Home > Companies Q&A > Managing Remotely > What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?

    What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?

  • Canonical

    As with any successful recipe, there are a number of important ingredients to a successful remote working organisation.  These include:

    • Establishing a culture of trust in our people, products and services.
    • Top down approach to empower and engage our employees, ensuring clear communication and expectations are set and shared.   
    • Using the right tools. Google Hangouts are a lot more personable than a phone call while obviously not as personal as a face to face meeting. This seems to be a happy medium for home workers that ensures they do not feel isolated and still have people they can physically identify with as colleagues.
     4 votes |
  • Big Universe, Inc.

    For us, it’s the use of video and platform agnostic systems. We require our employees have a modern computer, hi-speed Internet and a HD webcam. In our job ads, we convey a subtle message that if you don’t have a HD webcam, you need not apply; we believe video is critical since 80-90% of communications is often nonverbal (i.e. gestures). We also use platform-agnostic online services, so they can be accessed via modern desktop browsers and mobile devices.

     2 votes |
  • CloudPeeps

    We place a strong emphasis on transparency, authenticity and being direct. We do monthly one-on-one feedback sessions, which we call “pair calls” where we run through challenges, positive feedback and constructive areas to improve. These are non-hierarchical where openness and honesty is encouraged. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO or the newest member of the team – we share how you can improve coming from a kind place.

     2 votes |
  • 10up Inc.

    Well, we only have remote workers, including me. For a 100% distributed team, I’d point to a few key resources:

    • A flexible, instant “virtual office space”, in the form of something like HipChat or Slack (or even a private IRC). We use HipChat, and I think is the 10up office: there are social rooms, team rooms, private rooms (“locked doors”), project rooms… you can seamlessly go in and out and it integrates with many of our production tools (like Beanstalk and Basecamp). And I can get there from any of my devices (computer, phone, tablet, etc).
    • Lots and lots of video chat! Virtually every meeting inside the company is held over video chat (we use Zoom, which we’ve found to have excellent fidelity even at lower bandwidths), and we encourage our clients to join us for video chat as well. Seeing some face to face, even if it’s over a screen, still builds empathy and camaraderie in ways “voice and text” conversation does not.
    • Meetups – at least one a year. Our annual all hands summit and team social meetups (set about 6 months apart from the summit) are a highlight for many on our team, a real (sometimes needed) boost of inspiration and energy. They’ve become an anchor for our team.
     1 vote |
  • ICUC Social

    1. Rely on the technology available. From Google Apps to Cloud offerings, explore options that will suit your company best.
    2. Set regular meetings (as long as it make sense!) We’re not a fan of meetings that produce minimal results, so make sure your meetings have set agendas and outcomes. We do, however, recommend that you keep these regular meetings in your calendars. In my department, we have weekly catch-ups every Monday to set the tone for the week; we also meet every Friday to review projects and campaigns head.
    3. Mobile is your friend. Working remotely gives you the option to work from anywhere – that’s the best part, isn’t it? Whether you’re grabbing coffee or heading to the gym mid-day, rely on your mobile device. If I leave my home office, my mobile device is always in hand, ready to respond to emails or messages on Google Chat.
    4. Trust. As we work in a results-only work environment, trust of our colleagues and one another is of the utmost importance.
     1 vote |
  • Project Ricochet

    Feedback, coaching and one-on-ones are absolutely critical to a good relationship with employees.

    Whenever I see something good or bad, I call that team member up and deliver feedback in the following way: “When you do [whatever I saw], here’s what happens: [the impact of that thing].” Then I follow it up with either a “Nice work! Keep it up!” or a “What do you think you can do differently next time?”.

    It usually takes all of 5-10 seconds – even for the corrective feedback. It’s not meant to be a huge thing or a big deal. And every time I do it, I’m cementing our relationship and helping the team member grow.

    During our weekly one-on-one (and it happens *every* week with each team member!), we spend ten minutes letting the team member talk about whatever is important to him or her, ten minutes for me to communicate important things about the company, details of upcoming projects, review the employee’s dashboard metrics, and/or the Top Priorities document for the employee’s respective role, etc.., and ten minutes for the team member’s growth. This could be a book the employee is reading, or it could be coaching around specific points that we both agree need improvement or refinement.

