4 Ways To Master Remote Meetings: Key Strategies From The Distributed Teams Book

*This article was first published December 19, 2019 on Allwork.Space. See the original article here.


  • The book Distributed Teams: The Art & Practice of Working Together While Physically Apart is a practical guide that provides actionable steps on how to effectively manage remote teams.


  • The book, authored by John O’Duinn, touches on everything from why remote teams are good for business to larger social, economic, and environmental benefits or remote work.
  • The book provides key strategies that companies can implement to master remote meetings



“What if your team or organization could work well together even when physically apart?”

This question is posed on the back cover of Distributed Teams: The Art & Practice of Working Together While Physically Apart. The book, by author John O’Duinn, is a practical guide for anyone working on, managing, or starting a team with remote workers. Basically, this means that the book is for almost everyone. 

As he states in an early chapter, “If you’re not in the same physical location as all of the people you work with, you are all remote from somebody.”

O’Duinn is a distributed work veteran with experience spanning across more than 27 years of working in distributed companies and 14 years of leading distributed teams, from four-person startups to nonprofits to multinational organizations.

As the future of work becomes more and more distributed, understanding how to leverage remote work as a strength is a critical skill, both for organizations as well as for individual employees. 

The book is filled with easy to read & self-contained chapters intended to be digestible in short settings. It touches on everything from why distributed teams are good for business to tactical essentials for how to work on and manage a distributed team to the larger social, economic, & environmental benefits of distributed work culture. 

The “How” section of the book is rich with guidelines and suggestions on how to improve communication when working on a distributed team. The following are some of the top takeaways for mastering remote meetings. 


  1. Limit Interruptions

Get in the habit of not making audio or video calls where you can be interrupted.

To set yourself up for success, it is important to ensure that you can be focused and uninterrupted during a meeting. If your workspace is open plan, book a meeting room or phone booth. Don’t take audio or video calls from shared spaces, including cafes or at home with your dog. If you have an office, either at a company or at home, close the door. 


  1. Don’t use shared conference room equipment

Use your own equipment. This includes your own laptop and phone. We are most comfortable with the equipment that we use everyday, and thus will be more efficient and effective with it. The author even includes a link with tools that have worked well for him. 

If you are in a meeting room with a shared phone or built-in video conferencing, ignore them. You will be much more effective if you keep it simple and avoid additional possible technical glitches. 

This means that if there are multiple people in the same conference room, everyone should be on their own device – their own laptop with their own headset, microphone, and camera. The idea of this may seem more cumbersome when a single conference phone could be used, but if you have ever called into a conference room meeting and tried to get a word in with ten people sitting around the table in person, it should be obvious how much this can improve that experience. 


  1. Lights, camera, action

Another challenge faced in remote meetings is ensuring that not only everyone can participate, but also that everyone does so efficiently and effectively. 

To get the most out of a remote meeting or conference call, the author urges the use of audio/video – always. But to do video well requires a little bit of cinematography. Here are some things to consider to set up the shot:

  • Surroundings: sit with your back to a solid wall, not a window, and make sure there aren’t distractions in the background (such as people walking behind you or a pile of laundry)
  • Lighting: bright, uniform lighting is key to looking your best. You may need to add a desk lamp or close some curtains, but it is worth it to avoid a situation that makes you look like you are in the witness protection program or a film noir horror movie.
  • Camera angle: Place your camera and video window as close to eye level as possible to help make it feel like you are talking in person and not staring off to the side, which could make you appear distracted.


  1. Nonverbal Cues

Another huge takeaway of this section of the book is having everyone in a meeting on both audio and video. If you can’t see someone, it makes it difficult to read their reaction or prevent talking over them. With everyone in view, it is then possible to implement nonverbal cues to speed up the conversation even more. Instead of interjecting with a yes, you can use a thumbs up. Or if you would like to speak next, you can raise your hand, either literally or in a group chat used in parallel with the meeting. 

Using all of these techniques can make meetings faster, more effective, and more social, which ultimately means that everyone can be more productive and engaged, no matter where they are. 

The book continues with equally actionable strategies for calendaring, email, and management. 

As O’Duinn states in the final chapter of the book (called The Final Chapter), “Distributed teams are able to hire the best person for the job – not just the best person for the job who is willing to relocate.”

Knowing how to be an effective member of a distributed team is a competitive advantage, and anyone can learn how by starting with small changes and making those changes starting today.

Jamie & John had a meeting discussing distributed work while rotating through workstations at a local IKEA showroom.

What Coworking Memberships to Offer for Your Space

The Takeaway: Avoid Choice Overload


Sometimes, flexibility has downsides. 

