Unwritten rules for distributed teams that *just make sense*
My team works across 4 locations and 2 very different time zones and this is how we make our async work – work!
When someone new comes along, they go through technical onboarding and documentation about protocols and troubleshooting, but there is also a set of unwritten rules we follow that make communication across time and space easier.
Here is the thing – even though we adopted them as ours, we have no idea where they came from. They are passed on to new team members unofficially, and somehow, they just make sense.
Every morning, the first person to come online starts a thread saying “hello” or “good morning” and others will follow. Breaks or lunch are also a part of the same thread. What is the purpose of this? To know whether someone has arrived, is available or won’t be at hand for some time.
Since we have 11 people on our channel, someone saw the need to use threads. This ensures that all communication about a topic is in one place in case we need to search for it at any point, and the information doesn’t get scattered. A bonus is that you don’t bother 10 people with notifications all the time.
Ask in channels, not DMs
Although it is easier to slide into DM’s and ask for help, we encourage everyone to post questions on the public channel. That way anyone could see it, contribute to solution if they experienced the same issue before, or find information if they have the same question.
Additionally, you are not waiting on one person (who could be busy), but if someone reading your post is available, they will jump to the rescue.
We know it’s difficult at the beginning, especially for newcomers, but this practice also encourages people to ask questions and shows there is no need to be ashamed if you don’t know something – we’re here to support you.
Delete call records
Due to the nature of our work, we need to do some calls during the day. To have proper chat visibility, deleting phone records to keep our channel clear and legible is also one of the unwritten rules.
Seen it? Acknowledge it!
Not everything posted in our channel is about support or troubleshooting. Sometimes we share new procedures and important information.
How do we know if someone took the time to read it and that everyone is up to date? An “ack” or a check-mark reaction only takes a second and lets everyone know you haven’t missed an important bit of information.
Latecomers are note-takers
If you are anything like us, writing the weekly meeting notes is a bit of a hot potato. So if you are late for a meeting, guess what? You will be taking the notes one additional time!
Bonus – an anthem of your own
Did you know that we have a team anthem too? We have “our” song, an obscure European pop one-hit wonder, democratically in a language none of us speak. Whenever we listen to it, we think about the team.
How did it become the team anthem? That remains a mystery, just like the origin of our unwritten team rules – but it just makes sense!