    When someone is struggling with something more serious, we craft a coaching plan that is more thorough and may require extra time and discussion. I have never encountered a situation that hasn’t been improved through coaching and feedback.

    I feel that these three things are absolutely essential to our success with our team.

     1 vote |
  • AgileBits

    Good communication is key. We rely on both synchronous and asynchronous communication tools to collaborate and share information.

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  • Aha!

    I do not believe that the principles of a successful working relationship with remote workers differ that much from any other relationship. You have to be responsive, goal-oriented and kind. My goal as the CEO of a remote team is to respond to requests as quickly as possible. Because when I do, I have the best chance of interacting with my team members while they are most focused on their requests or concerns.

    I know that when they ask me a question or need to discuss something, I have a small window of time to address them while their requests are still fresh. So, I follow the framework that we have followed for building great products and companies, The Responsive Method, which states that interactions with urgency are what propel people and organizations forward. This methodology drives us and the business.

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  • AirTreks

    Establishing and sticking to a regular meeting rhythm is the most important thing. Meetings should have an agenda and start and end on time.

    Emphasizing relationships in our interactions and daily work is also important. We dedicate time to sharing stories and getting vulnerable with each other. We also have job coaches for everyone.

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  • AnswerConnect

    Outlook, process, and tools. Outlook means focusing on output rather than input and operating with trust and transparency. When people can’t physically see each other much of the time, trust becomes all the more important. Process involves codifying how your remote teams will maintain communication, how they will collaborate, and what the expectations are. Having the right tools and technology is necessary (but not sufficient) to having an effective distributed organization.

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  • AnswerFirst

    Keeping them engaged through regular communication is most important. They should also have a clear expectation of their role and how vitally important it is to the company. Lastly, you should offer continued training and development so they don’t feel stagnant and have continued growth as an employee.

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  • Appen

    Clearly defined feedback mechanisms, high levels of daily contact, use of communication tools such as Skype, Fuze, or GotoMeeting to create face to face exchanges. A willingness to operate in different time zones and a scheduling system that optimizes people to people contact.

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  • Attentiv

    Communication is key. We are all completely available to one another during our work hours, meaning we can connect via video conferencing or chat on the fly. This ensures we aren’t missing out on not being in an office together. The thing with a tight-knit startup team is that we’re all taking on risk, so we are all invested in this platform. That kind of accountability is what makes us meet our deadlines, think creatively, and collaborate effectively around the clock.

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  • Blossom

    The first thing that comes to mind is trust. If you don’t trust each employee to act in the best interest of the company, it’ll creep into the relationship pretty fast. This is especially true if you don’t have “core hours” or even specific working days. Another one is communication. Make sure to communicate early and often.

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  • Chargify

    Trust, communication, and transparency are key. One of the most common questions I get from people who work in more traditional offices is, “How do you know if people are actually working?” We use a variety of tools and encourage everyone to reach out with questions at any time. It’s better to ask questions and get positive reassurance than to tackle a project blindly and risk not getting it right the first time.

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  • DataStax

    Make sure there is not an “us vs. them” culture of HQ vs. remote workers. Treat everyone as remote, regardless of their location.

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  • DevriX

    Clear requirements and expectations starting from the job description, the interview and the trial terms. A measurable process monitoring KPIs both on a technical level, attitude, and soft skills. And a great working environment that allows people to share fun stories online, connect and interact with the rest of the staff and, whenever possible, meet once or twice a year.

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  • DVMelite

    It is critical to have open communication and no silos.  Everyone should be able to communicate with anyone and be open to reply quickly.

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  • Edgar

    Communication and trust are the two most important things – and if you want them, you need to empower your team and give them the resources they need to succeed. In some cases, that means tools that simplify communication and task management, like Slack, Zoom, and Asana. Sometimes it means making sure they have consistent access to information – we maintain a company wiki full of how-to guides, important files, and more. And sometimes, it just means establishing clear boundaries, especially between work time and home time. What starts as a “make your own hours” policy can easily turn into an expectation that remote employees are always available, and in our experience, it works better for both the business and its team members to establish a clear distinction between expected working hours and time off.