Are you offering too many membership options for your coworking space? It may surprise you, but that can actually hurt your sales.

When a customer is offered with too many choices, it actually decreases their likelihood to buy. There is a great experiment conducted in 2000 by researchers from Stanford and Columbia that tested this theory of choice overload. 

...in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity. Longfellow

The jam experiment

Researchers set up a table with gourmet jam in front of a high-end grocery store. Customers walking into the store saw one of two set-ups: the first had a limited number of 6 flavors to choose from, the second had a much more extensive 24 flavors. 

The assumption of the experiment is that the more extensive selection would attract more customers, and have more sales as a result. What actually happened was quite different. 

More customers bought jam when they only had 6 flavors to choose from. Even though more people stopped to sample from table with 24 options, they were far less likely to actually buy anything at all. 

Having more choice resulted in lower sales, so no choice at all.

According to psychologist George Miller, the number of choices we can process is seven items, plus or minus two. Presented with any more than that, and we have to develop a strategy to process all the information and make an informed decision. Having to that can lead to us being indecisive, unhappy with the choice we make, or making no choice at all – just like in the case of the jam.

Choice overload & Coworking

To avoid choice overload from negatively impacting your coworking space, it is critical to keep what you are offering customers as simple as possible. Keep the memberships limited, clear, and easy to compare. 

Coworking spaces typically offer some array of the following memberships:

  • Drop-in or day pass
  • Hot Desk, Flex or Part Time 
  • Dedicated of Full Time
  • Private Office

Other variations include:

  • Hourly
  • Half-day, evening or weekend only, etc.
  • Community Membership
  • Day Pass Bundles or Punch Passes
  • Virtual Office or Mailbox Membership

See how quickly this gets complicated?

A new space that starts out with two membership options can quickly grow to a dozen or more as members request special plans for their circumstances. 

Even more options can arise when you offer multiple membership terms. Are your memberships month-to-month or do you also offer 3-month, 6-month, 12-month terms? Some spaces like to offer discounted rates for upfront payments on a multi-month plan. 

All of these options are reasonable, and many coworking spaces have members that would like them. If it works for your customer base, do it. But in addition to keeping the concept of choice overload in mind, also consider the added administrative time or accounting that is required to manage more complicated payment plans. Technology can help with this a lot, but there are still going to be humans involved as well. 

You also want to keep your customer in mind. If they have to track their hours or days on a punch card, that might be an added burden that diminishes their experience, even if they requested it. Don’t make your members do more work. It may be better to offer simple full day plans and make sure they are priced well so someone only working a half day still feels like they got their money’s worth. 

How do you determine which memberships you should offer? Talk to your customers. Yes, they will ask for every option under the sun. You will get a phone call asking for a half day when you only offer full day passes. The goal of talking to them is not to then implement everything they ask for. Your job as the space owner is to take the input, and use it to choose as few options as possible that will serve the most customers. What people ask for is not always what they need. What people ask for isn’t always the best for your business. 

The key is to not offer too much, or too little. Your members should feel like they have enough flexibility with what you are providing that their needs are being met, but not so much that they have no structure. 

Great further reading about how one coworking space revamped their membership plans for simplicity: 

Cup of Black Coffee

How to Offer Coffee at Your Coworking Space

Coffee is a workplace staple.  

There is something about that first sip of hot cup of coffee in the morning – the warmth, the rich aroma, the bitter flavor, the caffeine that helps wake us up. Drinking coffee is a ritual that goes beyond part of a morning routine, which helps explain why it is such a huge industry.

There is some solid science behind our obsession, actually. 

First, how does it work?

Caffeine Molecule

The simple explanation is that the caffeine molecules trick your brain. Caffeine blocks sleepy adenosine by binding to its receptors and allowing happy dopamine to work better.


Why do we like it? 

Mainly conditioning. We are conditioned to expect the positive buzz from caffeine when we detect the bitterness in the coffee, even though we are otherwise wired to avoid bitter tastes. This is a good thing as it can help us avoid ingesting icky things like poisonous foods. 

Drinking coffee has also become a social behavior. We get together over a hot cup of coffee with friends, clients, or by ourselves next to a fire in the wintertime. The ritual of taking a break for something like coffee is a healthy one that can help boost productivity and social connection, caffeine or not. 

Coffee & Coworking Spaces

In a coworking space, having coffee available for members is a table stakes amenity ranked as highly as a good internet connection. 

Just as important as having it at all is HOW you provide it. 

We at Jellyswitch believe deeply that the future of work is about flexibility more than anything else. Flexibility should always be put first in any decision making process. 

