Cantilever is remote by choice. To be effective as a remote team, we have clear standards for how we communicate.
As a default, our communication is asynchronous. This means when you post a ping or message, you are not expecting a response right away. In a culture where everyone is working different schedules across many time zones, synchronous communication is simply unreliable to begin with. Better to treat asynchronous communication as the default, and harness calls and texts when helpful. Internal communication should be answered within 24 hours. This means that if you need an answer on something before 24 hours from now, you might need to text.
New team members, especially technical and design staff, will always need a little extra help getting up to speed on Cantilever methodologies, and should not feel guilty about asking for more synchronous communication at the outset. When possible this communication should take the form of Zoom calls with invites, but if you’re new and you are stuck until you get an answer, it’s much better to try a text or quick call than to waste time. If you’re working with a new person, expect more synchronous communication than normal.
It’s also natural that new people will need an adjustment period to adapt their planning and communication style to our paradigm. Managers should help new team members understand this exception and when to stop leaning on it.
Checking your email or software tools constantly is discouraged. This mentality promotes a “Latest and Loudest“ working style, where whatever just came through the door gets more attention than perhaps more important work that hasn’t been as recently front-of-mind.
Receiving an email or message from a colleague is NOT a request for urgent response. Emails and messages should be dealt with at your own pace.
Having extensive notifications is also not required. Our work requires focused blocks of time to oneself, engaging meetings with clients, family time, and time to breathe and reflect. Everyone likes their notifications differently, so we don‘t discourage you if you work best with frequent pings, but it is certainly not required. By default, keep push notifications off.
With all this not paying attention to inboxes, we do need to plan well to make sure we’re hitting deadlines. Have a 7-day view of your calendar at any given time, don’t get surprised.
That said, we do run into emergencies from time to time, and need the phone to handle them. You should expect calls and texts rarely, but they are important and you should answer them as quickly as possible.
Here is what we expect of a typical team member at Cantilever:
- When tagged in a software tool, or when you receive an internal email, reply within 24 business hours if you possibly can.
- Note: Most software supports the notion of “Watching” or “Subscribing” to a task or thread. If you are merely “subscribed”, you are not on the hook for seeing every single comment. If you are tagged with the at-symbol on any thread or task, you are expected to see and reply to that comment appropriately.
- When a client asks a question of you through a software tool or email, reply within 24 business hours.
- Answer any calls or texts right away during your normal working times. This should happen rarely. Otherwise, our planning is not good enough and we are improvising too much.
- If someone texts you that there is a real emergency (ex. a client site has been hacked and is selling pills... someone stole our bank information...), please answer if you are free outside of your normal working times. Do not text during a piano recital, do not take a call in the back of a wedding, do not text while driving!
Client Strategists and Legal/Finance officers have higher communication expectations. If you are leading a team, we do ask that you answer calls or texts when convenient even outside your normal working time, to enable the team to solve problems with your insight. We also ask that you answer client calls whenever possible, and reply quickly to texts when they are urgent (something is gravely broken). Most bugs and “emergencies“ can wait the standard 24 business hours to reply. The definition of “emergency” is subjective.
Everyone has a right to be completely off the grid whenever they’re taking time off. For most team members this is just a matter of setting an auto-responder, and letting the team know. For client contacts and legal/finance officers, you must also ensure that any emergencies while you are off can be handled by the rest of the team.
For Client Strategists that means ensuring your client knows who to contact during your absence in case of emergency, and making sure that person is up to speed on the project(s). For Leadership, this means continually ensuring that access to all critical business functions is available to more people than you, and that any scheduled activities (payroll, contract review, etc) have been delegated in advance.
As a remote team, we spend a looooot of time on
Be on time
If you can’t make a call on time, ping the other people on the call via Basecamp as early as you can. Pinging at the time of the meeting means people have probably already interrupted their days.
Have good audio
We should work wherever we are most comfortable, but when it comes to calls, we should be in a quiet place, with headphones. Feel free to schedule calls according to when you will be in a quiet place.
Stay off mute if possible
It’s hard to get a good, bubbling conversation when people are turning mute on and off, forgetting to unmute, etc. There are obviously plenty of situations where mute is merited, but as a default, please stay audible.
There’s little reason not to record a call in Zoom. Get the recording and throw it in Basecamp when you’re done, just in case you can’t remember something that was said later.
Be engaged & focused
If you’re on a call, get involved and have your voice heard. Turn off your phone, chat apps and email.
Special Etiquette for Client Calls
For client calls, we should arrive 5 minutes early. If the client is early, that gives us extra time to build the relationship by finding out more about each other.
Be really prepared
Have deliverables in a predictable, polished format where the client will not need to wait for things to load. Have development deliverables in a staging site you’ve tested thoroughly, not a local environment.
Screen share with care
If you are screen sharing, turn off EVERYTHING aside from the work you are showing. Do not open your email while sharing. Do not open Basecamp. Be incredibly cautious about this. The times it goes wrong, it goes really wrong.
Be extra engaged
You may only need to listen in on a colleague’s presentation, but find moments to make clarifications, reinforce points the presenter is making, and help guide the call in the right direction. Be amiable with the client and make small talk. Take notes.
End early and quickly
By being focused, prepared, and early, we should be able to save everyone time by finishing meetings quickly. This is one of the little ways we can make our clients feel taken care of. They should look forward to, not dread, their meetings with us.