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  • Envato

    Communication is key. It gets tougher when factoring in different timezones, but it’s really important to make sure team members can join meetings and reach the people they need to. It’s also really important to make sure tools like Slack are available where remote team members can have a bit of fun with their colleagues in different locations. We have Slack channels dedicated to our pets, to food and culture, to music and a number of other shared interests so remote workers can still interact with teammates on a personal level.

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  • Eyeo GmbH

    Agree on communication channels and style of communication.

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  • FlexProfessionals, LLC

    Trust, trust, trust and communication, communication, communication.

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  • Fog Creek Software

    Communication is absolutely the most critical part of having a successful relationship with your remote employees. Not only is there a need for a lot of channels, but also for a creation of a common language and process through which you and your remotes can chat.

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  • Goodway Group

    Constant communication is a necessary element in maintaining working relationships between all of our employees. Because we work remotely, we’re all in constant communication whether that be through phone, email, text, chat or video conference. It allows us to stay as interconnected as possible a very valuable asset.

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  • Greenback Expat Tax Services

    • Communication – In the absence of face-to-face conversations, communicating thoroughly, effectively and with respect is the key to working well remotely.
    • Trust – We have a multitude of project management tools we use every day to ensure all projects are moving ahead and positively impacting the business’ overall goals. But we do have to trust that the team members are doing their job each day, and they have to trust that as the owners, we are there to support them. It’s that mutual trust that allows us to be respectful of each other’s workloads, ideas and ways of approaching everyday tasks. Ultimately job performance is measured on productivity, but if you can’t trust that your team is doing their job each day without you watching over them closely, no one will be successful.
    • Building a culture – Creating a company culture is extraordinarily important, especially in a service-based business. Just because your company has a remote workforce, operating in scattered regions of the world, doesn’t mean they don’t want to feel appreciated as individuals and as a team. Work hard to create a professional but fun environment where team members feel comfortable because the camaraderie you build will make them happier and more productive.
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  • Hanno

    Trust is perhaps the biggest. Trying to control or command people remotely simply never works, and if you don’t trust the people you’re working with, it’s hard to overcome the inevitable miscommunications and tensions that come up when you’re not in the same place to resolve them. The absence of trust blows things up to become a bigger issue than they otherwise would be.

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  • Help Scout

    An empathetic understanding of one another’s roles, expertise, and workflow. Over-communication in Slack or on video chat. Honesty, vulnerability, coaching, and feedback.

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  • iDoneThis

    If you can, by all means spend a week with new colleagues onsite. That immensely helps in building trust.

    Ongoing, having regular video calls helps. Make sure to deliberately schedule for some personal or off-topic chatter to further improve the trust between you.

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  • Incsub

    It really isn’t that different than in a traditional office environment. Employees that know expectations and plans, have access to the tools and resources they need, and are included in regular (two-way) communication, will be successful.

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  • Inpsyde GmbH

    Trust is critical.

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  • Inspired HR

    Frequent communication, appropriate resources, a culture of support, and the use of technology.

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  • Jungle Scout

    Open and honest communication at all times, with frequent video calls.

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  • Kin HR

    Complete autonomy at work, building trust, and offering your full support to the team.

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  • LiquidSpace

    Communication is key to building strong remote work relationships. So is company culture. Whenever we get the chance, our employees cowork together. That gives us the opportunity to explore new inventory and bond. With a bunch of employees living around the SF Bay Area, a handful in and around Minneapolis, and some in NYC, we balance remote work with working together to cultivate teamwork and success.

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  • Lullabot

    Creating patterns around internal communication, being intentional with scheduling connection and investing in retreats and in-person time.

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  • Mavens

    Trust is a key element; you have to ensure that every member of the team trusts each other to do what they have agreed to. Tools for communication and sharing can help build and enhance this, but a base level of trust has to be in place for success to be possible.

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  • Melewi

    Open communication, honest & constructive feedback and open mindedness + accountability

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  • Mokriya

    Communication. Culture and values. Transparency. Authenticity.

