Home > Companies Q&A > Managing Remotely > Do you have remote communication protocols for your remote workers?

    Do you have remote communication protocols for your remote workers?

  • Balsamiq

    No, yuck. Responsible people do what they know needs to be done.

     5 votes |
  • Batchbook

    We don’t have a specific policy for how soon or how often things need to be communicated. I’d say the Golden Rule applies here and it’s important to treat your team members the way you’d like to be treated. We all have some form of chat software running, so it’s really easy to touch base with team members if you need to communicate or are waiting for feedback on a project.

     3 votes |
  • GitHub, Inc.

    It depends on the team. I don’t know of any teams in our company that mandate response times for internal communication, but plenty of teams have set up regular schedules for video calls, stand-ups, and patterns of communication to help make sure the whole team stays on the same page over time.

    There are some areas like Support and Operations where we deliberately hire so that we can have round-the-clock coverage, but we believe strongly that it should be up to the individuals on each of those teams to coordinate the most reasonable schedule for everyone involved. There’s nothing worse than a decision being handed down from somewhere else in the company that fails to account for the needs of the individuals affected. You have to be flexible, and I think that’s the key. Do what makes sense for the team and the people on the team.

     3 votes |
  • Attentiv

    While we haven’t had the need to set strict norms, we all have an understanding of how to stay connected throughout the workday: be available on Sqwiggle, logged into Google chat, and logged into Attentiv.

     2 votes |
  • Automattic

    No, we don’t have any directives for this as we operate on a largely asynchronous basis – people are used to working with or needing input from people in different time zones and buffer this into their work accordingly.

     2 votes |
  • Teleport

    The only hard routine is our Monday review call where everyone gets together for 90 minutes. As CEO I have scheduled 30 minutes of 1:1 with everyone during the week (mostly over video) — and will try to maintain that rhythm as long as I can. Other than that there are a few “interest groups” that gather on regular intervals (like the design review call or data science call), which have their core participants and the remaining team’s presence as optional.

     2 votes |
  • Canonical

    As with an office based role, remote workers are required to be available during the working day.  Generally most managers will establish the norms, as appropriate to the role and timezones.

    There are various tools used to support instant and general communication, email, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), and video calls.  If a remote worker is in a meeting or away from their desk we encourage them to update their IRC to reflect this (AFK).

     1 vote |
  • Ciao Bambino! Inc.

    We do have set parameters that we ask people to follow. The more numbers you put around what people should be doing the better. Clear expectations are a critical success factor.

     1 vote |
  • GitLab

    We only have our daily team call. We have no policies about communication. We do have an emergency channel for customers, but it’s only needed about once a week.

     1 vote |
  • Go Fish Digital

    We are starting to implement this a little more as we grow. We have a lot of de-facto standards just from having done this for so long, but as we add more team members we’ve realized the need to standardize some into policy.  For example, we’ve standardized around core work hours of 9:30am-4:30pm.  Before it was just “get your work done”, but we’ve noticed that we need to ensure more collaboration opportunities, so we want people to overlap their working hours as much as possible.  We all work a few hours before or after the core hours as well.  Additionally, “coming into the office” means both logging in to Sqwiggle and Attentiv.com, our core communication platforms.  If you aren’t in those, we just assume you aren’t “in the office” yet. Definitely beats a traditional commute!

     1 vote |
  • Greenback Expat Tax Services

    We don’t set communication rules for the team, but we rely on a collaborative approach to accomplish the company’s goals. Rarely is one team member working alone on a project, so communication is a must. They rely on each other so heavily to do their jobs that there really isn’t a need to specify the terms of communication.

    We use a project management system, Podio, exclusively for all communication. By eliminating email and keeping all conversations within Podio, we have made communication between team members and projects seamless. There is a ‘live-chat’ function in Podio that the team uses constantly for quick questions and conversations so they are free to talk there about their different projects. This has worked extremely well for our team.

     1 vote |
  • Groove

    We have daily standups in Slack and standards for answering customer support tickets, but other than that, we haven’t had to set any other rules in place. Our team knows how important communication is and how important everyone’s time is, so it hasn’t been an issue.

     1 vote |
  • Hippo Education

    We don’t have protocols per se but everyone seems to get it. The tools are just getting better and better.

     1 vote |
  • Hubstaff

    We try to avoid too many emails, instead using Trello to communicate, Skype for IM, Jing for training, etc. On weekdays due to the timezones we like to see responses within the day.

     1 vote |
  • ICUC Social

    We do not have specific communication norms. We focus on results and work, not the management of people. If a project is immediate and requires a prompt response from an employee, that is the expectation.  The freedom that careers at ICUC offer introduces a desire to always have such freedom and as such, people are made aware of just how important their results are to preserving their positions here.  It is a win-win for employees and the organization.

