Working remotely: How to manage a remote team

By Alexander Evjenth

Working remotely: How to manage a remote team

A conversation with Stellan, Anders, Niyat and Doug on the challenges and possibilities of working remotely.

In this episode, Stellan, who works as a strategist, Anders the CEO, and Niyat and Doug, who both work as content creators, talk about their experiences of working remotely, the challenges and possibilities they discovered after almost a year of working from home, how managers can support remote employees and how it is to onboard new employees remotely. You can hear the discussion by listening to the podcast below.

You can also listen and subscribe to the podcast on Spotify and Soundcloud.

Transcription

[00:00:08] Hi and welcome to the online and digital weekly - a podcast produced by Zooma. I'm Alex, your host. And in today's episode, I got the chance to talk about remote working with four of my colleagues. In this episode, you will hear Stellan, who works as a strategist, Anders the CEO, and Niyat and Doug, who both work as content creators, elaborating about their experience from working remotely the challenges and opportunities, how managers can support remote employees and how it is to onboard new employees remotely. Enjoy.

[00:00:43] Stellan, we have been working from home since March 2020. What are your experiences so far?

[00:00:48] Mostly positive. I started the list early on so that I would remember the pros and cons of working remotely compared to working in the office. And I didn't know what to expect from the beginning because it was just like you think about it often when you were working from home before you were home because you had your kids were ill or preschool was closed for planning or whatever, and then you always had a bit of stress with the kids in the background and working remotely with everyone else in the office and everything like that. So it wasn't necessarily so that I thought of it as a very positive thing from the beginning. The one thing I could spontaneously think of was less commute. So then I started this list and then after a while, I realised that there is there are a lot of things working remotely that are like inherently better, in my view, than working in the office. For one is there is an unlimited number of meeting rooms. Just to mention one thing, you're not forced into sitting somewhere in a public space and hearing coffee machines in the background and stuff like that. So, yeah, for me, it's been a positive experience that's also made a sort of work-life balance a bit easier to sort of being a bit more flexible with your hours when you don't have the commute.

[00:02:14] And Anders what's your reflections so far from working remotely.

[00:02:19] Finally, we have all been forced and I'm talking doubly now to test something new and we have all been forced to become good at something where very, very few people in the world were experienced, meaning that how to run a relation internally and externally today. It's very, very clear we have to be very good in doing it through video. And to answer this question very shortly, I would say most likely I didn't run a checklist like Stellan did. I'm extremely positive to all the positive things that comes out of working remotely. I'm extremely positive.

[00:03:09] What's the biggest challenge you have seen so far with working remotely, Anders?

[00:03:14] A lot of people that I talk to think it's awful. A lot of people that I talk to say that it's so difficult to cooperate internally. It's very difficult to run customer relations, much better hope it goes back to normal and so on. So I have respect for that. How I have experienced this internally and externally is totally the other way around. I'm glad that I don't have to sit on flights to Amsterdam or Stockholm or London on a daily or weekly basis. It's more productive, it's more effective, it's more creative. It's closer in relation. But I understand if people would say, how can you be positive about that? I have respect for that. That's how I see it, I can't see any disadvantage, but I have respect for the people that say I was so nice to chat close to the coffee machine and so on.

[00:04:25] And Stellan, you mentioned that you have an improved work-life balance. Have you experienced, any more specific, do you see any specific opportunities working remotely and collaborating in teams and so on?

[00:04:40] Yeah, I think for sure collaborating in teams is on a more sort of level playing field so that specifically with our design team, for example, that they're now working simultaneously in the same screen, in the same environment and the same tool, whereas before they were always working on like basically in different environments and then like sitting next to each other and glancing over each other's shoulders. And we were in meetings and someone is running the big screen and someone is on the other small screen and stuff like that. So it sort of makes it more of a transparent process for everyone.

[00:05:23] I think it's a big advantage of working remotely, which, of course, could be replicated in a physical environment where you are in the same place as well. But I agree with Anders would not have happened in a long while if it hadn't been for this external circumstance forcing people to do it.

[00:05:46] And I have a reflection on that, Stellan. We have been talking so much internally about using shoulder mate technique, meaning that you ask someone to come to you next to you and look at what you create or produce. Most likely we don't ever, or at least in a long time, need to talk about shoulder technique again. It's actually like one comedian, one of our colleagues who wants to be a comedian said that it's not shoulder made technique, it's green make technique; being a screen mate instead of being a shoulder mate.