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  • Pagely

    Trust. Trust. Trust. It needs to be given freely and earned daily. When it works, it is a thing of beauty.

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  • Parse.ly

    Andrew Montalenti, Parse.ly co-founder and CTO, has said:

    “The biggest thing missing from fully distributed teams is true face-to-face communication. There are a lot of subjective qualities to this kind of communication — such as body language — that cause the brain to react slightly differently than other forms, such as written or even video conference. Having a face-to-face ‘kick-off’ meeting among team members is critical to making the distributed team work smoothly. Not only does this humanize the relationships between team members in a way that audio/video simply doesn’t (seemingly for a lack of verisimilitude), but it also encourages some friendship and bonding relationships to form that are a bit tougher to facilitate via pure digital tools.”

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  • Plex

    Communication is key. I’ve found in a remote environment people actually work harder at communicating because they have to. Especially if you’re dealing with an international team that is communicating in a single language, you have to make extra effort to be clear and thoughtful in how you deliver messages. Just like it’s often hard to convey the right tone in written communication, cultural nuances are easy to misunderstand and must be accounted for. Ultimately teams have to be more considerate as they work together – and that is a good thing!

    Also having online real-time communication tools (we like Slack) enables employees to get constant feedback and input from people in every corner of the organization, not just those closest to them. This encourages fresh perspectives and makes it easy for people to request help when they need, whether from a teammate, intern or the CEO.

    In addition, chat tools show the “presence” of all employees at any given time, which reduces the sense of distance and geographic separation and really makes it feel like you are working side by side with your team.

    I also have to say above and beyond anything else that kindness and helpfulness are huge – in fact we have made these qualities two of our top hiring criteria. A friend in human resources once told me that she measures the health of an organization by how helpful its people are. I’ve still not found a better measure for either office or remote environments. If you really focus on hiring kind and helpful people, I guarantee that communication won’t be a problem — even if your tools and processes aren’t perfect — and you’ll have a very healthy organization.

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  • Sanborn Media Factory

    We set clear expectations from day one. That includes expectations on everyone’s level of communication, when to ask questions (always), and when to raise a flag. Having project management tools with clear deliverables and due dates is also key.

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  • Seeq

    Communication, communication, communication. Because we must forego some of the natural conversations and interactions that happen when a team is co-located, we emphasize clear and frequent communication. For example, we practice Agile software development methods so our development team is in daily scrum meetings together. The ability to clearly communicate both verbally and in writing is a big factor for us when making hiring decisions.

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  • Simple [A]

    Truly, a distributed company operates with all the same leadership dynamics and laws of physics a traditional, co-located company does. Culture matters first and foremost. The organization needs to have a shared and well-communicated clear vision, values, and stated goals. Organizations need systems in which teams can communicate and work effectively, signal issues and problems, facilitate creativity, and celebrate success.

    In order to be effective, participants need to be able to know and trust each other, and have common language for collaboration, as well as systems and patterns which support effective work. All of this is true in a traditional work environment, but in a distributed company it is even more important.  Because we cannot rely on ambient or environmental awareness in a distributed company, we need to actively signal to each other, and build patterns which prompt communication. This can include regular project scrums, discussions, dashboarding, reporting, and developing systems of record which provide the awareness everybody needs in order to succeed in their roles.

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  • Simple Texting

    Being able to measure the output of your employees. Trust.

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  • StudySoup

    Clear communication guidelines are very helpful. Miscommunication happens all the time in person, and happens a lot more over Slack or email. Just recognizing this forces people to make the extra effort to join video chats to discuss issues or have debates. Avoid Slack for debates!

    Having a consistent meeting structure. When you’re in the same office as someone you can just look-up and see if they’re around to answer a question. It’s much harder to call an impromptu video chat. Someone might not be checking slack, or may be away from the computer. Having Daily Standups and using Google Calendar religiously allows us to sync up when we need to collaborate and avoid any potential frustrations.

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  • Teleport

    We have a disproportionate share of employees who have been founders and entrepreneurs themselves in the past. This is the kind of independent thinking, self-motivation and problem solving mindset you need if you don’t have team members there to drive and guide you in the same room every single day.