And – if coworking spaces can demonstrate how well they are able to provide flexibility to their members, in as many ways as possible, it can be a huge competitive advantage. 

Why is it so important for us to have such a range of options? One of the best ways to start off the day with your favorite type of coffee or tea, without having to leave the office to get it. 

You don’t have to start off with a ton of different options. At Cowork Tahoe, I started with just one and expanded from there. By listening to your members and observing their coffee or tea preferences and habits, you can start to add in the options that best suit your community. 


What options should you consider?

First, make sure you are providing really high quality coffee beans – this is also a great way to support your members’ favorite local roasters. 

The classics:

The classic pot of coffee – drip

A classic 12-14 cup pot of coffee, just like you might have at home. Because it is so familiar, many members are drawn to it. A pot of coffee can be shared by multiple people, creating opportunity for interaction. It can be made ahead of time and set to brew first thing in the morning. When members walk into the lobby in the morning, they are greeted with music and the smell of freshly brewed pot. It sets the stage for a productive work day. 

As a manager, you can make sure there is always hot coffee ready when someone walks into the kitchen. Because it is still a small pot, it doesn’t feel like you at a corporate event or a hotel – it is not a giant catering carafe, its more like the pot at the neighborhood diner. Many of our members enjoy preparing the next pot, it provides them the opportunity to contribute and share. This is one tiny piece of building a strong community, one pot of coffee at a time. 


The single cup pot 

Options that allow for a single cup to be brewed on demand are great for the person who doesn’t want to waste extra if they aren’t sure more members will be coming out for drip. Or, for the member that really appreciates a super fresh cup and isn’t sure how long that pot of coffee has been sitting there.  While it doesn’t lend itself to creating interactions between members in the same way that a full pot can, its effective at getting what you need, when you need it.  

One recommendation – as attractive as the Keurig types of single serve coffee makers can be, don’t do it. The pods are wasteful. You can still have quick & easy options without resorting to pods.


More time intensive coffee preparation:

French Press

The french press is definitely for the more particular coffee drinker. On demand, but enough to be shared if the press has a larger carafe, there is something satisfying in the process of using a french press – slowing pushing down the plunger and watching the water filter through the layer of grounds, leaving a thin creme on top.


Pour Over

These take time, and often that time is a welcome break. A pour over coffee feels almost like art. Using a beautiful stainless steel goose neck kettle with water heated to just the right temperature, you can control the flow of water through your grounds and make a perfect and strong cup of fresh coffee – taking anywhere from 2-5 minutes in the process. For the member that likes a moment of solitude from their busy schedule, this is for them.



For the french press enthusiast with less time, the aeropress is a futuristic option for making a single cup of incredibly strong coffee. 


Automatic Espresso machines

There are a number of really good simple and easy to use automatic espresso machines on the market. The one that we have at Cowork Tahoe allows you to make a shot of espresso or Americano with the touch of a button. There is an attached frother to take it one step further and make yourself a quick latte. 


Espresso machines

Unless you can have a full time barista on staff, or are a hybrid coffee and coworking space, its best to avoid having a huge espresso machine in your space. As gorgeous as they are, and as good as a really well made shot of espresso can be, these are a costly and complicated option.


Non-coffee options:



Although I am a passionate coffee drinker, sometimes there is nothing more that I want than a nice cup of tea. Many days I will start with coffee in the morning, but then only drink non-caffeinated herbal tea in the afternoon. Or if you are recovering from a cold, a nice cup of lemon ginger tea with some honey really hits the spot and help you keep working away. 

Offer a selection of both caffeinated and caffeine free options, black, green, and herbal teas. For a nice touch, have individual honey sticks right there for those that like things a little sweeter.


Iced Tea

If summers are hot, having a pitcher of iced tea in the refrigerator is a welcome sight. 


Hot chocolate & Cider

Whether a kid or kid at heart, having instant cider or hot chocolate options (with marshmellows!) warms the heart. When we have a big snowstorm come through, I like to take a few laps on the mountain and then come back to the office for a nice cup of hot chocolate while I settle in to check my emails. 


Trendy options:

Cold Brew

Nitro Cold brew – the most exciting addition we made to Cowork Tahoe in the past year was offering nitro cold brew coffee on tap. We purchased a dual keg (the other tap will occasionally have home brewed beer or beer from one of our awesome local breweries, but as a special treat or for events). During the summer months, our space was going through kegs of cold brew faster than the local restaurants. We contracted with one of our favorite local roasters to keep us filled up, and it’s been a huge hit. 

