Communication

We're a distributed, remote-only company where people work remotely without missing out. For this, we use asynchronous communication and are as open as we can be by communicating through public issues, chat channels, and placing an emphasis on ensuring that conclusions of offline conversations are written down. These communication guidelines are meant to facilitate smooth communication in an ever-growing remote-only company.

External communication

External communication

Everything starts with an issue

  1. Always create an issue for things you work on. If it is worth spending time on, it is worth creating an issue since that enables other people to learn and help. You can always edit the description or close it when the problem changed to something different or was solved.

  2. If a user suggests an enhancement, try and find an existing issue that addresses their concern, or create a new one. Ask if they'd like to elaborate on their idea in one of these issues.

  3. Double link issues to prevent internal confusion and us failing to report back to the reporters. For example, open an issue with a link to ZenDesk and close the issue with a copy of the response. Or add "Report: " lines to the description with links to relevant issues and feature requests and ensure they are closed and note this with a comment. If you are not responsible for reporting back please do not close an issue, instead re-assign it.

  4. If two issues are related, crosslink them (a link from each issue to the other one). Put the link at the top of each issue's description with a short mention of the relationship (Report, etc.). If there are more than 2 issues, use one issue as the central one and crosslink all issues to this one. Please, also crosslink between ZenDesk and [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] issues.

  5. After a discussion about a feature update the issue body with the consensus or final conclusions. This makes it much easier to see the current state of an issue for everyone involved in the implementation and prevents confusion and discussion later on.

  6. Submit the smallest item of work that makes sense. When creating an issue describe the smallest fix possible, put suggestions for enhancements in separate issues and link them. If you're new to [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] and are writing documentation or instructions, submit your first merge request for at most 20 lines.

  7. Do not leave issues open for a long time, issues should be actionable and realistic. If you are assigned to an issue but don't have time to work on it, assign it to someone else.

  8. Make a conscious effort to prioritize your work. The priority of items depends on multiple factors: Is there a team member waiting for the answer? What is the impact if you delay it? How many people does it affect, etc.? 

  9. We try not to assign issues to people but to have people pick issues in a milestone themselves.

  10. Assign an issue to yourself as soon as you start to work on it, but not before that time. If you complete part of an issue and need someone else to take the next step, re-assign the issue to that person.

  11. When re-assigning an issue, make sure that the issue body contains the latest information. The issue body should be the single source of truth.

  12. When working on an issue, ask for feedback from your peers. For example, if you're a designer and you propose a design, ping a fellow designer to review your work. If they approve, you can move it to the next step. If they suggest changes, you get the opportunity to improve your design. This promotes collaboration and advances everyone's skills.

  13. We keep our promises and do not make external promises without internal agreement.

  14. Do not close an issue until it is done.

  15. When closing an issue leave a comment explaining why you are closing the issue.

Internal Communication

Internal Communication

  1. All written communication happens in English, even when sent one on one, because sometimes you need to forward an email or chat.

  2. Use asynchronous communication when possible (issues and email instead of chat).

  3. Issues are preferred over email, email is preferred over chat, announcements happen on the team call agenda, and people should be able to do their work without getting interrupted by chat.

  4. To use email instead of chat it is OK to send an internal email that contains only a short message, similar as you would use in chat. Save time by not including a salutation like 'Hi Emma,' and first write the subject of the email which you copy and paste into the body. You are not expected to be available all the time. It is perfectly fine to respond to emails and chat mentions until your planned work hours.

  5. Sometimes synchronous communication is the better option, but do not default to it. For example, a video call can clear things up quickly when you are blocked. See the guidelines on video chats for more detail.

  6. It is very OK to ask as many questions as you have, but ask them so many people can answer them and many people see the answer (so use issues or public chat channels instead of private messages or one-on-one emails) and make sure you document the answers.

  7. If you mention something (a merge request, issue, commit, webpage, comment, etc.) please include a link to it.

  8. All company data should be shareable by default. Don't use a local text file but rather leave comments on an issue.

  9. When someone asks something to give back a deadline or that you did it. Answers like: 'will do', 'OK', 'it is on my todo list' are not helpful. If it is small is better to spend 2 minutes and do the tasks so the other person can mentally forget about it. If it is large you need to figure out when you'll do it, by returning that information the other person might decide to solve it in another way if it takes too long.

Email Etiquette

Email Etiquette

  1. Send one email per subject as multiple items in one email will cause delays (have to respond to everything) or misses (forgot one of the items).