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  • The Geller Law Group

    Communication is key. We are constantly emailing each other, cc’ing each other on emails to keep everyone up to date on the status of projects, and also always on gchat to ask questions and work through issues.

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  • Time Doctor

    Constant communication. This is by far the most important part of having a relationship with your remote team. As a manager, if I don’t communicate with the members of the team, I know that I run the chance of having them feel disenfranchised from the company. Even though we are all isolated, we don’t want our team members to feel isolated.

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  • Timely

    There’s the obvious ones like trust, transparency and regular communication. One of the things I’d also add is structure. This doesn’t get talked about much in conversations around remote working. But a remote company doesn’t mean that you throw out all structure and process. We are a relatively traditional company in all other ways such as goal setting, strategic planning, people & performance, professional development, governance, regulatory etc.

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  • Toggl

    Open Communication – no blame games: The best way to overcome problems is to discuss them openly. Try to work towards a solution and avoid blaming others. In remote teams, it’s really important to even overshare information. Many misunderstandings are caused by mistaken assumptions, lack of information and insufficient communication.

    No Kindergarten. Freedom + Trust = Reliability: Toggl team members put a lot of trust into each other. Based on our experience, this is the most efficient way to cooperate. Freedom of action combined with a lot of trust keeps away the ‘Kindergarten Syndrome’, which would force managers to control and monitor many aspects of the team members’ lives. We don’t want to do that. Instead, we want to have colleagues who put in a lot of effort to be reliable, and thereby earn each other’s trust.

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  • Tradeconductor

    The right mindset. You have to stop thinking in “office hours” and forget all about witnessing physical presence. You have to understand that you all now work without walls. Be clear on goals and expectations and make sure you still talk to each other. People need human contact and it’s not easy to create a team spirit if you do not meet at least a few times a year.

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  • Trello

    Always assuming your coworkers have good intentions. For example, an emoji can be translated in different ways. Knowing your coworkers have good intentions, means you will hesitate to interpret an emoji as sarcastic or mean, which can throw off a team’s vibe.

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  • Vork Inc

    Regular communication facilitated by technology—we have people in New Zealand and in Ukraine with a significant time difference, so we use technology to communicate asynchronously.

    Clear objectives for what needs to be done—and when (timeline).

    Share the overview of what the business is doing and the big goals so that people know how their work fits into the big picture. Often things are not serious…until they become serious because they are not done yet!

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  • WAKA Kickball & Social Sports

    Communicate, communicate, communicate. And when you are done with that, follow up with good communication! You have to be able to express yourself well on the phone and over email because you lose all the body language piece that face-to-face companies have. You lose the ability to move projects along just by chance meetings at the water cooler, kitchen, etc. You don’t have the ability to have quick chats, plop down in a chair in your co-worker’s office, or discuss business over lunch or at happy hour. You have to be diligent in your communication!

     

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  • Wordfence

    We do mandatory Monday and Wednesday meetings with all hands. Some of the time is spent just sharing what we did over the weekend or how things are going. We also go around and everyone shares what they’re currently working on. This is a great way for the team to get visibility into the organization and connect with each other. Without a physical office space, these meetings and the smaller conversations and one-on-ones become quite important. We don’t do video – just voice because we find video is distracting.

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  • Workfrom

    Personal interactions, whether it’s a daily hello, virtual toast or asking how was your evening/weekend/morning? We can often take small personal interactions for granted when in the same space each day. And since we are often not, we find other ways to say “hello in the hallway”. We give a lot of virtual high-fives.

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  • Working Solutions

    First, hire people who fit the model.  Not everyone is cut out to work remotely.  Next, be very clear with your expectations and provide the information and tools needed to be successful.  Then trust your people to do what you’ve asked and instead of monitoring every action, use results to determine when course-correction is needed.

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  • Worldwide101

    I would say that the number one key success factor has been to focus on OVER communicating. Since we don’t see each other at the water cooler, we have made a concerted effort to stay in touch with our team often, and to foster a virtual open door policy – that is, speak up no matter what the situation, and speak up often! We also make sure that communications are done via video as much as possible because it’s nice to “see” each other, and it helps us connect on a more meaningful level. We prefer Skype as the easiest means!

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