Without the conventional trappings of what work is (an office, a commute, etc.), remote teams are questioning and reimagining the future of work.

Here's how the best remote teams get stuff done.

3 Radical Habits of Highly Successful Remote Teams

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Working remotely requires a totally different approach from how we’ve come to define our workday. We’re so used to the commutes, having to deal with our cubicle neighbor, the water cooler chats, and shuffling in and out of meetings. That’s the way we know how to get stuff done. Removed from shared physical spaces, remote teams have none of that.

The physical workspace — from layout to furniture configurations to break-room — create a certain working environment that affects how you communicate and collaborate. Without those traditional areas in play, remote teams face a tougher challenge of figuring out how to work together, simply because there’s no conventional wisdom to lean on, no way to bump into someone on your way to the bathroom, no coffee break to take together.

But necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s why the most successful remote teams are reinventing how to work together with methods you might consider extreme or crazy.

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7 Essential Online Business Tools that Power You Forward

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As a distributed team, we find online business tools indispensable because we rely on them so heavily to collaborate and create our collective office space in the cloud. We know the beating heart of running a successful business is successful communication internally as a team and externally with our customers — and without helpful tools, we can’t connect.

We’ve rounded up our seven favorite business tools that keep us moving forward. What these seven business tools have in common is that they’re easy to use and responsive to our needs. And when business tools can evolve as we evolve while retaining their simplicity and effectiveness, they have great staying power.

Here’s the quick list:

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3 Hidden Keys to Successful Communication as a Remote Team

This story is inspired by this week’s Startup Edition question:
How do you effectively work with remote teams?

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The biggest challenge of working in remote teams isn’t dealing with the physical distribution of your teammates but reducing the psychological distance between everyone. Bridging that distance is probably a test for all types of teams but requires more work as a remote team.

“One thing that excites me about building a company is the human experience of making something out of nothing together,” our co-founder and CEO Walter recently wrote in a company email. As a distributed company, we have to sweat to achieve that communal sense of creation, but in doing so, we’ve had to consider and resolve aspects of our work culture with deliberation.

Culture takes shape from a sense of coherence, built through shared experiences, expectations, and values — and one key to cohering is learning how to communicate effectively with each other. I wanted to dig deeper into what we’ve learned about remote team communication that deals with building those shared relationships, expectations, and values and that help shape the cultural foundation of how we get stuff done.

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5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Company Retreat

iDoneThis company retreat

If you’ve ever had to suffer through trust fall exercises or offsites that try to make over ugly corporate morale in one go, you probably dismiss company retreats as a waste of time and money.

Yet the company retreat remains one concrete strategy that startups employ to fuel their success. When you work for a startup, where every day is basically a trust fall, a company retreat is not just a superficial motivational exercise in decreeing “let’s do better” but an opportunity to take a step back and realign, rethink, and break down how to do better.

In July, iDoneThis went on a week-long team trip to downtown Las Vegas to do just that. While we’d visited before to connect with Zappos and the Downtown Project, this year things are a bit different:  our CEO Walter lives in Vegas and we’re proud to be in the Vegas Tech Fund portfolio alongside exciting companies like Zirtual, LaunchBit, and Skillshare.

We had a fantastic time connecting with the Vegas startup and Downtown Project community, working out some of our own company kinks, and of course, having fun. We thought we’d share some tips on what made our all-hands trip effective to consider for your own company retreats, offsites, or meetups!

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How WooThemes Makes Distributed Team Culture Succeed

The multi-million dollar company WooThemes started with a single email, as a small side project of Magnus Jepson in Stavanger, Norway, Adii Pienaar in Cape Town and Mark Forrester, then in London.

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From that one email sprouted a bootstrapped company that produces a rich catalog of WordPress themes and plugins, serving 450,000 users. And this impressive success emerges from a distributed team of only thirty people, spanning seven countries.