  2. Always reply to emails by replying to all, even when no action is needed. This lets the other person know that you received it. A thread is done when there is a single word reply, such as OK, thanks, or done.

  3. If you forward an email without other comments please add FYI (for your information), FYA (for your action), or FYJ (for your judgment). If you forward an external request with FYJ it just means the person who forwarded it will not follow up on the request and expects you to decide if you should follow up or not.

  4. Email forwarding rules are specified in the shared Email, Slack, and [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] Groups and Aliases Google Doc accessible only to people in the company. If you want to be added or removed from an internal alias (for example, "[email protected][INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME].com"), change a rule, or add a forwarding email alias, please suggest an edit in the doc.

  5. Emails are asynchronous, for example, if your manager emails you on a weekend it is fine to reply during the workweek.

If an email is or has become urgent feel free to ping people via chat referencing the subject of the email.

Chat

Chat

  1. If you use chat, please use a public channel and mention the person or group you want to reach. This ensures it is easy for other people to chime in, involve other people if needed, and learn from whatever is discussed.

  2. If you use chat and plan to message 3 or more people, we recommend to create a chat channel for customer/issue/project/problem/partnership.

  3. If you're only referring to someone, but don't actually need their attention, and want to spare them from getting notified, spell out their name normally without @ mentioning them.

  4. Despite the instantaneous nature of chat, it should be considered asynchronous communication. Don't expect an instantaneous response; you have no idea what the other person is doing.

  5. If you must send a private message, don't start a conversation with "Hi" or "Hey" as that interrupts their work without communicating anything. If you have a quick question, just ask the question directly and the person will respond asynchronously. If you truly need to have a synchronous communication, then start by asking for that explicitly, while mentioning the subject. e.g. "I'm having trouble understanding issue #x, can we talk about it quickly?".

  6. Because we work globally, you may receive chat mentions at any time of day. Please consider enabling Slack's Do not disturb functionality so you don't get interrupted, for example, in your evenings.

  7. Do not feel obligated to respond to chat messages when you are not working.

  8. Feel free to send a colleague a link to these guidelines if the communication in Slack should be done asynchronously.

  9. If something is important but not urgent - like complimenting or encouraging the entire team - use email or post in the channel without @-mentioning the team.

  10. If you agree in a chat to start a video call (typically by asking "Call?") the person that didn't leave the last comment starts the call. So either respond to the "Call?" request with a video link or say "Yes" and let the other person start it. Don't say "Yes" and start a call 5 seconds later since it is likely you'll both be creating a video call link at the same time.

  11. The usage of ChatBots for integrations can sometimes depend upon the name of the chat room. You should consult the room about such integrations before changing the name of commonly used / popular rooms in order to avoid inadvertently breaking integrations.

  12. If you are aware that your teammate is on vacation, avoid mentioning them in a high volume channel. It will be difficult to find the information or question when they return. If you need to ensure they refer back to the thread, ensure to send them a link to the relevant Slack message through a direct message.

  13. It's not rude to leave a channel. When you're no longer interested in the conversations happening in a channel, feel free to leave it so it won't distract you anymore.

Google Docs

Google Docs

  1. Never use a Google Doc / Presentations for something non-confidential that has to end up on the website or the handbook. Work on these edits via commits to a merge request. Then link to the merge request or diff to present the change to people. This prevents a duplication of effort and/or an out of date handbook.

  2. If you do need a Google Doc, create one with your company G Suite (formerly Google Apps) account. By default, share it with the whole company using the Anyone at [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] can find and access link sharing permission and the Anyone within [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] can edit access permission (preferred) or the Anyone within [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] can comment access permission. Easily do this by creating Google Docs within a Shared Folder in Google Drive.

  3. When referring to a Google Doc or folder on the Google Drive in the handbook, refrain from directly linking it. Instead, indicate the name of the doc. If you link the url people from outside the organization can request access, creating workload and the potential for mistakes. (In the past, linking a Google Doc has led to inadvertently opening the sharing settings beyond what was intended.) This also helps prevent spam from people outside [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] requesting access to a doc when clicking its link.

  4. If you are having trouble finding a shared Google Doc, make sure you Search <your domain> in Google Drive.

  5. If you want to quickly find where a team member's cursor is in a Google Doc, click their icon at the top of the document and the app will jump you to the current location. This works in Sheets and Presentations as well.

