate, and problem solve. How you connect (phone, video, in-person, or other) isn’t very important, but uniting over shared experiences or goals is.

A Celebration. Recognize another stretch of a job well done with a celebration of some kind. You can start simple with extra compliments on Slack, then eventually graduate into Friday afternoon parties or breaks. Fun goals, like this, often make it worth getting through a tough few days and recharges everyone for the next week.


Monthly Rituals

Progress Reports. Voluntarily providing updates communicates trust and confidence, so make sure to offer some kind of reporting to your followers, including progress summaries, important news, and forecasting for the next month. It’s up to you to decide whom to share these reports - just your team, a department, the whole company, or even your entire community. Again, the message is more important than the medium, so don’t get too caught up in format or distribution tools.

Unprofessional Activity. Forget about work and deadlines and clients for a minute and just do something outrageously fun or fulfilling together. Some teams host a Fitbit challenge, slack book club, or happy hour video call to enjoy together. Be creative. Tap into your company’s branding or common interests and goals for inspiration. This will not only support your company’s mission, but strengthen it.

Temperature Gauges. Check in on your team members one-by-one to get an idea of how they’re doing in general. Think of it as an agile scrum, but for their big picture: Are you satisfied with your progress and accomplishments this month? What blocks are you noticing that are hindering your creativity? What can I do that might help you accomplish your goal for next month? If you choose to share responses publicly, make sure to follow up your posted response with a private message to display individual concern.


Quarterly, Semi-Annually, or Annually

Employee Evaluations. During standups and meetings, topics are usually discussed on a micro-scale, so this is a good opportunity to zoom out and look at the big picture of each worker’s progress, satisfaction, concerns, and goals. To encourage transparency, create a casual and comfortable environment, be open to any responses (positive or negative), and be as honest and compassionate as you expect them to be with you.  

Personal Gifts. Remind your team about how much you appreciate their work and value your professional relationship with them by sending them a little something every now and then. Budget these into your necessary expenses, so if a special occasion pops up or morale seems to sink, you won’t have an excuse to hold back.

Company Retreats. You already know how important retreats are to the culture, workflows, and communication of a team, so we don’t need to be redundant here. Suffice it to say, this is a crucial investment for the emotional and logistical functions of your team. Have fun, work hard, and watch the incredible impact that it will have on your staff when you return. Trust us.

Establishing rituals with your team might be the most direct path to becoming a more engaged and productive remote leader. With consistent habits and rituals, you will notice a higher rate of employee satisfaction and a more positive vibe to your company culture.

Do you have a question about remote work or distributed teams that you would like answered? Click here to submit!

P.S. Want a little more motivation to implement a ritual? Check out this awesome article.

Laurel Farrer is the COO here at Yonder. She always has a notebook and pen within arm's reach, never sits with both feet on the floor, and drives (safely) without depth perception.