How to Work Remotely: Best Practices Based on the Experiences of a Global Team

This post was originally published on March 17, 2022, and was updated on August 21, 2023.
How to Work Remotely

The main TPM offices might be in Vancouver’s funky Yaletown neighbourhood, but the TPM team is not. Our weekly Zoom check-ins include members on both coasts of North America, as well as in Asia, Australia, and Europe. But we put a lot of effort into ensuring our geographic diversity doesn’t negatively impact the service we provide. Here are a few tips our team had to offer on how to work remotely.

Keep Communicating

In-person meetings are fewer and farther between these days. Even getting Zoom calls coordinated across time zones is sometimes a challenge. But making time to talk is a vital part of our success. The non-verbal cues we get during a normal discussion can often get lost in text-based conversations. Details so trivial we wouldn’t even think to discuss them in the office can be really vital to clarify.

“Working in design and development, I’ve found it’s important to spend some extra time ensuring I understand what the client wants and that they understand what I’m suggesting. A few extra hours spent screen sharing is worth it as I talk through iterations of a project with partners and ensure there are no nasty surprises when a project is delivered.”

Trust Your Team

The importance of trust — between colleagues, between managers and staff, and between agencies and clients — cannot be understated. Unfortunately, building trust is much easier when you’re in the same room. It may feel like a leap of faith, but you have to start work each day assuming everyone on your team is doing their bit. Trust goes both ways, though. Don’t take advantage of the fact that you’re alone in your home (or city, or country). Show your team you trust them and that you deserve the trust they have in you.

Trust Your Team

Maintain Some Structure

Structure can mean different things to different teams in the world of working remotely. Not having to go into the office each morning is great, but that doesn’t mean schedules should be abandoned entirely. Keeping regular schedules (with flexibility for the unexpected) is a vital part of remote work best practices — defining responsibilities, deadlines, and weekly or monthly check-ins can help maintain productivity, prevent problems, and strengthen bonds between team members.

“I found that setting up regular check-ins — every week, every month, whatever — really helps keep client-side and our team’s work on track. We hadn’t consistently held regular meetings with most clients pre-pandemic, but it keeps everyone on the same page so we could better meet expectations. Also, as someone who hasn’t typically been in on a lot of face-to-face meetings, it’s cool to actually get to put faces to the names of a lot of our clients and show them what I do.”

Have Backups In Place

Life sometimes gets in the way of things. Team members get sick, or have personal emergencies they have to deal with unexpectedly sometimes. But when your team works remotely, you can’t just log in to your colleague’s workstation to finish off that last-minute project they’re suddenly unavailable for. Our team doubles up on key roles, with a backup ready to jump in and take over if something comes up. We also store all our assets centrally so anyone can access working files to make changes or close out a project.

“TPM’s tag-team strategy means there’s someone else on a project ready to pick it up and keep running. It makes sure clients aren’t affected by our personal circumstances, and it makes me feel better when things come up at home, knowing someone has my back.”

Set Good Boundaries

Knowing where your job responsibilities end and your personal life begins is an essential part of remote work strategy — especially when your teammates are emailing you and handing off tasks from a different time zone that doesn’t share business hours with yours. Staff need to feel comfortable signing off at the end of their day, and managers should make sure that’s the case.

Set Good Boundaries

“Working from home can really blur the lines between work and personal life. A client I talked to mentioned the same issue — feeling constantly pressured to be available. I think it’s important to make sure both colleagues and clients understand you don’t expect an immediate response to messages.”

Invest in the Right Tools

An agency is only as good as its tools. All the remote work best practices in the world won’t help if your tech stack doesn’t support them. Conveniently, software solutions and collaborative platforms for remote work have proliferated over the last few years, so it’s really just a matter of finding the right ones for your team. The solutions your team requires will vary based on the nature of your work, but consider tools that facilitate:

New tools are always emerging. Don’t assume because you invested in some tools when the pandemic hit and you shifted to remote work that you’re set indefinitely. Be prepared to embrace change — TPM is currently exploring the use of AI tools to enhance our offerings.

Be Human

At the end of the day, all the upsides to a remote work strategy don’t matter if you don’t stop to remember there are people on the other side of those emails and Slack messages you’re getting. They could be a boss, a client, a teammate, or a direct report — but they’re a person, and they’re trying their best.

“We’re so used to online interaction being like a Powerpoint presentation or webinar, the impulse is to make video calls all about our own service. I’ve found myself doing this and had it done to me. It’s important to stop yourself and pay attention to what the other person is saying and how they’re responding to you.”

At TPM, we work with technology-focused B2B businesses to help develop and execute marketing plans that will help you reach your goals. If you need help finding new ways to build customer trust or make new connections in the world of remote work, our team can help. Drop us a line to discuss what we can do for you.

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