Did you ever see that comedy sketch about a conference call in real life? This one? Go ahead and take 3 minutes to watch it, I’ll wait.
For the past 5 years, I have been working remotely for a digital marketing agency, Penguin Strategies and building an entirely remote team. In that time, I have made no shortage of mistakes, seen things done that perhaps would never have occurred in an office environment, and have, fortunately, seen a vast improvement in technology that has improved my quality of life.
In this 2 part series, I want to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way to help you bring your best self to remote work. Part 1 will focus on all the things you need to take into consideration in preparation for remote meetings. Part 2 will discuss proper remote meeting etiquette.
Let’s dive in.
Choose the Right Meeting Tool
You want a tool that is:
- easy to set up
- allows you to dial-in by phone when you’re having to take a call in transit or the sick child in the other room is sucking up your bandwidth watching Netflix
- Minimal to none download requirements - I’m looking at you 147th GoToMeeting download update
- Screen sharing and video capability
My current favorite at the moment is Zoom for the nature of our work as a digital marketing agency. Larger organizations will often use Microsoft Teams which makes sense if most calls are internal. I prefer the agility and ease of a tool like Zoom and will probably stick with it until something better comes along. I also have to give a shout out to UberConference for no other reason than they have the best hold music.
Be Respectful of Other People’s Time (Zone)
At Penguin Strategies, we very much value a work/life balance. The best, most creative work comes out of happy employees that aren’t burning the candle at both ends. To that end, we want to do our best, in this international company who’s work covers 11 time zones, to be respectful of everyone’s time. I’m a parent of 2 small children, I occasionally have to step out in the middle of the day and so I will make up that time post-bedtime. But I make it abundantly clear that if I am sending an email or slack at 10 pm, I DO NOT want an immediate response. And I have been known to tell on my colleagues to their significant others when I think they’re not prioritizing the “life” portion of the equation enough, not to mention fostering a snitch or two amongst the ranks.
One way I guarantee to not mess up the time zones is to have them right in front of me. My Google calendar reflects both Israel and the US which greatly simplifies meeting scheduling. Outlook has a similar feature and it should be the default for anyone crossing time zones regularly.
Some additional tools we’ve found useful:
- Every Time Zone has a handy slider that allows you to see what time it is across time zones
- The World Clock Meeting Planner from timeanddate.com allows you to input your team members’ different locations and then creates a table of suggested meeting times
- Worldtimebuddy lets you add your and your team members’ locations and then creates a table showing what time it is in each place
Set an Agenda and a Time Limit
Everyone should have a hard stop always. If your meeting is going to run long, schedule another one. Assume your clients and colleagues are as busy as you are and respect their schedules. Some suggestions to ensure this include:
- Set an agenda and stick to it. In a meeting the other day, Perry Nalevka, our CEO, cut off a discussion pronouncing fairly forcefully “I’m calling tangent!” The discussion was noted and the relevant parties could follow-up at a different time so that we could get through everything that needed to be discussed without going over our time.
- Don’t schedule meetings for the full hour. Schedule 5/10/15 minute breaks into your calendar so that you and your colleagues have time to transition from one meeting to the next, refill coffee, or even take a bio break. This will help any back-to-back meetings maintain their productivity and efficiency.
- Send the agenda to all meeting participants in advance so that the purpose of any given meeting is 100% clear and all attendees can come prepared.
Stay tuned for part 2 and the Do’s and Don’ts of remote meeting etiquette. Is there anything this post is missing? Let us know!
Interested in working with the most awesome remote digital marketing agency team in existence? Check out our open positions here.