[00:06:26] Yeah. And on today's shows, we have Niyat as well, who works as a content creator here at Zoooma. And interesting to hear, what's your thoughts, so far from working from home?

[00:06:39] For me, it has also been a very good experience, and I see it as a huge privilege to be able to work from home. And I save also a lot of time because I don't have to commute and I can use this time for something else. Of course, I miss the colleagues and the spontaneous meetups in the kitchen, for example. But, um, yeah, I know that the only one Slack message or one Zooom call away. And yeah, I also enjoyed the weekly meetings that we have and also the Friday Fikas. So I think so far it went very well and I can get used to it also for the future.

[00:07:22] Great. And I know that you have the last week you worked a lot with onboarding a new colleague, Doug Bolton, who is also in the call today. Yeah, hello. And really interesting to hear what's your reflection and thoughts from being onboarded? So how has it been so far, onboarding from remotely?

[00:07:48] Yeah, no, I'd say it's gone very well. I was thinking before I started how it would go to, you know, start a new job while working from a distance because every other job I've had, you know, you have your first day and you show up to the office nice and early and you have your suit and tie and everything like that. And, whereas now I, you know, just kind of open my computer and we start at meetings. But no, it went very well. I would say, I think that was mostly because, Anders and Niyat who I had most of my introductions with, that prepared quite a lot. And they kind of blocked off the whole calendar really for the first couple of days at least to do the introduction. And I think that kind of introduction process was maybe even a bit better to do online than it would have been in person. Because, you know, when you have a new job and you go to the office for your introduction, you know, you go around and see all these new faces and, you know, you bump into people in the hallway and you're in a kind of unfamiliar environment, you know, by the end of the first week, after all of these introduction meetings are completely exhausted. Whereas now, you know, it was just a small group for the introduction. And we could be really focused on, you know, getting all that over with really so that, you know, we could get cracking with other stuff as soon as possible.

[00:09:10] Doou you feel that it was a more efficient onboarding process work-wise. But has the Social suffered anything, do you feel like you have got the chance to meet everyone and get to know them?

[00:09:25] Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think I have met everyone digitally by now. Um, but like Niyat I do miss the social side a bit. It's nice to have a chat by the coffee machine and stuff, but, um, I think something that's made a big difference is that everyone Zooma seems to be very disciplined with having a camera on meetings all the time. And I suppose you could say it's kind of it's a poor substitute, really, for actually being face to face with someone. But I think it does make quite a big difference, you know, being in meetings in the past where maybe people begin with a camera, but then slowly all the cameras turn off. And then when you speak, can you feel you just kind of shouting into a void and no one's really listening to you. So, yes I think socilaly that's made a big difference.

[00:10:16] Could be interesting Doug, next time someone is in a physical meeting to bring a black blanket and put it over the head. Yeah! Because more face to face is difficult to get than we get in video meetings. Yeah, sure! I had a presentation this morning for 100 people and everyone had the feeling that I looked them in the eyes and that would be impossible in a conference room or an event center or something else. And I mean, if I went to an event center and everyone had a black blanket over their heads, I wouldn't appreciate that. So keep people keep your cameras on. It's nice to be face to face. Yeah.

[00:11:04] I talk to a poor person who had been using Skype for nine months. I don't want to sort of imagine how that would be. No, not seeing any faces.

[00:11:17] And Doug, do you have any tips for managers, companies who are about to onboard remotely?

[00:11:27] Yeah, I would probably say, you know, block of the time in your calendar, even more than you would need, you know, just to do the important introduction part. I think it's important when you're starting, you know, to take the time to have a chat and get to know each other and stuff. And since, you know, you can't do that as in the same way that you would in person have as much time with the new start as possible is probably quite important and use your camera of course, but we spoke about that.

[00:11:54] And Anders we are looking for an art director now. Where it says in the job description that you can work from anywhere. Do you have any tips for managers how to manage remote teams.

