Communication hacks tried and tested by some of the world’s most successful remote teams

Pragmatic Thinking chief executive Alison Hill. Source: supplied.

In a remote working environment, when separated by distance and connected by that precious Wi-Fi signal, you’ve got to go the extra mile when it comes to communication.

But where do you start?

Let’s take a look at what some of the most successful remote teams do to strengthen their communication and bolster their workplace culture.

1. Zapier: Weekly hangouts

Zapier is a 100% remote working company that has grown from three founders to a team of over 300 people globally. It has got quite a few strategies at play that help it to be a successful remote team, with one key focus being company-wide socialising opportunities.

As Zapier’s co-founders share in a tell-all article, every Thursday, the team attends a virtual get-together with the purpose of connecting with colleagues they may not normally get a chance to speak with in their day-to-day.

With over 300 people working across seven different departments, it’s easy to see how it’d be a challenge to find time to socialise with everyone without dedicated team get-togethers.

Your organisation may very well be in the same boat.

These weekly virtual hangouts generally involve a presentation or activity, such as a team member hosting a ‘lightning talk’ or sharing their latest project. In the past, they’ve also had leaders present wellbeing workshops, which is a great idea, particularly in the current environment.

If you’ve got a team of over 100 people but still want to provide an opportunity for company-wide connection, you could have some fun with a Zoom background competition.

Each week, you could set a theme (say, holiday destinations) and have everyone change their Zoom settings so that they have a themed background behind them.

This is a great conversation starter and a great way to engage a large group of people.

2. Doist: Communication clarity

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

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

It has also got a preference for asynchronous communication, which is has explored in-depth in its own series of remote working articles.

Essentially, this commitment to asynchronous communication means team members don’t expect instant responses from each other. Instead, they use tools to communicate and collaborate in a way that ensures people can get their jobs done without relying on instant back-and-forth communication.

This is an ideal set up for Doist as its team is split across various time zones.

As your team continues to work remotely, consider what your communication standards are and make sure that they’re clear to everyone across all departments.

3. 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.

Referred to as ‘troop talks’, it sees the team split up into groups of 10 randomly selected individuals to get together and have their own rapport-building discussions.

A theme for the discussion is set by the people ops extraordinaire in advance to give everybody in the ‘troop’ the opportunity to consider what they’d like to share before jumping online.

This idea came about after the startup tried hosting a company-wide hangout and found that it was too difficult to engage everybody in the conversation. People would accidentally start talking over one another and there’d be long silences in between conversation. Sound familiar?

If you’re thinking smaller group video catch-ups could work better in your organisation, why not give it a try and see what happens?

As far as themes go, here are a couple of conversation starters to try out in team video meetings.

Not-to-be-missed Netflix

We’re all watching more TV these days, right?

To bring rapport-building, water cooler-esque conversation to your next team gathering encourage everyone to share one of their favourite TV shows or movies that they’ve watched recently.

Who knows, you might find that someone else loves Tiger King as much (or as little) as you do.


If you’re looking for a more personable, connection-building activity, give this one a try.

Ask everybody to bring something to the video conference call that they can share a story about. It might be a souvenir from a holiday, a printed photograph (we still have those right?) or a piece of home decor.

NOW READ: This CEO says remote working has made her a better leader: Here are eight reasons why

NOW READ: Should bosses spy on workers? How businesses can solve the COVID-19 productivity puzzle


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