17 minute read – Last updated: November 25, 2020

How to Improve Employee Performance with Remote Teams (FAQ)

Most companies starting to catch a groove with remote work realities, we are beginning to learn more about what works.

With the right tactics, it is possible to improve employee performance in a remote work environment. 

In a recent webinar, we welcomed Julie Lachapelle, People Operations Specialist for Webflow, to answer some of the most popular questions we have received about remote work in recent months. Julie, who has a background in nursing in both Canada and Australia before switching to HR in tech, offers her insights into the ways Webflow is adapting and thriving with their remote team. 

Webflow continues to gain popularity as a feature-rich, visual website building, and hosting platform. Their steady growth means that they are constantly welcoming new team members to the fold. Their challenge is in maintaining their excellent company culture and outstanding employee performance, even with people who have never stepped foot in a Webflow office location. In this Q&A, Julie shares insights into the tactics and tools they use to do this successfully, month after month. 

Q: How can I maintain the same onboarding experience now that we’re remote? 

JL: That’s a very good question. The biggest impression a company can make starts with onboarding. Designing an experience that is empowering and welcoming is crucial. Your ability to create, maybe not the same experience, but a similar experience, no matter where your team members are around the world, is going to help them feel engaged and connected and part of the team. That’s really the focus of it. Webflow is growing and we might never arrive at the perfect recipe. The recipe is growing with our team — we’re always evolving our onboarding. One of the tools that I really, really love, that really empowered my team to design a good experience is Sapling. It’s not just a checklist, you’re able to design your own experience. For example, if you have a team member that’s in a different country and a different time zone, they can start onboarding at 9 am their time while it’s 2 am here in San Francisco. 

That’s been key in providing that seamless flow for new team members, especially if this is their first experience working remotely. Another tool we use is Slack. It’s our main method of communication and we make sure that we introduce everyone on Slack on the same channel, first thing in the morning. That gives the opportunity for the entire company to welcome them. We are emoji strong so they might get over 100 pings, but this helps them feel welcome. It can be a little overwhelming, but you’re not at the office meeting people, so it’s a way for people to introduce themselves. 

The last thing we do is send a digital card. We are also lovers of GIFs and we use Kudoboards to generate group digital cards. Team members from all over have told me this made them feel so welcome and connected and engaged with the team. The level of stress you come into on your first day working remote is lessened by the welcome and appreciation onboarding. We’re also currently developing a buddy program. We also use Donut, which is a Slack integration that randomly connects team members together every two weeks for informal chats. 

Q: How have you improved alignment, communication and transparency in your remote teams? 

JL: My first advice is to offer some kind of visibility for team members. With this pandemic, a lot of people are wondering, is my company sustainable? I think addressing this at a company level is important, especially during the pandemic. For example, at Webflow, we have weekly meetings with the entire company and we’ve been actively updating the team on our status. It’s been quite helpful knowing where we are at. 

If you’re looking at a department and team level, I would say leverage your project management tools, whatever it is that you’re using. For example, my team uses Asana. It helps me by offering  a dashboard, where I can look at my team and all the projects that we’re working on, add any comments or questions if I have, see what’s about to be launched and where we are with all of it. My engineering team and product teams love Slack updates. They have their own channels for their slack updates and these are public channels. You can go in and see the updates as well and see what everybody’s working on. When we launch things, we make sure that we put it in a public channel where everyone can see it. If the marketing team releases an eBook, they announce it to all of us. It keeps us aligned as a company to make sure the announcements are in one place. If you’re curious about another team, you can actually go and access the updates in Slack or Asana

The last thing I would say is that 1-on1s are very important when you’re doing remote work. It’s the backbone of everything. Having frequent and recurring 1-on1s with your manager is very helpful, even if it’s just 15 or 30 minutes. The ability to sync up and have that face time with your manager and ask your questions has been very, very crucial in our company. If you’re looking into having more visibility, it also comes back to accountability and setting expectations within your team, making sure that you are communicating clearly with your teams. If you’re a manager of people, explaining the ‘What,’ the ‘Why’ and the ‘When.’ Clearly communicating those areas might make your team feel like they know a little bit more and they are more aligned with you as well.

Q: How do you educate managers away from micromanaging, especially during remote work? 

JL: The key is to be results-oriented. Having defined results or goals that you have with your manager is really the key here. My manager, she’s awesome. She knows what my project is, she knows why I’m doing it and she knows when it’s due, so she can really keep me accountable to that. With this goal-oriented approach, we know when we have a milestone to check in on. I use my energy levels in the morning to do the most tedious work and in the afternoon, more meetings. I am able to design my own day however I like. I feel even more productive and have a bigger output. And so really focusing on the results. Being goal-oriented, like with OKRs (objectives and Key Results) will really help. 

