March 03, 2021 by Liza Mash Levin

How to boost collaboration and creativity in remote teams

One of the biggest challenges for companies transitioning to remote work or starting their fully remote journey is ensuring that collaboration, connection, and creative thinking are front and center in their teams.

There are many ways to encourage collaboration and thousands of online guides covering general topics, but I want to give you a sneak peek at how we do it at Gable.

Who we are

We are a growing team of enthusiasts building a network of on-demand workspaces where remote workers can meet, collaborate, be productive, and tackle remote work isolation.

Our team right now spans 3 continents and 4 time zones, making efficient collaboration and remote work protocols our priority. We have engineering, design, marketing, biz dev, and growth teams all working together to make the best possible product.

Focus on asynchronous communication

When we founded Gable, we knew we wanted to work with people from all across the globe, which meant making adjustments in the way we work, communicate, and delegate. We took the advice of some of the best remote companies out there, like GitLab, Doist, and Buffer, and started working asynchronously.

Asynchronous (or async) communication means there is no expectation of real-time communication for most of our workdays. We do have occasional meetings (more about them later), but we don’t expect our teammates to respond to emails and Slack messages right away. They will respond when their time zone, schedule, or tasks allow them to.

Here’s why we couldn’t be happier with the outcome of our async work:

  • Our team can organize their workdays according to their peak productivity hours
  • We manage to get our best work done and spend time with friends and family
  • Everyone works without interruptions and distractions
  • Our interactions are more deliberate and thought out and less by-the-minute
  • Everyone has time to do focused work, which is crucial in engineering, design, and writing

The tools we use for remote work

Since asynchronous work relies heavily on documentation and written communication, we go out of our way to ensure all tasks, plans, and deliverables are written down and visible to everyone in the team.

We decided to work with ClickUp to help us track deliverables and time frames. All functions and departments at Gable use ClickUp as the command center for our progress and tasks. We use dedicated spaces for each team, but make sure we can all see what everyone else is working on and stay up to date.

In addition, we share two weekly reports that summarize the highlights and enable discussion:

At each team meeting, we discuss the progress we’ve made in the past week and high-level plans for next week. Each team enters their input into our presentation every Monday morning, making their plans and progress visible for everyone else.

We have a data analytics report that goes out to the team every Friday afternoon. The report serves as an internal newsletter and a great way to wrap up the work week; it includes more detailed insights across our marketing, content, and business development efforts.

Here are some other tools we use every day:

  • Google Drive for organizing and storing documents
  • Slack for chats and team communication
  • Zoom for all our meetings

Team meetings at Gable

As far as meetings go, we try to keep them at a minimum and avoid the distractions and anxiety that result from having too many calls. We don’t want our team to be stuck in meetings for half of their workweek, so we only have one 45-minute team call every Monday.

Our weekly meeting serves primarily to bring us closer together and confirm our plans. We don’t discuss any new ideas or concepts on this call - we go through our presentation of what we did and plan to do and then check in with everyone and see what they’re up to. This call is the place to share joy and pride, vent frustrations, share stories of our kids and pets, and arrange to have weekly sourdough competitions.

We encourage all our people to be authentic, use humor, and give their personal touch to every call. Our policy is to keep the camera on for these meetings (it helps participants assess interest levels), but that doesn’t mean life should stop around them. We’re perfectly okay with family and pets in the background of calls, people coming to the call with wet hair and fresh out of the shower, or showing us their new coffee machine. Yes, we work at a startup, and we’re all very driven and focused on our work, but we also have our lives and personalities, and knowing each other makes us a better team!

Team collaboration.jpg

Collaboration and decision making

Apart from our one weekly call, our team chooses whether they will have additional meetings with each other and the frequency. We encourage them to decide for themselves whether they need weekly check-ins or planning sessions with colleagues.

We also encourage everyone to have quick micro calls whenever the need arises. This process enables quick decision-making, planning, and testing different initiatives without the whole team involved. We’re dedicated to efficiency and progress, which means empowering everyone to work together, and in the way they find most effective.

Setting boundaries

With all the tools and apps we use daily, pressure can creep up to be available 24/7, do just a little more each day, and put in extra hours. While our entire team thrives and does what they love every single day, we don’t think it’s wise to overwork. My wish is for my team to be healthy, fulfilled, and productive, not burnt out and exhausted.

We don’t have fixed availability hours at Gable. Everyone has different days and peak focus periods, so we have a policy of blocking off time on the calendar when we’re not available. Whether someone is out jogging or having lunch, we want to know not to send any urgent messages and Slack notifications. Burnout is the biggest enemy of creativity and knowledge workers, and we’re proactive about not letting it impact our team.

Offsites and retreats

Since Gable was founded in the middle of the pandemic, most of our team members have never seen each other in person yet. Once the health situation and international travel stabilize, we plan to organize retreats every quarter or every 6 months.

We want to get our team together to work from Gable spaces, meet in different countries where our colleagues live, and spend time getting to know each other better. What we do at Gable is centered around emphasizing the face-to-face experience of working together and making it count - it’s only fitting we want to do it inside our team as well.

How are we doing so far?

The approach we’ve been taking so far seems to work incredibly well for us. Our new team members integrate quickly, and their adoption of our practices is lighting fast. By aligning our processes and workloads to be documented and asynchronous, we enable new hires to find their way without blocks and hurdles and jump into doing their best work.

In general, we work fast and make visible and significant progress every week. While our primary metric is our work quality, its quantity isn’t insignificant either - we often close 50+ tasks every week. I’m convinced the reason for this is that we hire amazing people and equip them with the wireframe and tools they need to shine. As a result, they are empowered to give feedback, collaborate, and offer their coworkers ideas and suggestions.

Other best practices + our plans for the future

As we’re growing, we’re constantly refining our management practices and remote work protocols. One of our biggest plans is to incorporate employee surveys and HR management platforms such as hiBob or Officevibe. Platforms like these can help managers and teams flourish by instituting feedback, recognition programs, and satisfaction checks.

Going forward, talent retention will surely be in the spotlight. We want our employees to stay with us and be happy in their workplace, and one thing that can improve retention is a robust onboarding process. Most organizations focus only on the first week of onboarding, not knowing that a solid process can increase their retention by a whopping 82%. At Gable, we’re focusing on creating a comprehensive onboarding process that will help new hires navigate their new job and become productive faster.

Finally, our main focus will always be to create a positive employee experience and build a culture of transparency and feedback. Creative thinking and problem-solving flourish in environments where communication is open and inclusive, and that’s exactly what Gable strives to be.

Written By

Liza Mash Levin

© 2022 Gable