A word of advice – provide small glasses for the cold brew. It packs a punch and no one should be pouring themselves a pint of it at a time. You can purchase really cute tasting glasses and leave them on a tray next to the keg to encourage moderate serving sizes. Otherwise, I’m not sure any of our members would ever sleep!



This fermented tea, with a slight fizz and a taste that balances somewhere between sweet & sour, much like apple cider, has hit the trendy workplace by storm. It can be offered by the bottle, but can also be served on tap next to your cold brew. 


The alternative to on-site coffee:

The coffee shop next door

Even if you have every coffee preparation option on this list, there is hopefully an amazing coffee shop (or several!) within walking distance of your space. Sometimes, there is nothing better than taking a break, a walk, getting a change of scenery and ordering a custom coffee from the local coffee shop. Maybe a member has a craving for a lavender vanilla latte or a really well done macchiato with a custom foam picture of a bear created by the barista. If you can encourage members to become patrons of the nearby shops and restaurants, that’s good for everyone’s business.

Latte with bear design in foam


Finally, the cups. Have fun with your coffee cups! While a minimalist design and uniform cups is appealing, we have found that people have strong preferences for what type of mug they like their coffee in. Keep a variety available, both in size and design. Periodically get your members “gifts” by adding in some new cups. See how much more fun the coffee experience can be. 

Coffee cups

The coffee cup drawer at Cowork Tahoe

In summary, every way that you can signal to your members that you not only listen, but also are working to make your space as amazing as possible for them, the better their experience will be. Coffee is an easy way to do this, and a great way to help your members start the work day off on the right foot.


Funny coffee cup

Image for blog post The coworking value proposition part 4

A Reflection on Cowork Tahoe – Before & After Jellyswitch

Our mission at Jellyswitch is to make coworking better – for members as well as for space owners and managers. We want to see the coworking industry grow & thrive. Coworking spaces are vital to supply the distributed workforce with the flexible workspace it needs now & in the future.

This week, I saw with clarity that mission being achieved in my own life as a coworking space owner.

The Tour

I love giving tours, it is one of my favorite parts of the business. I’ve given them hundreds of times. Tours serve as a way to highlight the space, but also to get to know my future community members.

All coworking space managers know this drill. The tour lasted less than 30 minutes. As we walked around the building, I gave my pitch about the benefits of joining, I asked questions about what kind of work they did, what they were looking for in a workspace, how their move to town was going, etc.

By the time we had circled back to the lobby, I had his timeline for joining, he had the Cowork Tahoe mobile app downloaded & created an account. I made sure he knew how to contact me, we shook hands & they left.

Then it hit me! The tour itself was nothing out of the ordinary, but I had this awestruck feeling as I realized that Jellyswitch really and truly has changed my business for the better. I had given a very different, remarkably better tour than I would have a year ago.

Walking through the building, I now pointed out different aspects of the meeting & workspace than I used to. I honed in on what it is like to walk in to the building for work each day, where to grab your coffee and the options available to get to work, and to get to work. I asked new questions directed at how he likes to work instead of just pointing at all the different seating options. I began guiding the discussion to find out whether he preferred a coffee shop vibe or needed to be distraction free and made sure to spend more time in the parts of the building he would like. The conversation was about the type of flexibility he needed to be productive day to day.

Why was this a change?

This tour was a much deeper dive into my customer’s needs. Zero fluff. I don’t think I gave bad tours before, but I know what I did this time is much, much better.

Jellyswitch lets me know exactly how my members use the space (at a level I could only guess at before). I know which meeting rooms are the favorites, when people are in the building, and even what their favorite snacks are. My members now quickly notify me of issues, often anonymously. I hear the good and the bad and respond immediately after seeing the push notification on my phone.

Jellyswitch illuminates the data behind my business. I have a deeper understanding of what my members need and I know what to highlight to a potential member. Now they can see how their needs will be met when they join my coworking space. They can picture themselves as members before they even sign up! And, having them download our app & sign up before the tour is finished means there are less steps remaining to close the deal.

This is not an incremental improvement – it’s a completely new experience. I never anticipated how much Jellyswitch would improve my day-to-day behavior. I expected my business to improve, but because of better tracking of memberships & invoicing, an easier sign up process, and by streamlining our operations. But, surprisingly, I am a much better operator now. The tech enables this.

This is the true power of great technology, when the tech supports you in such a way that you can leverage it to make improvements on the human side of the business, without even realizing it. It doesn’t replace the human side, it enhances it. This is what Jellyswitch has done for me. My coworking business, my community, and myself, are all stronger for it.