Making remote work, work. The CEO guide to tackling internal comms while working remotely

The rising popularity of remote work has proven invaluable for start-ups who otherwise may struggle to compete with far bigger organisations in the search for talent. Employees love the flexibility it offers, while businesses can run operations far more leanly and hire the skills needed from anywhere in the world.  

But handling comms in a remote setting can be a challenge for start-ups. Operating remotely requires an entirely new way to consider your internal communications and leadership strategy.   

As part of our Unicorn CEO interview series for our Without Borders podcast, we spoke to over 30 tech leaders about their journey to success, and a major theme in those conversations was how to nail team communications in a remote setting. 

We’ve collected the best insights and advice from tech leaders on this issue and more in our new Tech CEO Communications Playbook: Winning strategies for success, a free resource for any CEO, tech marketer, or entrepreneur to access. Here are some of the highlights from the first guide in this new series, entitled Making remote work, work.  

Cultivating office culture online  

Remote working teams need to work much harder to create the bonds and culture that form organically in a shared office. Maintaining this culture is even harder as the company grows larger: “The hardest thing to scale remotely is culture and connection,” revealed Zeb Evans, CEO and Founder of ClickUp  

The advice from the CEOs we spoke to included deliberately scheduling the kinds of meetings that would have happened spontaneously in the past, and ensuring teams have regular chances to connect and form bonds, not just discuss work. Organising activities and meetings that are informal and not focused on the day-to-day are crucial to foster this sense of community and culture. 

Empathy and creating a safe space 

For remote teams, it sometimes requires more active effort for people to be courteous, provide constructive feedback promptly, and show understanding. It can also be challenging to notice when remote workers seem upset or disengaged.

Leaders of remote workforces need to create a safe space where employees can vocalise how they are feeling. One way to create such an environment is to communicate more openly, honestly and empathetically with team members.   

Larry Gadea, the Founder and CEO of the workplace platform Envoy, told us that being vulnerable and open in this way is vital to being a good leader and foster that safe space for employees to share how they are doing in an honest way. “If I make a mistake, I will always tell people about it and I will proactively tell people about it,” he said.   

Transparency and taking teams on the journey 

How do you make sure a remote team is engaged with your company’s mission? Many of the CEOs we spoke to recommended being more open and transparent about your company’s strategy and performance. Letting your people know where the company is headed, what’s going on and why certain tasks or processes are in place can help to bring employees on the company’s journey, as well as avoid unnecessary confusion. 

“I see my main job as communicating and making sure people understand what our mission is, what our purpose is, what the problems are,” says Joshua Motta, CEO and Co-Founder at Coalition. “A lot of companies don’t want to talk about their problems. It’s uncomfortable, but I very much see my job as to do almost exclusively that.” 

To summarise, leaders of remote workforces need to: 

  • be proactive and mindful in building company culture, 
  • share their mistakes to encourage teams to be more open,  
  • and communicate transparently to take people along for the journey and not lose site of the company’s end goal. 

For more insights into communicating within a remote environment, and for advice on other crucial business objectives, check out the Tech CEO Communications Playbook homepage and download your guide today. Other topics include how to communicate your failures and encourage a healthy error-culture, advice CEOs would give their younger selves, and the role of mentors in the start-up world and lessons to pass on. And if you are interested in listening to interviews with these and other unicorn startup leaders such as Vijay Tella of Workato, Job van der Voort of Remote or Greg Jackson of Octopus Energy, you can do so here.