How to Build a Remote Team: The Step by Step Guide

Discover our complete guide to build and manage an efficient remote team using The Remote Team Canvas.

Remote Team Canvas

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Why you should use The Remote Team Canvas

Recently, many companies have had to question their structural organization to respond to the coronavirus epidemic. Get out of business? Partial unemployment? Even layoffs? Working from home was largely the most obvious answer. A temporary alternative for traditional companies has emphasized the trend towards remote work.

Working remotely is not working from home

There is a slight distinction between the two modes of operation: Telecommuting or teleworking implies that the employee lives near the geographic area of the company’s headquarters. Karen, Maxwell or Sasha can sometimes be on-site, or work where they want (at home, in a co-working space, in a coffee shop…).

On the contrary, remote workers can live where they want! The headquarters are in Europe? It’s ok to live in Singapore or Buenos Aires. Nobody expects them to be present occasionally on-site.

The icing on the cake? A company relying exclusively on remote work doesn’t have physical headquarters.

Ice on the cake

The reasons behind remote companies: talent pool, culture, cost, work/life balance...

These slight differences have led some startups to choose the remote work approach from the beginning. Zapier, GitHub, Stripe are examples of success stories among remote companies to solve different kinds of challenges: corporate culture, talent pool, cost reduction, work/life balance.

If you are the founder of a startup, the manager of a company, an employee who wants to improve the efficiency of your company, it might be time to go with remote work.

And that’s where The Remote Team Canvas comes in. Inspired by the Business Model Canvas, The Remote Team Canvas will make you ask yourself the essential questions to find out if you should go remote or not :

  • Is my project/company remote compatible?
  • How to create a remote team?
  • How to manage an EFFICIENT remote team?

Be aware, "canvas" does not always mean startups or projects in the making. Switching from offline to remote is quite possible and desirable for some established companies. Also, going remote is not a dilemma about full remote or offline work. Many companies prefer to adopt partially remote work. It depends on your needs.

Let’s get this done.


How to use The Remote Team Canvas

Who fill the canvas?

Everybody who wants too!

Of course, it is more often the decision-makers who will fill the Remote Team Canvas, but everyone in a project should be involved. Involving your teammates without requiring too much effort from them is quite simple (some examples below):

  • Run a team meeting about remote work and collect feedback.
  • Run a team-building meeting about a fictional case to solve and collect feedback.
  • Organize a poll about remote work and collect feedback
  • One on One: Review your completed canvas with your partner/ a manager

In what order?

Filling order

Fill the Remote Team Canvas: Categories Explained

1. Why?

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Becoming a distributed team is not just about following a trend... even if it’s a tremendous trend and that some data disclose a bright future:

Every study shows that workers want to increase their remote working time. The main reasons are simple: better work-life balance, productivity, less stress, avoid commuting, saving money.

Be aware, it's not just about the well-being of your teammates. It's about finding the right balance for you (the manager), your team and the efficiency of your project.

Is it possible?
Don't be a victim of the FOMO, if your project is not adapted to remote work, choose another way and don’t have any regrets. Many players in the primary industries will never be able to work with a full or partial remote team.

What is the purpose to be remote?
Reducing structural costs, give more benefits to your team members, increase the talent pool, productivity, focus on internal processes, great corporate culture and encourage loyalty and engagement...

Is it really useful?
Ask yourself if remote work is the solution to each of your issues. Go as far as considering partial remote or even telecommuting to see if it solves your concerns.

2. Goals

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You have to establish the key priorities for your project/company and your team. Having a clear strategy is vital for workers who don't see one another every day. Setting explicit expectations and goals will keep your team focused, no matter if they are a thousand miles away.

What is the key goal’s project?
Turnover, profitability, customer service, fundraising, from MVP to sales...

What do we want to achieve as a remote team?
Proving to be the future of work, trusting each other, building a magnificent corporate culture...

3. People

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It's the most important element of your success. Not everyone is suited to work remotely, manager included. Your team must possess these essential characteristics to work online: doers, trusty, writing skills, great communication skills, strong self-discipline, passionate, independent…

If you already have a team, this job will be easier. But don't worry, for new arrivals some processes exist to better identify a good match. And with remote work, you have massively increased your potential talent pool.

Establish the ideal remote worker’s persona
Mindset, soft skills, learning attitude.

Who are the team members already onboard?
Names, positions, skills, mindset, what would they bring to remote efficiency.

What are our hiring needs?
By priority order: positions, skills (hard and soft), mindset.

How do we recruit?
The process to find strong remote candidates for your jobs (defined your candidate persona, how to share the job information, how to find candidates, tests, interviews…), type of agreement (depends on your official location).

How do we make the perfect onboard for newcomers?
Set individual goals for each team member.First day, shared information, help them to understand the corporate culture, set up meetings, gifts.