[00:12:12] In the old world, if you had a sit-in with your colleagues every half-year or every quarter, I don't know how you do that. How about trying having it now once a week at least, or every second week? So if you used to sit down every quarter in a one to one meeting, analysing things, discussing things. All right, let's have 15 minutes per week. And I believe and think that whatever you did refer to as internal before for having good relations and somewhat increase it, double it four times, six times whatever you wan. Because I think it's very, very important because you can't see when someone is sitting a couple of desks away that they look a bit bothered or something. Give a lot of opportunities for interactions. That's one tip. Another thing is it's a very steep technique to make sure that everyone says something if it's just the word doesn't matter, but interact with the people that you have in the meetings. And I'm brave enough to say that I have experience of having hundreds of people in a meeting and having one person in the meeting, but make sure that everyone feels seen as iin real life or iin traditional meetings and interact with people. I actually think maybe it's dangerous to say that some type of leadership gets really, really tested these days. If you were not that communicatiive in the old world, oh, in a digitalised world where you run the relations through video and most likely Stellan have some reflection on what I just said. He usually has.

[00:14:16] Well, I agree. I agree with your words. It's a bit, it's not about managing per se. But you mentioned a while ago that companies with good corporate cultures have been sort of more or less improved by working remotely because of bringing everyone together much more often and much more let's say everyone is on the same level. We are at home. We're all in the same situation. And we look at each other in the eyes when we're having meetings. Whereas if you had started out with the poor culture, that has only been worsened by the situation. And I think that's true.

[00:14:59] And Niyat if you ever decide what the future would you prefer to still work from home?

[00:15:08] Yes. I would say, maybe not the whole week, but partly. It Would be great to work some days from home and if the world is safe again then also go back to the office a few days. To have a flexible time would be great.

[00:15:27] And you, Doug, what do you prefer?

[00:15:31] Yeah, kind of similar. I mean, I think it would be good to have you know, I don't know whether 50/50 would be the right proportion at home and at the office and maybe it would be a bit different some weeks than others. But I think you gain a lot by physically being in the same place, but maybe you don't need to do that all the time and maybe the benefits are the right way to feel. You know, you have a very long commute or something like that.

[00:15:57] Yeah. Stellan, what do you prefer?

[00:16:01] A 100 per cent remote and well, there are many reasons for it. But it's been well documented in my list of pros and cons. And now, I mean, seriously, for me, I have the fullest respect for all situations are individual and you have your different conditions from where you're working and so on. But for me, it works perfectly with like the age of my kids and all of those aspects as well. So So for sure, that's what I'd like to do.

[00:16:33] And we looking forward to publishing that pros and cons list.

[00:16:46] Sure I'll do that. And on a larger scale, this is obviously also the multibillion-dollar question, both in real estate, but also for many large corporations. How much office space do we need and what will it look like?

[00:17:01] Imagine that everyone in Zooma had to be in the office from tomorrow. Someone forced us to be in the office tomorrow. I like to think about us as people who learn things. So firstly, we can't sit as close to each other as we used to do in the office. It's one meter, about one meter between the colleagues here, four by four. That's one thing. Number two is many of our customers will not travel anymore as much as they did during workshops in Zooma because they realise that the workshops sometimes are even better and more creative through video than gathering people waiting for flights. And so many of the external relations will demand that we do it through video. And then the office needs to look different because then we need to have small rooms. And for people my age who remember when all offices contain small rooms, there will be, as Stellan said in a shorter version, huge implications of moving back to how it was before. Because many things have already changed and there will be people who say, no, I will not allow you to fly to us to do the workshop. You shall have the workshop globally through Zoom or Teams or whatever. So, if we imagine that we throw ourselves back to the time when everyone is in the office, there needs to be more space in the office, the office needs a different type of walls, different type of rooms. We haven't experienced in 10 months that we couldn't book a conference room or a conference room is always possible to book through online, but no one will cope with that. Every one in two months sits in front of their screens, waving with their arms and speaking out in the air. That will be awful. And the noises around us would be too much. So we need small boxes with very good air conditioning because the buildings where offices are today are not built anymore to contain small rooms with different type of equipment in there too have good meeting. So I would love to hear more discussions about that.

[00:19:36] Well, I hope you enjoyed that episode. I think that remote working is a very interesting topic and I agree with Stellan that remote pros and cons regarding Anders' reflection on the new definition of face to face meetings. I agree that you can maintain your social professional life if you have the right routines and the right company culture. I have only met Doug over Zoom and built a very personal relationship where I've been in his kitchen and he showed me around in this apartment and that's the possibilities that come with working remotely. And with that being said, I want to thank you for listening to this Pod. And if you want to subscribe to this podcast, you do that on zooma.se. And I hope you enjoyed this episode. Bye-bye.

Alexander Evjenth
Alexander is a content creator who has a great interest in learning new things. What he enjoys, even more, is to share information by creating knowledge content.
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