It’s also worth mentioning that micromanaging is a symptom of lack of trust and lack of clear expectation around delegation. There’s a really great tool called ‘Five Levels of Delegation.’ Level one is assess and report — asking the person to go assess and report back to you. Level five is full delegation. You make your own decision and come back and tell me how it was. It’s really important that you know where that person stands within those levels and articulate that expectation so they don’t feel either micromanaged or abandoned by you. That way, you can have clear communication, but you’re not tracking someone’s tasks or how they’re working every day. 

Especially during COVID times, I want to make that distinction. It’s not the same working remote during this pandemic. We can’t go out to the gym and take breaks and things like that. Especially people with kids, their day might look different, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not productive. They’re just productive in a different way. So, can we get goal oriented and results oriented? This is the key, in my opinion.

The 5 levels of delegation

  • Level 1 Delegation: Assess and Report.
  • Level 2 Delegation: Recommend.
  • Level 3 Delegation: Develop Action Plan.
  • Level 4 Delegation: Make The Decision.
  • Level 5 Delegation: Full Delegation.

Q: What are your tips for keeping remote meetings fun?

JL: We’ve made an effort to make Zoom more enjoyable and it’s been quite fun. In fact we have a workout together on zoom tomorrow morning and I’m very excited about that. We’re trying new things. Obviously we are doing theme Zooms — if you haven’t heard of those you basically dress for the theme, or you have a background that reflects your next vacation or something like that. We start with a short show-and-tell about it, if the meeting allows. Obviously, if it is a serious meeting, maybe you don’t want to do that there, but that’s been very helpful for us. Also I love Snap Camera. It’s a Snapchat tool you can download on your browser and add a filter to Zoom. For a quick second, our team was really into the baby filter! 

Another thing that I found really fun was when my team member was presenting and they had triggered a notation while they were presenting that gives you the possibility to give stickers, like a star sticker or heart sticker. They can’t see you and they don’t know if you’re listening, so when they would present a point and then you can see the hearts coming and being posted on the page as they were presenting.You want to use this wisely because it can get out of control but it was really fun to see my teammates also engaging with the content, because you can’t always tell in a Zoom meeting like that. You can also give props and celebrations at the end. It’s always great to end on a positive note, thanking each other for the accomplishments you achieved in the week.

Q: What tips do you have for keeping communication open with people who are more introverted? 

JL: We have a project my team member started yesterday called an introvert daily connection. It’s a Slack channel called ‘15 Questions.’ She’s going to post a question and all of us introverts that are not wanting to go on Zoom to connect, are answering in a written form. That’s just one different way that we’re exploring for how to connect with our team.

I think another note is to not ‘Zoom shame’ anyone if they don’t want to put their video camera on, or they prefer commenting in the chatbox. Keep that active. I think that’s a very kind thing to do. If your team has a strong feedback culture, you’ll hear about ideas in the way they prefer to engage. Don’t dismiss those, It’s really great to partner with your team members all across the company to really get ideas and make sure they’re feeling comfortable, empowered, heard, and seen, but in a way that they’re comfortable with as well.

Q: How can we help people with work/life balance when work is in our home? 

JL: We have a dual mission as a company. We have our business mission and the second one is living fulfilling and impactful lives. And that means being able to live a balanced life as well. To feel fulfilled and impactful. Because of that, we have a benefit that we have for our team called comp the IO. It gives a monthly stipend to all the team members that are remote, to invest into their home office. 

Suppose you Google remote work best practices and create boundaries. Having your own space within your place to work and keep that separated is a huge plus. As a company, we’re trying to help support that by providing stipends monthly. We don’t want to assume that someone’s need is the same as someone else’s. We wanted them to be able to design their own perks. If they want to design a great home office, feel comfortable, get their own home office snacks or their own coffee machine. Making sure that separation is happening is huge. 

A second thing is trying not to message after hours. You can take advantage of some Slack integrations so that if you get a spur of energy late at night, you can pre-write your Slack messages and schedule them for the next morning. Make sure that you’re not generating this constant feel of work where you never really started and never really finished. When I start I open my laptop, and when I ‘m done I close it and I know I don’t need to reopen it and I don’t feel pressure. because my team members aren’t messaging me after hours. That’s super helpful. Personally, for me, having a healthy morning routine, getting dressed and not staying in my pajamas, and then carving an hour for lunch in my calendar is my protected time that is absolutely invaluable. 

Learn more about 7Geese and how to manage employee performance during remote work

If you’d like to see 7Geese in action or talk about how 7Geese can help your company manage its company and individual goal setting, contact us for a demo