     1 vote |
  • Incsub

    This varies depending on the team. But at minimum, all emails should be returned by the next business day, and chats replied to as soon as they are seen. We are all to be signed into our chat service whenever working.

     1 vote |
  • Inspired HR

    I receive weekly formal reports from all my consultants and I have a minimum of one conference call per week with each of my staff. There is also constant email exchanges between team members and me. Most of our communication is driven by the client and what their immediate needs are. Frankly, I have a harder time trying to keep the team off their phones rather than on them!!!

     1 vote |
  • Intridea/ Mobomo

    Not officially, but it’s polite and helpful for us all when we respond quickly – usually 24hrs or less.

     1 vote |
  • LoveToKnow

    The norms generally depend on the role, but we do have some. Editors are expected to respond to submitted work within 2 business days.  Customer service issues are addressed within a business day.

    In addition, we strive for responses to emails / calls from our team members within 2 business days when they are working – a shorter time frame wouldn’t make sense because people are on flexible schedules in different time zones.

    We also have regular phone meetings with employees; these help keep us up on issues

     1 vote |
  • MomsRising

    We let each other know when we are going to be hard to reach by email or phone and may pass on key responsibilities.  When we are at a conference and expect to be monitoring email minimally some folks request urgent email use a subject line that draws attention such as PANTS ON FIRE!

     1 vote |
  • OnTheGo Systems

    No rules, but we are always replying.

     1 vote |
  • Simple [A]

    We have general guidelines for communication and signaling within our distributed team, but we anchor a lot of communication around daily and weekly synchronous rhythms, such as scrums, reports, and standard emails. We find it’s best to not micromanage work styles or even tools, but to provide a framework. However, we do have a strong dependence on work hours being managed in a single time zone, and we currently do not work with anyone full-time that’s more than 3 hours away from Central Time.

     1 vote |
  • SoftwareMill

    Partially. There is a company scrum at 10am every morning during which people are expected to come, but it’s not a big deal if they cannot make it from time to time.

     1 vote |
  • Sticker Mule

    No, we don’t have any rules or communication norms. Certain teams like to do regular calls while others do not. Personally, I dislike scheduled meetings or calls. We mostly hang out on Slack and ping each other when we need help. Team members respond at their convenience.

     1 vote |
  • TeamSnap

    Be generally available, coordinate with your team to be most effective, realize that working remotely means overcommunicating.

     1 vote |
  • ThirdPath Institute

    Yes.  Here’s a direct quote from the handout we use:  “Sometimes a quick response is needed to a question.  When this is required, please either call the person or send them an email with “IMPORTANT” written in caps in the subject heading.  During normal work hours it is safe to assume you will get a response within 1-2 hours for important matters. If outside of work hours, make individual arrangements.”

     1 vote |
  • WooThemes

    No.

     1 vote |
  • AgileBits

    No.

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  • AirTreks

    Yes, but they are different. We have regular meetings where we expect people to do their synchronous work.

    We also promote “core hours” 7-10 a.m. PST Monday through Friday where everyone should be available if needed for meetings, regardless of the time zone you happen to be living in.

    I think everyone is conscious of staying focused on our goals so we don’t overload each other with too much need for collaboration and decrease our ability to be available to each other quickly.

    We also expect meetings to be efficient and start and end on time. People are welcome to leave if they need to.

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  • Answer Connect

    There is a constant communication buzz around AnswerConnect. With all of the platforms for chat, video call, email, etc, we are always able to connect with one another. We don’t have hard and fast rules around response time, and our applications allow us to see what our teammates are working on, so this helps shape a general expectation around quick responses. A team member may chat another team member and see that they have not replied in a few minutes. Instead of wondering, they can easily look to see if that person is in a meeting, taking a break or entrenched in a major project. There is a lot of accountability, and in general, responses are very fast.

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  • AnswerFirst

    When working, our remote workers must always be in chat and respond as soon as they are able to (not interrupt their engaged call). We try to limit email communications and instead use an internal intranet for any communication to staff. Anything from announcements, new clients, procedure changes, recognition, etc. is visible to them in one central location. They are expected to keep up with information necessary for their position and can view this before their shift or during while they are not on a call.

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  • Appirio

    We don’t have any policies in place around communication norms for our remote team. We just ask our team to be respectful of others and respond in a timely manner, ideally within in 24-48 hours.

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  • Authentic Form & Function

    We do not. However, we never want to leave a team member hanging during typical business hours, and this is something Slack tends to help with when we use personal notifications to a specific team member. That being said, very rarely are we under fire and in need of immediate responses from the team. Giving space to get the work done is important.

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  • Bitovi

    We do not have explicit communication norms set for our team. In terms of responding to communications, it depends on a number of factors and we trust our team to make the judgement call regarding when they have time to answer and what is appropriate to the situation.

