At Tandem, we're obsessed with simplicity, speed, and reducing friction - whether it's getting into a conversation, or collaborating in real time. Why? Of course fast, simple, intuitive tools feel awesome (e.g. Superhuman, Sublime Text). But more than that, speed allows you to stay in flow, spend less time on mechanics, and more time connecting.
When you're remote, it can be difficult to connect with your team while also staying in flow. Here are some tips:
For a quick chat, simply wave 👋 at a teammate who's free—like a tap on the shoulder. Or click ⏰ Notify me when free and Tandem will ping you when they're available and not in a meeting or room.
No more nervously checking calendar! With Meeting Reminders, you can stay in flow until the last possible second. Works for both Tandem meetings and other services - e.g. Zoom, Meet. Go to Settings > Meetings.
Be a super-collaborator with shortcuts
Get everyone on the same page: No more: "Hey can you send me the doc?" - Instead, instantly send a link to your current active tab with Cmd+Shift+L (Ctrl-Shift-L on Windows).
Help a teammate: Click on your teammate's name for a tooltip for helpful actions. Instead of asking someone to screenshare → click + R to request screenshare. You can also end screenshare if they forget. Instead of asking someone to mute...just do them a favor and mute them - they'll get a polite notification.
Mute/unmute yourself with CMD+SHIFT+M (Ctrl-Shift-M on Windows) Modify and enable shortcuts for video and screen share in Settings > Preferences.
Walk & talk 🚶
Screen fatigue is the enemy of flow. Use our handy iOS app to stretch your legs on a walking 1-on-1, take a call on the go, or listen in to a room. Your virtual office in your pocket!
What's your favorite way to stay in flow? Let us know!
What top teams say:
"Tandem is what's allowed us to function well as a distributed team. Our average meeting times are shorter than on Zoom, and there's less friction when you just need to talk to someone for a few minutes."
—Everett Cook, CEO - Rho Banking powers collaborative finance for fast-growing companies.
"Tandem gives us the space to work on things together, without having to schedule back-to-back meetings."
—Dani Sandoval, Dir. of Design - Chipper Cash is the leading platform for cross-border payments in Africa.
Rajiv is co-founder of Tandem, a collaboration platform built from the ground up for distributed teams. Prior to Tandem, Rajiv led remote teams at both startups and large multinational corps. This is Part I of a three-part series synthesizing knowledge from more than 100 teams.
Summary: Create and initiate low-friction opportunities for spontaneousconversations, e.g. hanging out in themed meeting rooms.
Psychological safety—the freedom to speak up without fear of negative criticism or consequence—is the best-studied social dynamic of effective teams.
Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmondson describes a psychologically-safe team as one where “Individuals feel they can speak up, express their concerns, and be heard…they’re not full of fear…[they are] more interested in learning, excellence, and genuinely connecting with others than in looking good.” As has been shown again and again, psychological safety unlocks creative and productive collaboration.
This means that, for any team, cultivating psychological safety should be a priority. In person, here’s what this looks like:
After an important meeting, John notices Erin looks worried, so swivels his chair and asks her if everything’s okay, leading to a deeper conversation…
Rick gets a frustrating email, takes a minute to vent to his teammate while getting coffee. Another teammate makes a clever joke about the situation, they all laugh and leave with higher spirits…
Distributed teams, however, rarely have opportunities for spontaneous conversation. This can create a vicious cycle — less psychological safety means people initiate fewer conversations, which distances team members even more.
A number of tactics can help, like creating a culture of one-on-ones, prioritizing video to build personal connection, and training new employees in Non-Violent Communication (also see John Cutler’s amazing compiled list). However, to integrate psychological safety into the fabric of your team dynamic, there must be regular opportunities for spontaneous conversation. This means that—counterintuitively—you need to schedule it.
Step 1: Create a “meeting room”. Using your favorite meeting software, schedule an open meeting for a 2–4 hour chunk of time. We’ve found consistently that dropping into an open “room” feels less intrusive than initiating a group call — it’s an invitation, not an expectation.
Step 2: Experiment with framing. Depending on your team’s culture and the current level of urgency, try out different work-focused and non-work-focused themes for these meetings. Here are a few ideas from top teams we talked with:
“Office Hours for Project X”
Step 3: Get feedback and revise. Ask your team what they think and encourage them to create their own ad-hoc meeting rooms — maybe one will stick!
Every team will find unique habits that work for them. Joel Goyette, Head of Product at Scott’s Cheap Flights, says “As a distributed team, we try to maximize face-time, but voice-only co-working has been extremely valuable during early and late stages of projects, where synchronous communication is most helpful.” (@joelgoyette on Twitter)
For Alexa Meyer, Coa CEO and former Director of Growth at Keen.io — a company I admire for its intentional culture — adding a monthly remote happy hour to the team calendar meant that “teammates felt less isolated, had more trust, and were able to work through problems more effectively.” (@alexakmeyer on Twitter).
And details matter. A friend who is a Performance Program Manager at Google says that sometimes they’ll have a mixed remote and in-person gathering for special occasions like a baby shower:
At the start everyone feels part of it since we get to clap, congratulate, etc. Eventually the in-person room starts mingling, and the people on the call aren’t getting as much out of the party. It’s helpful if someone says “Thanks for joining remotely! Anything you folks want to say before you drop off?” Doing what you can to increase the fidelity of these situations is challenging, but worthwhile.
“Doing what you can to increase the fidelity of these situations is challenging, but worthwhile.” — Perf Mgr, Google
Now a question
What single tool or grouphabit has most helped your team in building psychological safety?
This is the first of a three-part series unpacking Psychological Safety in remote teams. In Part II, we’ll look at transparency and meta-communication.