Lessons in communication from successful remote teams

When we think of successful remote teams one of the foundational elements that comes to mind is communication. Separated by distance and connected by that precious wifi signal, in a remote working environment you’ve got to do the extras on connection and communication. But where do you start?

Today we’re going to take a look at what some of the most successful remote teams do to strengthen their communication and bolster their workplace culture. 

Go on, dig in and see if there’s anything you could take as inspiration in your own workplace.


Lessons from successful remote teams.


ZAPIER – Weekly Hangouts

Zapier is a 100% remote working company that has grown from three founders to a team of over 300 people across the globe. They’ve got quite a few suggestions for how to be a successful remote team, with one key consideration being company-wide socialising opportunities.

As they share in their tell-all article, every Thursday they get together for a virtual get together with the purpose of connecting with colleagues they may not normally get a chance to speak to in their day-to-day.

“With over 300 people in seven major departments and even more smaller teams, it’s hard to see everyone on a weekly basis. These hangouts are a chance to say “hi!” to folks you may not normally see. These hangouts are also a good chance to learn something new. Each week, someone inside the team does a lightning talk or demo on something interesting. We’ve had folks share their latest project, new teammates share fun facts about themselves and their backgrounds, and leadership members conduct well-being workshops through these hangouts.”


DOIST – Communication Clarity

Doist offers digital collaboration and productivity tools, so it’s no surprise that they also happen to be an organisation that’s embraced remote work with open arms.

One of the strongest principles sitting behind the way Doist approach remote work is their commitment to communication clarity. They’ve created a communication hierarchy (image below) that clearly outlines the purpose of all of their communication channels as well as the expectations around their usage.

They’ve also got a preference for asynchronous communication, that they’ve explored in depth in their own series of remote working articles.

“The foundation of our team’s communication is asynchronous: when I send you a message, you can respond later. There’s a general expectation to respond within 24 hours, but beyond that each person can decide when to check and respond to their messages. The concept is simple enough, but async communication impacts everything we do as a remote team. It enables us to stay connected across time zones and maintain high levels of productivity despite (or rather because of) the fact that we’re not in an office together.”


HELP SCOUT – Troop Talks

If you’re a part of a large organisation that’s working remotely you might’ve come up against some challenges in hosting company-wide video conference calls. If you want to offer social opportunities as close to the real thing as possible, you might become a fast fan of this activity championed by Help Scout.

Here’s a peek into the origin story behind Help Scout’s remote working ritual, and a few themes they’ve had success with during their ‘Troop Talks’. This team gathering generally involves groups of 10 randomly selected individuals.

“When we first tried to do a group hangout in 2014, it was awkward. There would be these long silences and then two people would start talking and then stop to let the other one talk and then talk over each other again. We’ve learned a thing or two about remote culture since then, though, and when we revisited the idea, it was obvious that a virtual group hangout also needed the secret sauce of deliberate planning and structure.

Now, each month, People Ops Extraordinaire Leah Knobler chooses a theme and sets a date and time so folks have time to think about what they might want to share. This is an especially nice touch for the more introverted among us who like time to think through things instead of being put on the spot.”


Help Scout Team Meeting Themes:

What is your most used, favorite app on your phone? Come share how it improves your life and what you did before you discovered it. At the end, we’ll have an App Essentials list to share with the team!

Book Report
What book changed your life? Made you laugh and cry? Come share a teaser of that book. If you come to this troop talk, you’ll get a curated list of books to add to your shelf. Yay.

Gratitude Share
More and more research shows that cultivating a practice of gratitude can increase our well-being. Come and share a story about someone you feel grateful for.


After reading all of that, do you feel like you’ve got your remote work communication down pat? Perhaps it’s time to try some new remote team rituals to foster connection and banish that work from home loneliness that can crop up when you least expect it.

If you’d like to go deeper on this topic take a look at our best tips for creating a strong remote team culture