Remote isn’t “in-office, but Zoom”
If running a remote or hybrid team feels like a chaotic, painful, never-ending Zoom marathon, it’s because the tools and processes most companies use weren’t designed for distributed-by-default; they were designed for in-person office work. That’s not hyperbole; makers of popular productivity apps are largely office-based. Combine that with the fact that remote amplifies mismanagement (looking at you, micro-managers) and it’s not hard to see why folks struggle.
Running remote and hybrid teams effectively requires a different approach and different practices, but the reward is worth the effort; increased productivity and efficiency, better work/life balance, a global talent market, better employee engagement and job satisfaction, more autonomy, lower expenses, and more.
Step 1? Understanding where the traps are so you can avoid them. There are 2 biggies; meeting overload, and getting caught in the alignment trap.
“Meeting hours” are the most precious commodity in your org. This is crucial to wrap your head around if you’ve worked in traditional office environments where people make it rain with meetings on a daily basis. Need convincing? Let’s start with the cost side of things:
- Meetings are expensive. Run the payroll for a 12 person meeting. Spoiler; it’s a lot.
- Meetings are zero-sum. You’re either talking about the work, or doing the work.
- Excess meetings are draining. Like sugar, a good meeting can give you a jolt of energy, but pile up too many and you inevitably crash.
- Meetings are flexibility killers. One of the best things about remote work is flexibility. That’s out the door when calendars are filled with recurring meetings.
- Meetings erode deep-work. Knowledge workers (developers, designers, etc) need large, uninterrupted blocks of time to get into flow state and do the kind of deep work where the magic really happens. Nothing of significance is getting done in that 30-minute gap between meetings.
Meetings have a lot of downsides, so you should cut them all, right? Nope! They come at a high-price, but meetings and 1:1s are absolutely vital in remote and hybrid teams. Rich human interaction — collaborating, spit-balling, celebrating, commiserating, etc — is the foundation that great work and strong team culture is built on. Skip at your own peril.
If you need to run meetings, but can’t run them all the time, what do you do? Get rid of low-value meetings — status meetings, daily stand-ups, high-frequency all-hands — and save your meeting budget for the good stuff.
The alignment trap
Slack is great for chatting in real-time, Notion is a fantastic knowledge store, Asana and Jira nail managing projects at a granular level, but none of the tools that modern teams use solve for alignment and high-level context.
Why is that a problem? Team alignment has a half-life. It’s highest after that all-hands presentation or quarterly goal-setting session, but memory fades and static docs tend to collect dust in the face of day-to-day work. If you want to maintain alignment, you have to feed it, and alignment in remote-first contexts requires a lot more food. There’s no water cooler chats, lunch conversations, or after-hours drinks, and micro-management is a viable-but-unwise tool you can reach for instead.
Most remote and hybrid teams rely heavily on meetings to fill these gaps, but meetings are too inefficient to keep up with the half-life of team alignment. Without a more efficient option, most remote-first companies end up with strong alignment and a velocity problem, or weak alignment and a “cats in a bag” problem.
Status Hero takes all the people spread across locales and work spread across tools, and glues it all together with a combination of integrations and structured, async communication loops. No more meeting overload. No more getting caught in the alignment trap.
Beyond simply avoiding pain, Status Hero gives you the tools you need to build vibrant, productive remote-first teams. What does it take to do that? 5 things:
- a space dedicated to sharing vision and summarizing progress
- a way to keep individual teams in tight sync without meetings
- a way to piece together work that’s fragmented across your tools
- a way to make up for not being able to “read the room” in-office
- a way to do all the above without relying on memory or manual labor
Do all these things and you’re ahead of 90% of remote teams working today. Read on to learn how you can use Status Hero to make it happen.
Goals… are good. Particularly so for remote-first companies. Setting clear, agreed upon goals for the upcoming quarter or cycle means that everyone has a shared vision of what success looks like, and everyone on the team is empowered to work out the “how” autonomously.
Goals in Status Hero are live, which means they’re as much about communicating high-level status and progress as they are creating initial alignment. Every goal is essentially a single-subject micro-blog that’s updated on a regular cadence. That steady drip does wonders for maintaining alignment, and proactively keeps the entire team up to speed on progress and high-level status.
