How to Keep a Remote Team Connected


Long before 2020, the year that changed everything but made the world remote friendly. Zenbooks opened the door to working from home in 2015. A paperless cloud accounting firm with employees from coast to coast.

 

So when I started working for Zenbooks in late July I was wondering how this whole remote culture really works. Will I actually get to know my co-workers or will it feel like I am talking to an AI? Speaking to one of the founders, Colin, I got an idea of what their goals were and still are. Being more “effective and efficient and able to better serve business owners if you don’t have to commute” is their main goal.
 

After a little chat with both Colin and Eric, Principal, I realized why Zenbooks makes it work, they’re on the same page. “Context and freedom, we monitor output rather than count how many hours someone does,” says Eric. Colin spoke about how “independent people work remotely on their own terms,” “for some people it works well, for some it doesn’t” says Eric. I felt like they were finishing each other’s sentences, even though we spoke days apart, that’s teamwork!

 
I was hired as an Experience Coordinator, and among other things I make sure that our remote team feels connected. In the first two weeks, I scheduled “Buddy Chats” with each employee to get to know them. No, we didn’t talk about work, we talked about sport, games, music and life. I felt like I was starting to get to know the team, each accountant as an individual.

What has helped the team feel more connected?

Daily “Check-in” Zoom calls with the whole team are a great way to see what everyone is doing for the day. “You get to learn about people professionally and personally” says Albert, our Tax Manager.  I guess it’s also a way for managers to make sure we are not slacking off. Though, to be honest, I feel like the whole team is trusted to do their work. They get their hours in without someone constantly knocking on your door. They’ve built trust and no one is taking advantage of it. Joel, who has been working with Zenbooks since 2018, talked to me about working remote pre and post Covid. I wanted to know if anything had changed. “Where we are today is where we were pre-Covid, we were well placed to welcome it, work-wise.”

Different clubs are another fantastic way to feel connected, take a break from work or talk about the things you love. Once a month, Zenbooks hosts a Film Club where movie buffs can share insight on classics or new releases. I’ve had the pleasure to attend one session so far and let me tell you, you can learn a lot about someone discussing movies. In our busy schedules, everyone tries to make time for social events. “It’s good that they’re available without being an obligation” said Colin “but you have to be purposeful.” I thought long and hard about what that could mean. “Make sure you get the most out of it”, Colin told me. While Joel spoke about missing the social aspect when he started working remotely. “We try to mimic that with our events and now I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Next up is the Social Hour, again, it’s a monthly event. Someone on the team can present, we can play a game, or learn something new. After almost two months at Zenbooks, I’ve realized that these amazing events are a great way to get to know your team and stay connected. However, it’s so important that they have structure. During my interview, Eric told me that I’d be coming on board to keep the momentum they have. Once I started working I realized how right he was, the team isn’t lacking any spirit. “I feel like we are more connected than the traditional office,” says Patrick, who I later learned is a huge Bob Ross fan. Can you guess which team members owned a yurt? Which are part of a secret skincare club? Or who recently came back from Japan?

Cafe Meetings are a weekly social event where you can check in with the team via Zoom. You can even stay muted and just listen to what others are discussing while doing your work. Who doesn’t love to eavesdrop? All jokes aside, the Cafe Meetings are a great midweek relaxer. You can grab a coffee and vent about your day and check in how everyone else is doing.

I feel like Slack and Zoom are just a given! So many photos the team shares from their hikes, travels, pets (oh so many adorable pets) and of course the obvious accounting meme here and there. Sometimes our kids make a guest appearance at the meetings but it’s quickly back to work.


After speaking to a few people from our team I’ve realized that we all feel the same way. “We all came to Zenbooks with a remote work mindset” says Albert. What does that mean? It’s not just a remote mindset, it’s a “work-life balance mentality where everyone truly cares about each other” Albert reinforced how I felt about the team. “The work-life balance that working remotely provides doesn’t mean slacking off. It means we work hard when we work. We have pride in what we do for business owners. And working remotely allows us to disconnect quickly once we’re done.” says Eric.

So, is remote work really worth it? Think about how many more options the employer has to hire the best and the brightest. Employees also get to work with other best and brightest now, too. A survey by Owl labs states that remote workers are 22% happier than those working onsite. I’ve asked and the team consensus is “yes, it’s worth it.” When we have so much freedom and flexibility it actually builds trust between employer and employee. “I feel like everyone has different times that their productivity peaks, and I feel fortunate that I have the flexibility to work at the times that work best for me while still meeting our clients’ needs” said Jess, Director of Accounting, as she laughed. Jess always laughs and it’s really contagious because she has the best laugh.

Finally Meeting in Person

At the end of August, the team had the privilege to meet in person, for the first time all together! Some of us flew over while others took the ferry, where we spent a beautiful five days together discovering Victoria, B.C. Staying steps away from harbourfront; our days were jam packed with activities. Hiking, biking, a craft brew tour, yoga, volleyball, a boat cruise were a few of the activities the Zenbooks team participated in.


Once I landed in Victoria I took a walk around downtown and saw a familiar face, it was Albert with his fiancé. It did not feel strange to run over and give them a hug. Even after a month online, I feel comfortable to do so. Then during one of our team building activities Eric said “nothing was a surprise, everyone’s personalities come through via Zoom but in person it’s just amplified.” That is the same thing Jess said when we spoke.


I spoke to Greg, Tax Accountant, who told me he wears his Zenbooks shirt with pride. “I’d be so proud and excited to tell people about my workplace!” said Greg. He quickly added “to say they’re better and more generous than other companies wouldn’t be enough.” That is the general consensus I got after speaking with everyone about working for Zenbooks. To say we have team pride and spirit would be an understatement.

After speaking to the team, I realized that Remote Work might not be for everyone. If it’s for you, you’ll love it. Remote work, as we learned, is more and more popular with both employees and employers. Not only does it increase productivity, it turns out employees are happier. Now that you know how we do things at Zenbooks, we would love for you! How do you keep your remote team engaged?



Zenbooks has been Canada’s go-to cloud accounting firm since 2015.   Zenbooks combines modern cloud technology with our in-house expert analysis. We provide you with the online accounting service and guidance that best suits your business needs. From tax planning to payroll and monthly accounting services. They’re your finance team! (follow our blog here.)
Mia Markovic, Experience Coordinator

Mia Markovic, Experience Coordinator

Mia graduated from Concordia University with a Bachelor in Political Science and a Graduate Diploma in Public Relations Management from McGill University. Her wide range of experience includes organizing media ethics events worldwide, political and marketing campaigns, teaching at summer camps to founding two experiential learning centers in Belgrade, Serbia. Mia loves hiking, adventures and exploring with her family. Environment, ecology and reducing her carbon footprint are issues she finds very important. Her dream is to one day have a backyard and garden.
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