    There are two key things we overemphasis related to communication that are part of our core operating principles:

    1. Set Expectations: Work is often fuzzy, especially when you’re on a remote team. We constantly work with our team to set and update expectations responsibly, transparently, and honestly. In reality, this might include sending a short email summary with next steps and owners after a meeting or being honest with a client about a potential project delay, immediately, regardless of who is at fault.
    2. Ask questions: We encourage our team to build a mental model by asking questions—quickly, loudly, and shamelessly. We’ve learned that the best Bitovians have no shame when it comes to asking questions. We coach our team to build a gap-free mental model of every problem or proposed solution, to never spin their wheels when stuck, and to lean on each other for efficient answers. In the words of Brian, our CTO, “Our collective team efficiency is much more important than any one person not being distracted.”
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  • Blossom

    Not at all. Everybody should balance his needs with that of the company and act accordingly. As we don’t have working hours, people are not expected to be online at any time.

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  • Crossover

    There is no hard and fast rule, but as a general rule of thumb, the quicker the better. Because we are a startup company, things move very quickly. But everyone understands that things like different time zones, time off, and people being done for the day when you’re just starting yours are all inevitable. Everyone is very flexible.

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  • DataStax

    We’ve never had to set policies around communication as our employees are very self-motivated and if anything need to log off more often.

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  • DevriX

    We have a Monday weekly meeting for about 45min where everyone should show up. Other than that team members are free to take time off or work flexible hours as long as there are no blockers for other team members working on a project.

    Our policy for sharing all decisions and statuses on Asana allows us to conduct client calls or send report emails at any time, since all work and future plans are available to all team members and we can react even if they’re off for a few days.

    We ask people to install HipChat on their mobile phones so that we can mention them for a quick question if needed, but this is not a hard requirement, nor is related to a specific availability time frame.

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  • DVMelite

    We have short daily meetings for many of the departments so that everyone is knowledgeable about what is going on in the company and then we have weekly company-wide meetings which help deliver all of the up to date information about clients and the operations.  

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  • Edgar

    We treat Slack like our “office” – when you’re working, you’re logged in, and when you’re not, you’re not. We don’t have time-based response rules, but if you don’t log in to Slack, it’s the equivalent of not showing up for work. Ultimately, this makes it easy to maintain consistent work/life balance for everyone – if somebody isn’t on Slack, you know they can’t be expected to respond to (or even see) anything you send their way.

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  • Envato

    We don’t have any overarching rules or norms, other than to ensure that mandatory meetings are remote-friendly. Each team sets their own norms as necessary. People need choice otherwise you lose the flexibility that is supposed to be part of the benefit of remote work.

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  • Equivity

    Yes. Employees must respond to communications within an hour.

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  • Eyeo GmbH

    No. We have an absence management tool so that we can manage every kind of leave request, such as vacation, parental leave, etc.

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  • FlexProfessionals, LLC

    We have clear, written guidance for our team members with regard to how quickly and thoroughly they need to respond to prospective business clients and job seekers. We also utilize an internet-based recruiting software tool that is accessible to all team members. Most of our actions and activities are captured there, so we can see where team members are in the job placement process and support them as needed.

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  • FMTC

    Slack handles a lot of this for us; we can see who’s online and who isn’t, and team members can put themselves in DND mode if they’re focused on a task.

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  • GobySavvy

    Everyone is expected to respond to both internal and client communications within half of a business day. For working with clients on long-term projects, 2 short weekly meetings are a must to ensure goals are aligned and designs are moving forward as expected.

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  • Goodway Group

    We are generally very flexible with working hours and sensitive to everyone working in different time zones. People need to collaborate on which working hours are best for the teams they work with the most. It is impossible to police strict communication policies, so there has to be a high degree of trust. That said, we work in a very fast-paced, client-driven industry, and employees have no choice but to be timely in communication and deadlines. New employees can quickly “feel” the pace of email and calls and have to keep up.

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  • Hanno

    We have a couple of defined norms:

    1) Default to transparency: if a conversation is happening in private, ask yourself why that’s the case, and whether you can open it up to the wider team. That’s crucial for smoothing communication.
    2) Over communicate: Communication is especially crucial in a remote team and if you’re not doing enough of it, it causes no end of problems. We don’t set a specific rule for response times, but we do encourage people to Skype and message as much as possible, especially when working on projects together.

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  • Help Scout

    We don’t place strict rules, but there’s a common understanding that everyone is usually on from the hours of 9 am to at least 6 pm. Slack messages are usually responded to instantly, and emails at least by the end of the day. Every department is different but for the most part meetings are kept at a minimum and contain specific agendas.

