March 28 2022

Can you build remote teams successfully?

Remote working is rapidly growing. A study by Upwork found that 73% of businesses will have remote teams by 2028. So how can you build a remote team successfully? Every aspect from hiring and managing remote employees to creating a great company culture is important. Read on for key insights into building a successful remote team.

Remote working increases productivity

The pandemic led to a seismic shift towards working from home. Some managers and business owners were initially sceptical about this transition from the office. And their concerns were not unfounded, but perhaps not for the reasons we expected.

In the UK, 67% of employees felt isolated while working from home. A further 56% said they found it harder to switch off. Isolation and lack of engagement are two of the very real issues with remote working that can lead to burnout.

Despite some reservations, the data shows UK managers actually found that when managed correctly, remote teams were 52% more productive than before the pandemic. Since the pandemic, boosting productivity in remote teams has become increasingly important.

So whether you opt for 100% remote working or a hybrid of office and home working, knowing how to build a successful remote team is essential.

Companies who’ve built successful remote teams 

Gitlab and Hotjar are two great examples of companies that have operated using fully remote teams for years. Both of these companies say that building successful remote teams requires implementing intentional strategies, ones that they have carefully refined. 

It’s clear that supporting remote working is very different from simply allowing it. To explore how to build effective remote teams and manage productivity, what better place to gain insights than from the companies who have been doing it successfully.


Gitlab, a DevOps platform, was launched in 2014. For the folks at Gitlab, remote working is not just another perk. It’s a way of life.

The company boasts an 85% employee retention rate and productivity is high too. So what’s their secret?

How Gitlab build and manage effective remote teams 

1. Use handbooks and how-to guides to promote seamless collaboration

Gitlab places a lot of emphasis on documentation and handbooks. One of the downfalls for companies early on in the remote process is often the delays around creating a company hand book. 

Team members need to have a single source of truth to refer to. The contents can include things like device security, home office set up, work chat etiquette, and work culture.

Creating these types of reference documents early is useful. That’s because they provide the groundwork for seamless collaboration within your remote team. 

2. Excel in onboarding to reap the benefits later on

Companies such as Gitlab and Hotjar spend a lot of time onboarding new employees. They make this process as asynchronous and self learning-focused as possible. 

Gitlab says that successful onboarding leads to greater productivity, less stress, and clearer expectations. And the data support this. Companies that invest in onboarding report a 54% increase in productivity.

In Gitlab’s case, they allocate a total of two weeks for this process. They divide the process into technical, organisational, and social onboarding. 

3. Informal communication helps remote colleagues to connect

Informal communication is interaction about anything other than work. In the office, employees can chat around the coffee machine or over lunchtime. While some employees thrive on informal communication, others can find it distracting. 

Gitlab believes that the best way to manage informal communication in remote teams is to make it formal. They do this by implementing what they call ‘community impact outings’. 

These are a meaningful alternative to Zoom happy hours. Giving remote employees a framework to connect with others helps avoid burnout and isolation. It also provides clarity about how and when to communicate.

4. Transparency

Maintaining productivity in remote teams is about trust and company culture. In fact, building a culture of trust is even more important in remote teams than in office-based teams.

Truly valuing your team members means sticking to your core values. Both Gitlab and Hotjar put special value on employees being able to spend quality time with their families. They do this by holding regular family days for their employees. 

“The flexibility makes family life exponentially easier, which reduces stress and makes you more productive and motivated. You can’t put a dollar value on it – it’s priceless.”

Haydn, Regional Sales Director, GitLab


Hotjar is a platform for analysing website user behaviour. It was launched in 2012 and, like Gitlab, has been 100% remote since day one. 

Across the tech industry, turnover is at 18.3% globally. At Hotjar, turnover is 14%. So clearly they’re doing something right when it comes to their employees. 

How Hotjar build and manage effective remote teams 

1. Use communication as a way to celebrate success 

For any successful remote team, communication is key. For this reason, regular check-ins and meetings are important to keep remote teams connected and engaged. 

At Hotjar, employees join daily scrum meetings. Every Friday, team members have a remote meeting where they can share their achievements from the week. It’s a pretty nice way to end the week on a high.

2. Constantly reinforce values to promote a positive culture 

In teams that share an office, it’s often the loudest voice in the room, the neighbourhood, or the décor that dictates company culture. 

But in remote teams, company culture needs to be intentional and based on an organisation’s core values. Hotjar showcases its core values on its website as: 

  • Respect
  • Transparency
  • Collaboration
  • Direct feedback

It’s one thing identifying these values, but quite another to constantly reinforce them. Hotjar lives these core values by constantly seeking feedback both from clients and employees. Hotjar also implements discretionary bonuses and promotions linked to values.

The folks at Gitlab say:

“Culture is the barometer of how well an organisation is communicating and reinforcing its values.”


3. Use perks to empower your employees’ personal growth and wellbeing 

The perks that a company offer its remote employees are a reflection of its core values and company culture. The benefits on offer at these remote companies are more than just pleasant offerings with the aim of attracting new recruits and retaining talent.

Hotjar, for example, is serious about the personal development and empowerment of its remote workforce. Hotjar employees receive:

  • €1000 per year for personal growth.
  • €200 per month as a wellbeing allowance.
  • A Fitbit.
  • Plus other benefits (including a twice-yearly retreat).

According to a survey by Gallup, when employee wellbeing is prioritised over productivity, employers actually see an increase in productivity. 

4. Commit to regular team gatherings to build trust and strengthen connections

While Hotjar rewards employees with a retreat, regular team outings don’t need to be so ambitious. They can be as simple and as fun as a virtual quiz or online game. 

These regular get-togethers improve communication, connection, and engagement. In turn, this helps improve remote team cohesion. 

5. Self-learners make great remote employees

Hiring employees on a remote basis means access to a global talent pool. The recruitment process can also be quicker. That’s because there’s no need to make sure everyone is physically in the office at the same time. 

When hiring remotely, it’s a good idea to make sure that potential candidates align with your company core values. Candidates who are suited to remote teams are what Hotjar and Gitlab call ‘a manager of one’. 

Remote employees should be self-learners and appreciate the importance of documentation. Again, once the team member is hired, the importance of the onboarding process mustn’t be underestimated.

6. Build an awesome tech stack for your remote employees 

No remote team building can be successful without the correct tech to support collaboration, communication, and management. 

Tech stacks tend to include projects management tools, data sharing and storing resources, video conferencing and more.

Here’s what Hotjar’s tech stack looks like:

  1. HipChat (for internal communication)
  2. Basecamp (for company announcements)
  3. Trello (for collaboration)
  4. Jira (for organisation)
  5. GSuite (for collaboration and planning)
  6. Hotjar (for user insights and feedback…obviously)
  7. 15five (for gathering employee feedback)

Openwage is also a remote-first business

The foundations of Openwage were built during the pandemic, so a remote-first approach was essential. From the very beginning, we embraced remote working and have built our culture around it ever since.  

With strong core values and a compassionate company culture, we’re on a mission to make access to earnings as fair and rewarding as possible. We’ve successfully created remote teams where clarity, transparency, and employee wellbeing are a priority.

And we’re so proud of what we’ve created! Learn more about our awesome team.  

Is it possible to build successful remote teams?

Yes, with commitment and intention, it certainly is possible. Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Allow sufficient time for a comprehensive onboarding of remote employees. 
  2. Have core company values that are clearly documented and frequently constantly reinforced.
  3. Create an intentional company culture – this is an ongoing commitment.
  4. Transparency and effective communication are essential. Give equal value to feedback from employees and clients.