Managing a remote team

Business & Finance, Quotable Magazine

Leading a Team: Lessons from a Remote CEO

Within a matter of days, a majority of workers in this country found themselves suddenly working from home. It’s been months since the initial shutdown, but some people are still struggling to find a successful work-from-home (WFH) routine as COVID continues to be an omnipresent force in our lives. And it seems that for many, jobs will remain remote for quite some time, or even permanently. 

When I started Aimtal in 2018 with my business partner, we made an intentional decision to build the agency as a remote company from day one. It’s exciting that workers around the world will have access to the flexibility and opportunities that follow when you embrace the #remotelife. 

As a CEO who started a company to run completely virtual before all the COVID chaos, I’m here with some of our tried and true tricks for being productive and finding balance while working remotely (or wherever there’s wifi, as we like to say). 

Remote Work Rule #1: Set Up A Dedicated Work Space & Keep It Clutter-Free

It’s not feasible for everyone to go buy or make room for a new desk, but it’s crucial to at least have a space in your house just for work. This can be at your kitchen table or countertop, but make sure you have an area to work that isn’t your bed or couch. It can become hard to disassociate work stress from home life without a centralized space for your work, which is why a desk is the best option if you can have one at home k. Plus, you can decorate your workspace to your liking, and it’ll help give you a professional atmosphere in your own taste (it’s a step up from cubicles, that’s for sure!). 

Keeping your space clean and organized as much as possible is also essential for ultimate productivity levels. Clutter competes for our attention, and it usually wins. So if your area is cluttered with laundry, kids toys, or a few coffee cups, it’ll be hard to concentrate. Clear out the mess and watch your productivity soar. 

Remote Work Rule #2: Stock Your Remote Toolkit 

As you may have noticed by now, remote working requires a lot of collaboration via online tools and platforms. While it’s important to have as many tools as you need, make sure you don’t overload your team with apps. At Aimtal, we use Slack, Trello, Google Drive, and Zoom for our daily communication and project management. Slack is our instant messaging platform, and we’ve even adapted our own emoji and status system to indicate to one another at a quick glance when we’re unavailable. Trello is our project management and organizational tool, and provides the whole team visibility into who’s working on what for client projects. We also use Trello for our internal team meetings and agendas and team onboarding! We adopted many of the free workflows by Trello’s team and users and you can use them as well by accessing them in their Template Gallery

Google Drive, of course, is where we keep our documents, files, spreadsheets, and project plans. for easy access amongst the team. And if by some chance you haven’t heard of Zoom in the last few months, it’s our video conferencing space (that sometimes hosts our virtual cocktail hours, too). Most of these platforms connect with one another as well, allowing for seamless integration and collaboration.

Remote Work Rule #3: Communicate and Set Your Own Boundaries

These are important practices for teams who are remote or not, but it’s especially important when working from home to figure out your communication style and what works best for your team. As a manager of a remote team, it’s your responsibility to ensure your team feels supported and connected, despite the distance. Does one of your team members prefer Slack over email? Is personal texting something you’re willing to do with your team? Taking the time to sort out your team’s preferences will strengthen everyone’s relationships, expectations, and boundaries. 

One of our core values at Aimtal is “communicate clearly.” On a remote team, this is very important. If you think you are communicating too much, you are probably communicating the right amount. Remember that you can’t spin around in your chair to give an update so make sure your team members know when you’ll be available and when you won’t be to respond to messages or client / customer inquiries. Being clear about your working hours will help you and your team set clear boundaries.  

Remote WorkRule #4: Be Adaptable (We’re All Doing Our Best)

The last WFH rule applies to employees at all levels; be easy on yourself! Times are stressful right now (to say the least), so it’s important to go easy on yourself and your colleagues. Many people have competing Zoom calls going on in one house, kids who are learning from home, and lots of angst about the state of the world. Things may have to shift on an individual level and a business level in order to adapt to the ‘new normal.’ As long as your productivity and passion for your work isn’t lost, give yourself a break if you feel like you’re still not used to working from home. It’ll take time to really adapt and sometimes it takes trial and error to find a routine that works best for you. 

Some final food for thought: working remotely, especially from home, often means a lot of people don’t feel comfortable taking time off, but it’s very important that your team sets boundaries and takes time off as needed according to your company policies. Self care is more important than ever before–so make sure you’re supporting your team in every way possible, even when miles apart. 

Janet Mesh is the CEO and Co-Founder of Aimtal, a remote-first company. Aimtal has a team of brilliant marketing strategists, account managers, graphic designers, copywriters, and researchers who are committed to delivering delightful digital and content experiences to customers and their audiences. Find her at aimtal.com.
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