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Harness the Productivity Power of Automation

All too often, to-do lists end up with more things to do and less things getting done. Humans are awful at completing lists. We often convince ourselves that we can complete our to-do list if we just buckle down and try harder.

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Yet tomorrow, or next week, or next month rolls around, and the list is just as bad as it has always been. Probably worse, if you are like me.

So when we found iDoneThis at Zapier it immediately clicked.

- No more over bearing to-do list? Check.
- Transparency into what everyone on the team is doing? Check.
- Email based? Check.
- Built-in motivation to do meaningful things each day? Check, again.

I loved it.

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7 Invaluable Collaboration and Communication Tools for Remote Teams

Recently, an internal memo from Yahoo announcing a ban on working from home has sparked a feisty debate about the merits of working remotely. The explanation given for the policy change comes down to one sentence in the memo: “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.”

As a distributed team ourselves, serving many great companies with flexible work arrangements, we don’t think people’s physical presence in one place is necessary to create the best workplace or the best work. Where we do agree with Yahoo is how vital communication and collaboration are to a company’s success.

The nature of remote work actually compels companies to grapple with and figure out how people communicate and collaborate best. Fortunately, connection and communication are what technology and the web have made so much easier. Finding the right communication tools becomes even more pressing for distributed companies since that toolbox helps create our shared space.

As a follow-up to our ode to distributed companies, we thought we’d share what communication tools we use to stay connected, creative, and collaborative together. These communication tools are great not just for managing remote workers but for any teams, since no matter the physical working arrangement, strong team connection and communication are key to accountability, productivity, and innovation and great customer service.

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An Ode to Distributed Teams

There’s not much mystery behind how a distributed team works. We show up, in our respective locations, talk to each other, and make stuff happen. The alchemy of coming together to make it work is the same that any team experiences when they build something together. There are a lot of ingredients that go into that magic, and these days, people’s physical proximity to each other is not necessarily one of them.

Like many of the teams we serve, our own iDoneThis team is dispersed. While we experience both the challenges and benefits of the form, what stands out is how naturally that form compels teams to consider and resolve the process of daily collaboration. When we get down to it and count the ways we love distributed teams, we see the alignment of four elements — company culture, communication, productivity, and the right people — that help make the magic happen.

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 half of the magic-making iDoneThis team

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How Ravelry Stitches its Creative Community Together

Ravelry is a website for knitters, crocheters, spinners, and other people into fibers, with close to 2.7 million users, or “Ravellers”, around the world. The site houses a rich database of patterns and reference information, ways to keep track of projects and stock of your yarns, and a forum for its Ravellers to interact.

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In fact, Ravelry has been called “the best social network you’ve (probably) never heard of”. In talking with Mary-Heather Cogar, VP of Operations/Do-Gooder, that sense of close-knit community shines through, distinguishing Ravelry as an example of what can be so great about the internet.

There’s something really amazing about connecting with people that are into the same things that you are. A lot of Ravellers have struck up friendships, sometimes in totally different countries, or met people in their own communities that they didn’t know were out there. They were used to knitting in front of Netflix or whatever — we all love to do that but sometimes you feel like you’re the only one passionate about this in your neighborhood. It turns out that there’s a group of people that are super into crocheting also, or new spinners and they’re all learning together.”

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How Reddit Builds a Progress Record (and the Front Page of the Internet)

Reddit, the popular social content site and community, hands power to the people to decide what’s important and what’s not. iDoneThis likewise hands the reins to Reddit’s team to use how they see fit.

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With the Reddit team scattered, from San Francisco to New York and in between, the challenge may be to get a remote team on the same page. Yet, the main use of iDoneThis for the Reddit team is as a personal record, and then by extension, as a reference for the team.

Reddit’s general manager Erik Martin explains, “We all wear a lot of hats. We’re only about twenty people. All of us do a bunch of different things, so it’s hard for us to jump around. It’s nice to be able to track how that’s going, maybe not what we’re spending time on as much but what we accomplish on any given day.”

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