Making it happen:
- Create goals for every team that paint a clear picture of what the future looks like in three months. Keep it to 1-2 max, with a monthly update cadence. Remember that you’re describing desired outcomes in goals, not tasks.
- Create goals for individual that drive the larger team goals. Set the update cadence to weekly or bi-weekly so that team goal owners have multiple sub-goal updates ready for further summarization.
- Write updates when you’re prompted by Status Hero. Updates collect confidence and progress to create a clear "do I need to dig into this?" signal, and marry them with long-form text that offers deeper context.
Keep teams in sync
Goals take care of big picture alignment and progress, but you still need a way to keep individual teams in tight sync on a day-to-day basis. Status meetings and daily stand-ups are at the bottom of the meeting-value spectrum, so they should be at the top of your meetings-to-get-rid-of list.
Status Hero’s Smart Check-ins replace those big, boring chunks of calendar concrete with quick async check-ins that free people from record-keeping duty by automatically pulling in activity from connected tools. It takes just a few minutes a day to check-in and catch up on updates, and frees up large chunks of time for deep work and higher-value meetings and 1:1s.
Making it happen:
Create a team in Status Hero for every team in your company that needs to stay in tight sync. Check-in notifications start rolling out in Slack, Teams, or email automatically. Managers get check-ins too, because you wouldn’t ask your team to do something you wouldn’t do, right?
Piece together work
One of the challenges of modern work is that work doesn’t happen in one place. Your dev team is working in Github or Jira, design in Figma and Asana, sales in Salesforce, etc. Just staying on top of who did what, when in any project of sufficient complexity can feel like a full-time job.
Status Hero takes this ad-hoc, tedious process and fully automates it by directly integrating with the tools you use on a day-to-day basis. It makes staying on top of everything much, much easier, but Status Hero takes the extra step of wrapping context around raw work output via check-ins and goal updates
Making it happen:
- Start by setting up the Google Calendar and/or Zoom integrations. Status Hero uses those to attach meeting hour totals to daily check-ins, which gives you at-a-glance read on how much bandwidth folks have day-to-day. Fair warning; prepare for some 😬😅 if you’re running meeting-heavy.
- Integrate the rest of your day to day tools, starting from most-used. After a month or so, you’ll have enough data to trend-spot in reports and prepare for retros and 1:1s.
Read the (virtual) room
1:1’s are an important tool for keeping a finger on the pulse of employee mood and overall job satisfaction, but in-person environments also have a natural trend-spotting mechanism that remote teams don’t. In-office, you can simply read the room. Are people stressed? Frustrated? Look around and find out. You need some kind of mechanism that replaces that organic signal; it’s incredibly tough to spot danger signs without it.
You could do something like eNPS, but that kind of surveying tends to come across as disingenuous, heavy-handed, impersonal, or all of the above. Status Hero operates with a light touch here via emoji-based mood tracking. It’s just enough to let you read the virtual room without feeling like you’re re-enacting Severance.
Making it happen:
- Mood tracking is collected on daily check-ins by default. If you don’t want or need it for a team, you can turn it off.
- Give it a few months to get a baseline read, then start slicing and dicing reports to answer any questions you have about mood and sentiment.
Automate, don’t mandate
For any system you might design to keep companies and teams in sync, you need to find a way to avoid having success rely on individual memory or diligence. You can get away with it on very small teams, but the odds are decidedly not in your favor as team size grows. You need a system that relies on automation, or you’re forever doomed to never-ending shoulder taps and process coaching.
Status Hero automates both big-loop communication (Goals) and little-loop communication (Check-ins) from end-to-end. Goals are integrated into the daily check-in routine so that they’re never out of sight and out of mind. Prompts for both Goals are Check-ins are delivered to the places people are looking; Slack, MS Teams, email, text. Check-in summaries and goal updates are pushed to those same channels to make keeping up to speed a zero-effort process. It’s all on rails, so you can focus on work, not work process.
Making it happen:
Integrate your primary communication tools like Slack or MS Teams and increase your odds of success tenfold. For Check-ins, folks don’t even have to leave chat; they can respond right in Slack or Teams.
P.S. If you’d like a more personalized demo of Status Hero, we’d be happy to oblige.