Team Calls

Team Calls

  1. Schedule

    • PST: 08:30 am to 09:00 am - Monday to Thursday

    • UTC: 03:30 pm to 04:00 pm - Monday to Thursday

    • CEST: 05:30 pm to 06:00 pm - Monday to Thursday

  2. APAC schedule

    • PST: 09:30 pm to 10:00 pm - Monday

    • UTC: 04:30 am to 05:00 am - Tuesday

    • CEST: 06:30 am to 07:00 am - Tuesday

  3. Everyone at [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] is invited to the team call.

  4. We also have a team call for [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME]bers in the APAC region. This call will also be recorded so the rest of the team can see what their colleagues have been up to! Everyone is encouraged to join this call as well, but it is not mandatory.

  5. Every last Friday of the month we have an AMA to talk about anything our team is thinking about.

  6. We use Zoom for the call since Google Hangouts is capped at 15 people (please be sure to mute your microphone). If using the Zoom web app, you can go to settings and check always mute microphone when joining a meeting.

  7. The link is in the calendar invite and also listed at the top of the team agenda Google Doc called Team Agenda.

  8. The call is recorded automatically, and all calls are transferred every hour to a Google Drive folder called "[INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] Videos". There is a subfolder called "[INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] Team Call", which is accessible to all users with a [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME].com e-mail account.

  9. We start on time and do not wait for people.

  10. The person who has the first item on the agenda starts the call.

  11. If you are unable to attend just add your name to the team agenda as "Not attending".

  12. We start by discussing the subjects that are on the agenda for today.

    • Everyone is free to add subjects. Please start with your name and be sure to link to an issue, merge request, or commit if it is relevant.

    • When done with a point mention the subject of the next item and hand over to the next person.

    • When someone passes the call to you, no need to say, “Can you hear me?” Just begin talking. If we can’t hear you, we’ll let you know.

  13. After the general announcements, each team call has an assigned topic for team members to share their personal interests. The schedule is as follows:

    • Monday: Sports & Wellness, Cooking, Creative Projects, and Entertaining

    • Tuesday: Entertainment (Music, books, TV & Movies, video/board games)

    • Wednesday: Travel, Kids, Family, and Pets

    • Thursday: Mixer Calls, where we split off into smaller groups to discuss what we have been up to. No need to add yourself to the agenda on this day.

    • Friday: Any topic

  14. Please add your name to the agenda at least 15 minutes before the team call is scheduled to start. We encourage 15-20 people to share an update of about a minute to leave time for all listed on the agenda. If you see that a particular day is congested and you have already shared over the last 2 weeks, please consider moving your name to a later week.

  15. It is OK to talk over people or interrupt people to ask questions, cheer for them or show your compassion. This encourages more conversation and feedback in the call. Also see the interruption item in video calls.

  16. Please look if the person you hand over to is present in the participant list so you don't hand over to someone who is not present.

  17. The last person wishes everyone a good day.

  18. Even if you cannot join the call, consider reviewing the recorded call or at minimum read through the team agenda and the links from there. We often use the team call to make announcements or discuss changes in processes, so make sure to catch up on the news if you have missed a team call (or more).

  19. If you are scheduling a meeting, avoid scheduling during the team call so that meeting attendees do not need to choose between your meeting and the team call. As a remote workforce, the team call is an important part of our culture.

Video Calls (copy)

Video Calls

  1. Use video calls if you find yourself going back and forth in an issue/via email or over chat. Rule of thumb: if you have gone back and forth 3 times, it's time for a video call.

  2. Having pets, children, significant others, friends, and family visible during video chats is encouraged. If they are human, ask them to wave at your remote team member to say "Hi".

  3. We prefer Zoom.

  4. For meetings that are scheduled via calendar there is automatically a Google Hangouts URL added. This is the meeting place. Having a url in advance is much more reliable than trying to call via Hangouts as the meeting start.

  5. Google Calendar also has a Zoom plugin where you can easily add a Zoom link for a video call to the invite

  6. Use a headset with a microphone, Apple Earpods are great. Do not use computer speakers, they cause an echo. Do not use your computer microphone, it accentuates background noise. If you want to use your Bose headphones that is fine but please ensure the microphone is active.

  7. Consider using a utility to easily mute/unmute yourself, see Shush in the tools section.

  8. In video calls everyone should own a camera and a headset, even when they are in the same room. This helps seeing and hearing the person that is talking. It also allows people to easily talk and mute themselves. Using a headset also prevents echo. You wouldn't share an office seat together, so don't share your virtual seat at the table.

  9. We start on time and do not wait for people. People are expected to join no later than the scheduled minute of the meeting (before :01 if it is scheduled for :00). The question 'is everyone here' is not needed.

