Remote work

A Guide To Documentation For Remote Teams

Whether your team is remote or not, documentation makes a difference in streamlining operations and making everyone’s life easier. Remote teams, especially asynchronous remote teams thrive when your organization lives on top of a structured information that comes via documentation.

But documentation for remote teams is a sea, you can never add enough information and it certainly isn’t a one off project. It is an ongoing process that once started and has to be shaped by closely working with your team and understanding the bottlenecks and challenges for coming up with solutions that make documentation a lot better.

With that being said, we do believe that there’s a better way for us to start documentation for remote teams. Let’s start taking a look at common challenges that remote teams face with and without documentation and what type of documentation should give your remote team a good start.

The Need For Documentation In Remote Teams?

When teams are remote, we notice a range of issues that can only be solved by documentation that provides comprehensive information on everything important, eliminating the need for remote workers to scavenge for information. Some of these common challenges that come with lack of documentation are: 

  1. Not knowing standard operating procedures for common, well known processes 
  2. Employees don’t know what to do with employee-employer tasks like taking paid leaves, requesting over time, getting a sick leave issued, etc. Things become even more complicated as we go with teams distributed across time zones as lack of documentation makes it difficult to comprehend things like approved local public holidays
  3. Loosely defined goals that lead to unclear situations and unclear directions. Commonly, the activities that lead to a goal completion, and KPIs/metrics, if are unclear, it creates a big problem in terms of directions.
  4. If the source of information or knowledge within your organisation is limited to a few individuals, your team might find it hard to get information or knowledge at scale. This lack of knowledge often transforms into loss of proactive learning and scalability bottlenecks. 
  5. Have you ever come across a situation where your team members aren’t aware of the decisions made just because they missed a Slack thread where it was casually mentioned or because it was on a call that your team members weren’t a part of? Documented decisions definitely go a long way in helping everyone with the direction and goals.
  6. “What was the result of our Q1 experiment for X” - this isn’t uncommon to hear either. Truth is, when we run sprints and experiments and verbally or improperly slack-thread results - we ignore the fact that someday someone would need similar answers and may or may not be able to find what happened with a specific sprint or an experiment. 

Documentation For Daily/weekly Tasks 

While daily task documentation can be too much, but it certainly is easy to follow a format as shown below for weekly documentation of tasks: 

Weekly Sprints:

15/02/2021

Weekly Tasks

  1. David: Launch 10 new experiments 
  2. Glenn: Modify payment_processor and add 20 more characteristics
  3. Tracy: Test new PR campaign with 150 publications 

Lessons learned from last week

  1. David: Tracking utms across tools can be hard, we need Segment to push that information across all tools
  2. Glenn: 20% of all refunds claimed were fraud, our automated appealing system wins 99% of the time saving us $1,000 per week
  3. Tracy: We should provide an additional document to publications before conducting first outreach. 

What makes the above format very interesting is that it documents what was done(can be found under 08/02/2021) , what you are going to do and what you learned from the execution of tasks during the past week. 

When this document is open and shared for everyone within the company, it certainly becomes easier to look back on the dates and see what you did and what was the outcome of the work.

Documentation For Sprints

A big mistake that many make is defining sprints as a list of tasks to be done. Once a sprint is over, some level of retrospection is done and it is rarely documented. Documentation of tasks done, time taken, efficiency notes, sprint burndown, etc ensures that your sprint isn’t just another checklist that once over, gets forgotten. 

Documentation For Decisions

Every major yearly, quarterly or even monthly decisions that are made should be documented and stored on a company-wide accessible documentation platform that can either be on something as simple as Google docs or on a platform like Notion. 

Documentation For Goals

These are the type of goals that should be documented: 

  1. Company wide goals that everyone should be aware of
  2. Individual goals - goals that aren’t team specific, but are specific to you

Now, depending upon your values, you can either make all goals public or only keep company goals public. 

Documentations For SOPs

Each and every standard operating procedure within your organisation should be documented and be accessible to relevant team members. While documenting SOPs, make sure you aid them with videos and audio recordings. There are a range of tools available like Loom that can help you improve your documentation. 

Another important thing to keep in mind while documenting the standard operating procedures is to start by talking to your team and understanding their core problems. Then, collect solutions to the best of your knowledge and build an initial outline. Now, see what is available in terms of tools to make this documentation more helpful to your team members. Launch your documentation for SOP, collect feedback and then create a roadmap with future updates based on the feedback received. 

Documentation For Human Resources

Humans resource guidelines are poorly documented in human resources. You need to ensure that you document the following for your remote team when it comes to human resource related information: 

  1. Paid and sick leaves procedure
  2. Reimbursement information 
  3. Benefits - Travel, conferences, books, insurance, etc 
  4. Employee referral bonus 
  5. Invoicing 
  6. Etiquettes and culture documentation 
  7. Ethics documentation 

Documentation For Knowledge Base

Create a company Wiki that goes beyond simpler “how-to”s and is able to collect information that is shared within your Slack workspace or any other such tool. Tools like Notion and Kipwsie help your team directly store important links from slack chats to a repository with just one command.

We hope this guide helps you work more productively.

At Holopod, we spend a great deal of time on helping remote teams go async and work productively. If you're curious click this link and sign-up for free to start improving your remote team workflow.