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  • Inpsyde GmbH

    We do have some weekly meetings set up, if someone is leaving his work, then he has to tell it in a channel, preferable with a time frame when he/she is back. Everyone is saying “Good Morning” or “Done for today – ready for a beer!” Or if he is leaving for a short time: “Lunch” “AFK 10 Minutes” “shortly AFK” or “gone for 2 hours – have some errands.”

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  • Kin HR

    Our focus is employee happiness and productivity. We do have communication norms especially when it comes to communicating with our customers. Assisting customers is and will always be our number one priority.

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  • Knack

    We have an overlap policy where we expect everyone to be generally available for conversations and video chats. Remote does not by definition mean time independence. We still feel synchronous communication is important, and want to remove friction by simply having real-time conversations with each other.

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  • Mavens

    We don’t and leave it to the individual employees and project teams to determine if there is any specific cadence they want to build around communication.

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  • Melewi

    We have a strict 4-hour working overlap with the whole team where all our interactions, meetings and catch-ups happen. We have a daily standup with the entire team everyday and we make sure to spend some time chatting (with our videos on!).

    If we need to communicate with someone outside that 4-hour overlap and they happen to be offline, we simply leave them a message on Slack.

    Everyone in the team understands how important it is to get back to their teammates so people respond as quickly as they can.

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  • Mokriya

    There aren’t rigid rules in place for our communication. For example, we do not expect replies on Slack or email within any particular timeframe. We encourage daily huddles for team-based projects via videoconferencing.

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  • Packlane

    We do have guidelines, and they apply for everyone, including leadership. For example, if something isn’t urgent, we strongly encourage emails in place of chat—especially outside of someone’s working hours. Another example is that if anyone on the team is going to be unavailable for more than two hours during a workday, they need to notify their manager and their team.

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  • Pagely

    Ha, no. This sounds terrible. Where is the trust?

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  • Parse.ly

    All of our teams have their own channels within Flowdock (similar to Slack) and weekly scheduled meetings to get everyone on the same page. Remote team members take part in these meetings via Google Hangouts. We don’t necessarily believe in imposing strict rules on reply times or mandatory communication. A big part of our company culture is respecting team members as adults with their own time management and priorities. Our team members, both in-office and remote, get their work done in a timely manner and know what is best for their own productivity, so we’ve never felt it necessary to impose this kind of rule. If anything, the expectation of constant and expedient availability might interrupt the workflow. That being said, there is an expectation that team members are looped in on projects and available at some point within a work-day, as a tenet of remote work is the communication we get from platforms and emails.
    We try to sync all of our team members about once a month with a Town Hall meeting where we overview what each team has accomplished, what they’re working on, and how we can help one another.

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  • Project Ricochet

    We expect our team to be available and responsive during business hours, but we don’t have any strict guidelines around response times. If a team member’s communicate style or level of responsiveness is incompatible with a project, client, or team he is on, then we provide targeted feedback and coaching around that particular point and the issue always melts away.

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  • Sanborn Media Factory

    Every team has a quick daily standup meeting and does a status report on Slack, both of which are mandatory. We ask that people let their team know when they’ll be off the grid in their status report, which is viewable by the whole company. Otherwise you’re expected to be available during the working hours of your project.

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  • SimpleTexting

    We expect people to be online during their scheduled workday. If they’re not going to be around or stepping out for whatever reason we ask to be notified.

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  • Trade Conductor

    Everyone responds very fast. But again it depends on your time zone. For three months one of my employees was in HK while I was in Texas. It was not easy to communicate real time. But we managed it.

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  • Ushahidi

    No.

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  • VIPKID

    There are very tight guidelines for communication around classes, and we expect immediate communication if there’s any reason a teacher needs to cancel a class—we like to keep the teacher no-show rate as close to 0% as possible. Kids really look forward to their classes with VIPKID teachers so we don’t want to disappoint them.

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  • Wordfence

    No. “Trust” is a core value of ours and we trust that our team will get the job done and it turns out that they exceed our expectations.

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  • Working Solutions

    We do not.  There has not been a need in our environment.

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  • Worldwide101

    Communication in a virtual environment is absolutely key to building trust. And so for this reason we expect our team to respond to emails, and messages within 2 hours max during business hours. This also gives us peace of mind because our team is so spread out that if we don’t hear from someone for a whole day we do get worried!

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  • X-Team

    We don’t set specific norms for the sake of creating true flexibility. Once you start putting in rules like this, or even once you start creating spontaneous meetings, you remove that true sense of flexibility from the equation. We don’t require our team to have Slack on their phones either if they so desire.

    That said, if someone starts falling off with their communication and it’s noticeable, it becomes a concern and is well noted. Trust is only built when you show your team that you’re helping to move things forward every day. Once that starts to go silent, the trust falls apart and the team might leave you behind.

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