  10. It feels rude in video calls to interrupt people. This is because the latency causes you to talk over the speaker for longer than during an in-person meeting. We should not be discouraged by this, the questions and context provided by interruptions are valuable. This is a situation where we have to do something counter-intuitive to make remote-only meetings work. In [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] everyone is encouraged to interrupt the speaker in a video call to ask a question or offer context. We want everyone to contribute instead of a monologue. Just like in-person meetings be cognizant of when, who, and how you interrupt, we don't want "manterrupting".

  11. We end on the scheduled time. It might feel rude to end a meeting, but you're actually allowing all attendees to be on time for their next meeting.

Situation-Complication-Implication-Position-Action-Benefit (SCIPAB)

Situation-Complication-Implication-Position-Action-Benefit (SCIPAB)

Mandel Communications refers to SCIPAB at the "surefire, six-step method for starting any conversation or presentation." When you only have a few minutes to present your case or grab your listeners attention, this six-step process can help you communicate better and faster.

  • Situation - Expresses the current state for discussion

  • Complication - Summarzies the critical issues, challenges or opportunities

  • Implication - Provides insight into the consequences that will be a result of if the Complications are note addressed.

  • Position - Notes the presenter's opinion on the necessary changes which should be made.

  • Action - Defines the expectations of the target audience/listeners.

  • Benefit - Clearly concludes how the Position and Action sections will address the Complications. This method can be used in presentations, emails and everyday conversations. Example - The Management team asking for time to resolve a problem

  • S - The failure rate last year for product X1 was an acceptable 1.5%.

  • C - Because of supply shortages in the current fiscal year we are forced to change the material of a key component.

  • I - Unfortunately, that resulted in the failure rate doubling this year.

  • P - It is critical we address this problem immediately.

  • A - Please approve the team 5 days to investigate the specific causes of the increase and establish the necessary next steps.

  • B - By doing this we will redue the failure rate to an acceptabel level and develop guidelines for preventing such problems in the future. More information can be found at SCIPAB- Six Steps To Reach Your Audience

Youtube

Youtube

Upload conversations to Youtube

  1. If you have a conversation that might be interesting please hit start recording (unless the meeting is livestreamed already).

  2. Log in to Zoom account of the meeting and go to the menu on the right and choose "My Recordings" (it can take 30 minutes before the recording is available).

  3. Select the meeting and download the video recording to your computer (if you can't find the recording because it was a while ago check "Trash" in that menu on the top left and "Recover" the recording).

  4. Go to YouTube upload and log in to the [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] account (read the secure note in 1Password called "YouTube" for instructions on how to get access).

  5. Drag and drop your recording into the window to upload it (keep the privacy dropdown on the default 'Public' setting).

  6. While it's uploading, edit the title and description. If the video is meant to be kept unlisted on our YouTube channel, place "Confidential:" at the beginning of the video's title.

  7. Be sure to include relevant links (for example a handbook page or presentation) in the description, and add the video to any relevant playlists.

  8. When it is done uploading press publish and click on the Embed tab to get the code and place that in the relevant part of the handbook or documentation.

Don't worry about the quality

  1. There is no quality minimum, as long as it is not inappropriate or confidential please share it on our [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] Youtube channel.

  2. Everyone at the company probably has at least one conversation every week that is relevant to more people, please share it.

  3. We always list the video instead of having an unlisted video unless there is confidential content, this allows more people to find the content.

  4. Don't worry about it not being interesting to everyone, just give it a descriptive title so people know what it is about.

  5. Make sure that participants are aware that you're recording.

  6. When you hit record you don't have to be sure if it is interesting and OK to share, you can make that decision after the fact.

  7. If you record an in-person conversation via your mobile phone please hold your phone in landscape mode.

Why record?

  1. Allow other people to consume the content.

  2. Allow the participants to review the content later.

  3. No need to repeat yourself.

Why Youtube and not Google Drive?

Always use YouTube and never use Google Drive:

  1. Video's are streamed more reliably.

  2. Video's have mouse-over thumbnails.

  3. Video's can be played at a higher speed.

  4. Video's can be fast forwarded and rewinded 15 seconds.

  5. Video's can be timeshifted with a watch later list.

  6. Video's can be embedded, for example in the handbook.

  7. Video's restart after being reloaded at the right point.

  8. You can easily view Youtube on other devices like TVs.

  9. YouTube makes it easy to link to a specific time in the video.

  10. YouTube adds automatic subtitles.

  11. YouTube is zero rated by some mobile providers

  12. Youtube is a distribution channel, it will show it to people when it is relevant.

  13. Everyone can contribute by leaving comments.