Remote working and managing shout-outs

Remote working can be damn hard because as a member of a team you’re potentially isolated from all the good cultural and social aspect of working in a team. No bonding time, no one patting on your back when you do good and a lot of misinterpretation and gossip happening over Slack or other real-time collaboration tool you might be using.

This is a true statement especially when your company only works remotely partially.

What do I mean by partially? Well in 2018 a lot of “teams” are approaching and joining the remote-work movement and although doing it seems simple, the truth is that growing a culture where the team or part of the team succeeds in remote working is damn hard.

Most teams do this semi-remote layout: A team of 5-10 people in a location and another 5-10 people wandering around the globe.

If you’re one of the lucky 5-10 that wander then you can imagine how frustrating it must be to lose touch with the team that works in the same location/office.

My favorite reason in favor of a culture of remote working

  • Productivity: Lack of distractions
  • Flexibility: Work from anywhere (as long as you can connect to the Wi-Fi)
  • Family: Be closer to family, no commute
  • Lower cost: You don’t really need a car or stress of having to travel miles and miles to your office desk
  • Independence: You can work on your schedule, without feeling guilty that everyone’s gone out for lunch and left you in the office
  • Comfy level: Wear whatever you want even that silly yellow top with cats and birds that no one ever saw you wear

Remote work biggest downsides

  • Isolation: You might feel lonely, a LOT.
  • Disconnect: Detachment from team culture, not knowing how hard at work everyone is and feeling that energy of “we’re in this together as a team doing stuff”
  • Communication challenges: You miss out on information cues from human body language and many feelings and voice tones that can go missing over the internet
  • Home distractions: Pets, Television, Radio, Family members anything can distract you even food and/or cooking
  • Unable to switch off: You are able to work all day and never stop because your work is with you all day

I have, luckily, done remote work for many years, both in a semi-remote enviroment and in a fully remote-environment: the one thing that really gives me nightmares when working remotely is being unable to track who is doing great work in my team.

Using tools like Slack etc is cool, but at the end of the quarter you want to know, who did amazing, who exceeded expectations and why/how?

Luckily, for all of us productivity nerds, we got tools like Trello where you can track tasks and build amazing to-do lists.

What if we used the same tech to build out a system that aims at rewarding those who have gone far and beyond expectations?

When you want to let someone know they did a good job what do you do?
Do you send them a “good job email”?
Do you slack them and tell them how good that work was? That’s probably the best case scenario!

I think email is what most of us do, because it feels more official and you can’t fake a sent email address that easily.

Trello Karma board

Tracking who did good is hard. That’s why you have to have a Karma board!
I use Trello for most of my task management so naturally I’ve opted to build something around Trello!

This is what you need:

  • A Zapier account
  • A place where you can host some code for middleware
  • A Trello board with 1 list per each team-member

This is how you use the Karma board.

Every member of the team has it’s own list, the name of the list matches partially the email address of the member of the team (example: if my email is then the list would be called john or john.doe if there’re multiple johns in the company)

Karma board image preview

Using Zapier, I set up a zap that takes an incoming email, parses the content and forwards it to my middleware.
I am looking for two things here:

  • the email address of the person receiving the email (the TO: field)
  • the kudos/karma message from the email

The first data will tell me who needs to be “praised” and the second data will give me the reason why the person is being praised

Then I automagically combine the two into a Trello board and I get praises per persons via email extrapolation, every time I send a praise email with CC’d the praise-bot’s email address.

Now when someone praises me and CC’s the bot into the praise email, this is what gets added at the top of my praise-list:

Praise view