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Managing remote first organization

Building A Team
Company Culture

4 January, 2023

Ahsan Habib
Ahsan Habib

VP Software Engineering at human

I was hired at HUMAN in 2021 to manage a team that went from hybrid to completely remote working environment because of COVID.

I managed a global organization before and I thought it should be no different. However I found several challenges managing a remote first team. Below are the list of challenges and actions we took to address them

1)  Communication:

It may be difficult to communicate with team members when they are not in the same location and in the same time zone. It is also hard to pick up on the non verbal cues.

We ensured all employees turn on their videos so that we can pick up on the non-verbal cues. We created multiple sync up meetings with the entire team to have frequent communication. We also set up biweekly casual meetings where the employees can discuss any work and non work related subject.

2)   Collaboration:

Team members in the remote first company may find it difficult to brainstorm ideas, share knowledge and solve complex problems.

We started a pair programming/design session to help improve the collaboration between the engineers. Pair programming also helped with improving feature velocity as there are multiple engineers trained with a component in the system.

3)   Building Trust:

It is hard to understand each other's work habits and performance when working remotely.

We tried to get the team members together as often as possible ( 1-2 times a year ) to build a trusting relationship. We also hosted casual team building meetings to help employees feel that they are part of a community.

4)   Time Management:

Focus may be an issue as you are working from home and there are non-work related distractions.

Giving employees more flexibility on their working hours that allowed them to attend to their home/family worked well for us. It is important to publish schedules per employee in a common place and ensure there is a good amount of working hour overlap for employees working in multiple time zones.

We recognized early on that remote first team management needs special attention and my management team met regularly to discuss how we can continuously improve the team morale. Overall, creating good communication channels where employees are having regular check-ins, and fostering a sense of community with once-twice a year in person meetups along with virtual team building helped us lead a remote first team successfully.

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