In the last three years, remote work has become a bigger topic of conversation than perhaps ever before, with many businesses forced to adapt to virtual formats at a rapid pace. And truthfully, this trend shows no signs of slowing. Even in a post-pandemic world, many businesses are opting to stick with virtual work formats, but in a rapidly developing field, navigating remote-first work for you and your team can feel a bit like building the plane when it's already in the air.
Fortunately, our friends at Doist, have quickly become a leader in this space, their team has been remote for nearly 15 years and with team members located all over the world they’ve focussed much of their business development practices on contributing a central voice to the conversation around remote work.
In this week’s episode of More Beach Meetings, we sat down with Chase Warrington, Head of Remote at Doist to chat in-depth about remote-first work, the importance of asynchronous communication and best practices for planning retreats and co-located gatherings. Read on for some of the highlights from our conversation!
Working in the field of remote work
Deciding how to best operationalize and structure a remote work format is the starting point of any good remote-first strategy — and as Chase shares, it often begins with having someone to advocate for the practices and tools that empower team members to thrive, no matter their location.
Everyone in the remote work space has a different description of what their day to day looks like and taking a dedicated approach to keeping ahead of the curve can help organizations to stay on the cutting-edge of best practices, improve employee retention and build connection between team members in more meaningful ways.
Optimizing asynchronous communication
A central focus at Doist, Chase shares, is developing better methods of asynchronous communication, whether that’s implementing new tools or setting rules and guidelines that allow team members to work within their own unique availability, without feeling inundated by notifications and alerts when they return to their desk.
This focus on asynchronous communication was the catalyst for Doist developing their software Twist, the only asynchronous-first collaboration app that encourages teams to focus, create, and disconnect. Twist has no presence indicators or read receipts, instead focussing on deliberate communication. It starts with culture and building those practices, Chase says, and then it has to be enforced and advocated for from the top down.
The 20:30:50 approach
However, it’s not all about asynchronous communication and personal, synchronous opportunities to connect with coworkers also play a vital role in any strong remote-first strategy.
Interestingly, Chase shares that one of the core focuses of his role as Head of Remote at Doist is planning and executing on co-located events and retreats. Bringing team members together and having that in-person time, he says, is often what differentiates an average remote team from a great one.
But planning an in-person retreat doesn’t necessarily mean using that time to hit milestones and accomplish projects, oftentimes, and particularly at Doist, it's about giving space to meet the social and emotional needs of team members.
“We don’t ever want ‘Let’s Just Wait’ [for the retreat] to ever be said”, Chase explains. The primary focus of the retreat time should be connection rather than checking off a to-do list.
That’s why Doist developed a 20:30:50 approach to structure their company retreats. Each retreat features roughly 20% work time, 30% coordinated/planned activities like brainstorming sessions, and 50% relaxation, connection and recovery. It’s a format that allows the team to capitalize on what they do well together while disconnecting for a few days, from the areas of work they do better apart.
Best practices for retreat planning
But if there’s one lesson Chase feels he’s learned most over his time planning retreats? It’s to not force people to show up. It's all about choice and giving employees the autonomy to make the decisions that are best for their unique needs.
Even on the retreat itself, it means giving team members activity options that cater to varying interests and remembering that people aren’t as used to real-life interactions anymore. People get burnt out, and it’s vital to deliberately plan that quiet, social-free time so that each individual can recharge and show up as the best versions of themselves. At the end of the day, that level of empathy will make all the difference.
For more from Chase and Doist, you can listen to the full episode up above, check out their website, Doist or follow along with Chase on Twitter, here. Catch more stories on remote work, retreats and company culture on the next episode of “More Beach Meetings.” Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.