Wow, what a mistake we made as a distributed team!

As maybe most of you already know, the Happy Melly One team is completely distributed. In case you didn’t know let me tell you about our team.

We cover four continents, five time zones, six languages, and eight people. The team, in different settings, has been working together since 2011. You can read more about our team members on this page.

Our zookeeper is Lisette Sutherland. She recently published a book about Distributed Teams. We are not going to promote the book here, but in case you are interested click here. Lisette interviewed more than 100 people. Asked them about their experiences with all kind of different setups of remote teams. The Happy Melly One team is of course also mentioned in her book.

As the Happy Melly One team, we take care of Happy Melly and Management 3.0. Both brands are doing well.

We do everything remotely and use all the best practices regarding remote working.

We always use webcams when we are in a meeting. Webcams are turned on, no discussion about that. Even when one of our team members is still in bed (and decently dressed, no worries). We all have the best headsets; we even once ordered a headset for a team member who didn’t think they needed one (they did!). We all are aware a perfect internet connection is essential.

We use the best tools available, and fit for our team. We use Slack instead of email; all information flows through Slack. Even when you have a question for one person we use Slack. We are in love with threads in Slack. We use Zoom for meetings. It is reliable and always works. When on a group call, you are not affected by the lowest bandwidth of one person (like Skype). Also, the gallery view of Zoom is great because we can see everyone on the call at the same time. We use IDoneThis to have asynchronous conversations every day. We use Bonusly and Kudo Cards to give each other compliments and feedback. We have introduced the concept of a proposal document to be able to make decisions in a distributed team. We use Google Docs for collaboration on documents. And most of all, we apply the concept of working out loud. Yes, we are definitely a showcase in Lisette’s book as proof that remote teams are possible and can be effective.

So far, so good… So what is the problem?

We did not realize that it could have been so much better all these years. This is also described in the book as a must-do and it’s one thing we didn’t do until January this year.

In-person retreats! Sorry if you expected something more shocking. It is that simple.

As I said, we all agree that remote teams can be as effective as co-located teams, however only when you realize it is not like working in the office. You need to set up extra tools, working agreements, hardware, etc.

However, getting together now and then, and looking each other in the eyes while discussing difficult topics, partying together, and being able to work for hours in a row together on a topic is important.

We believe that as a team, we made a huge step forward after our last retreat. One of the most important conclusions from that retreat, which was our first, was that we need to do this every six months.

So our next retreat will be in Dublin at the end of June. Again a weekend of building relationships, working for hours together, being able to make decisions and most of all, having fun. Last time not everyone was able to make it, we had three people joining remotely, this time almost everyone will be able to make it!

So remote teams are great, but meeting each other a few times a year makes things even greater!

Join the Happy Melly community and tell us in the comments what your company has done to bring your remote workers together!

For more info about Happy Melly and Management 3.0:

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This article is written by Ralph van Roosmalen on May 8th 2018.

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