What do we expect from the team?
Set individual goals for each team member.

4. Management

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With the rise of startups, traditional management has taken a new turn. Often, all the voices of a team are considered when it comes to making a decision. It's up to you to choose your way: enlightened absolutism, participative democracy, horizontal management... The key is to set the rules.

Horizontal or Vertical?
Choose a flat decision-making structure that provides greater team autonomy or a pyramidal top-down management to ensure your authority.

Who makes critical decisions?
Regardless of your type of management (vertical, horizontal, hybrid), who is the decision-maker on some crucial or delicate issues: HR (layoffs, promotion), wages, reducing costs...

How do we celebrate?
It’s really important to recognize great performance to build a stronger relationship and loyalty: sending a group mail when a worker hits a milestone, rewards, gifts...

How do we manage HR development?
Ask yourself about some crucial process: promotion, layoffs, wage increase...

5. Communication

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The main threat to a remote team is the lack of communication. Geographical distances, time-zones, and an absence of nonverbal communication are barriers to overcome. Face-to-face communication often allows you to gauge your teammates by their body language and to sense if something is wrong.

To overcome this challenge you have to maintain an efficient communication. Good processes and software tools will be your best allies.

How do we communicate?
Processes (1 to 1, meetings, communication or collaboration), tools (asynchronous, not, or both), how do we manage time-zones, schedule, feedback.

How do we share crucial information?
Degree of transparency, meeting or not...

How do we implement a physical aspect in communication?
Tools, visiting your employee...

6. Culture

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This may be the most fun part to fill in, the one that will be the closest to you. It's about building a culture of belonging, so that every employee feels valued and useful, feeling almost like part of a family.

What are our values?
Examples: remote working values, employee satisfaction, work/life balance, trust yourself and others, full transparency, respect...

How do we create a sense of belonging in our team?
Set up rituals and traditions, a weekly time to learn about each other's habits, open environment...

How do we build social bonds?
Virtual team building, offline retreats, have an unofficial chat.

7. Productivity

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When it comes to remote work, one of the first clichés that come to mind is the decrease in employee's productivity. There are more distractions for those who work from home or outside.

But numerous studies prove that traditional working hours and open-space environments are often counter-productive. Allowing people to work when they are the most efficient or to have a much quieter atmosphere is one of the main benefits remote workers are looking for.

Team productivity remains a crucial challenge for a manager in a remote team. Your success will depend on an optimal organization, measurement tools and mutual trust between workers and management.

What is our work culture?
Set up team rules: Pair colleagues, weekly 1 to 1 to push feedback, accountability (set up a slack channel about weekly progression), mandatory online presence to facilitate communication (1 or 2 hours).

How do we organize our schedules?
Work asynchronously: use dedicated tools, default to action if there is no irreversible risk, take feedback about meetings schedule.

How do we measure our actions?
Set up a productivity tracker where each worker can share their task and progression, weekly meetings. Don’t measure worked hours but achieved goals.

How do we build trust?
Workers need to trust their top management and vice-versa: Set-up weekly 1-to-1, share honest feedback, full transparency, use automation tools, promote casual conversation to know each other.

8. Costs

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Many consider this aspect first. Indeed, cost savings are huge but should in no way be the trigger to switch to remote work.

Some unusual expenses will also appear. It is in this section that you will sometimes realize that it is easier for you to be partially remote.

What are the costs associated with remote work?
List every cost: hardware and software, tools, Apps, team building, travels...

Next steps

Once you or your team have completed The Remote Team Canvas, it’s time to master it. Review, correct, delete non-essential sentences...

If making your decision whether to go remote or not for your project is not obvious, do what all indecisive people on Earth do: a shortlist of pros and cons (5 items of each maximum).

Still, not sure?

Don’t worry, there are many alternatives to a fully remote team. Joel Gascoigne, co-founder of Buffer (one of the best remote companies) have your back:

Before making your final decision, feel free to read some of the best content about remote work, tools, testimony...

The ultimate guide to remote work (everything you need to know with insight from one of the world's best-known remote company):

Data & trends

A complete list of tools

Some great testimonies/best practice from remote companies

Some great testimonies/best practice from remote workers

Specialized hiring sites

Now you are ready! 🔥

Take a deep breath and go for it.

Fill your canvas now

Don’t forget to download the Remote Team Canvas (PDF) and print it or directly work on the digital version to master your perfect remote team.

Keep in mind that this canvas is only a way to allow you to structure your ideas about remote work. Possibly the best way but not the only one. This canvas is a start, not the finish line.

Please give us your opinion and feedback about The Remote Team Canvas, there is always room for improvement. We want to make it perfect :)

And if you enjoyed the canvas, please spread the word! 💫


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