YC hosted a virtual panel with YC alum on best practices for managing a remote team. We aggregated the advice shared by alum, including Sid Sijbrandij & Darren Murph of GitLab (remote team of 1,200+), Wade Foster of Zapier (remote team of 300+), Ian Tien of Mattermost (remote team of 100+), Nick Raushenbush & Finbarr Taylor of Shogun (remote team of 60), Rajiv Ayyangar of Tandem (remote team of 6) and more.
Here is advice from the YC community:
Recommended playbooks and resources:
Nick Raushenbush, Shogun: Here are the tools that we use on a daily basis:
Wade Foster, Zapier: I'd keep in mind task relevant maturity (a concept from Andy Grove's book High Output Management). When someone is good at something, you can go longer without check-ins. When someone is new to something you probably want more frequent check-ins. If my team was new to remote, I'd probably start with an AM and a PM check-in; then as we get more comfortable and have less frequent blockers, I'd scale the check-ins back.
What we do at Zapier:
Ian Tien, Mattermost: If your team is international and across multiple time zones, here is a detailed handbook outlining how to approach company wide communication. To start off, it is important to record meetings and take anonymous Q&A feedback asynchronously, so if someone is not able to attend they are still on equal footing to interact.
Nick Raushenbush, Shogun: When we were a smaller team we relied on ad hoc communication a lot more. Now we are more thoughtful with meeting structure. Monthly: Company-wide AMAs are a new thing, but so far we really like them. We’re planning for once a month but might drop to once a quarter based on feedback. Weekly: Team fireside chats for 30 minutes.
During meetings and check-ins I always ask:
Ben Congleton, Olark: It starts with empowering your team to have space to think about the culture and values they want to present. Here are guides that we put together:
Rajiv Ayyangar, Tandem: We interviewed 100 remote teams and wrote a rundown of tactics for building trust: How to Build Psychological Safety in your Remote Team.
Nick Raushenbush, Shogun: Culture forms! Donut is a great tool to introduce team members to each other.
Darren Murph, GitLab: If you’re forced to be remote, minimize your tool stack; minimize the chaos. It’s a lot for people thrust into remote areas, so if you can avoid introducing a new tool at the same time, avoid that. If you must do it, create documentation first, so the tool roll-out happens only after people have read, end-to-end, why you’re doing it, how they’ll use it, what it replaces, etc. Documentation is critical to adoption.
Ben Congleton, Olark: It is important to recognize that some business tools are critical while others are elective.The only tools that are company wide requirements are based on job function and team needs. For example, expectations are set around using Slack, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Zoom. Letting teams choose platforms and make tool decisions helps and benefits them directly.
Wade Foster, Zapier: We don't enforce tool usage all that tightly outside of Slack and Zoom. What we do have is expectations on reporting. So if you reported to me, we'd agree on output at the beginning of the week, and at the end of the week, you communicate the result. The tools are a means to get to that — use whatever helps you get it done.
Yura Riphyak, YouTeam:It is extremely important to put everything in writing. Three reasons why:
Yura Riphyak, YouTeam: Like most of the other things about non-work communication, we are trying to be light on any kind of management-induced activities. This stuff should happen bottom-up, not top-down. People who work remotely develop a comparatively high level of self-sufficiency and also a strong sense of personal space. One thing we are doing is making sure everyone knows about the others' hobbies and interests. For example, we have a chess group, skiing group, and book club.
Rajiv Ayyangar, Tandem: At Tandem, we built rooms to allow for a virtual water cooler. Social proof (seeing that other people are talking) is a huge factor in whether teammates are willing to talk socially. A few factors that one could consider: Fun! If there's a fun reason to talk, like a game you want to try or an icebreaker topic, that can help. Inviting vs. demanding. If you let people know you have office hours, or will be in a room/call during X-Y time, then it's an invitation. If you say you'll be video-calling random people, it's demanding.