Surprise! Your Company’s Remote — Now What?

Map showing various pins in different locations across the Mid-West, North East and Southern United States.

There’s more to running a remote company than keeping up with technology.

You probably didn’t plan on taking your company 100% online, but yet – here you are.

Under normal circumstances, companies who shift to being fully remote plan for weeks, sometimes even months before taking the leap. During that time, they’re working to retain both team management and company culture. However, in our current circumstances, most companies weren’t able to put these types of plans and strategies in place before closing offices and sending their teams home with laptops in tow.

Getting through the initial hurdle of suddenly moving everything (and everyone!) online was a huge accomplishment in and of itself — and one that should make you incredibly proud. The next step is to find any workflow, culture, or management blips that have crept up, and sort through the fine-tuning.

Keep your now remote company running smoothly for the long-term.

It may have felt like a scramble in the beginning with a sense of “just figure out whatever works best right now and get it in place!” leading the way as you quickly adjusted sails to navigate these new waters. Now that you’ve had time to settle into the idea of managing a remote team, you may be noticing that what worked in the beginning, isn’t setting you up for the long term, and your company culture is starting to take a hit.

Finding the remote rhythm can take companies and start-ups months, sometimes years, to sort out. Our management team went through their ups and downs, and they’re still learning valuable lessons every day. And so, to help you along your path, our CEO and Director sat down to offer a few tips they’ve learned while managing a remote company for 15 and 7+ years.

Tips from long-term remote managers on how to keep your culture alive and employees engaged while working from home:

Heather, Director: Three little letters turned out to be a huge frustration-reducer. Those letters are AFK, otherwise known as “Away from keyboard.” Your team members and colleagues don’t know that the doorbell rang, or that your kid clogged the toilet and you’re preventing a household catastrophe, or that the dog chased the hamster our the back door for the third time this week. They can’t see you!

To be clear, I’m not suggesting key loggers or mouse trackers. You will know if your team is productive without that level of demoralizing oversight.

If you’re showing as available and not responding, this can be very frustrating for the other person. When you need to step away from the computer for a bit, drop a quick AFK to let your team know you’re away but will be back soon. Just try to be sure to let them know when you’re back. (Take it from us – it’s easy to forget that part.)

Phil, Founder + CEO: Set specific times of the day where you can check in to manage routine action items surfaced by your staff (emergent situations are obviously different). This helps your team set expectations with the people they’re interacting with while allowing you the chance to find and get into a work groove. There are no added questions of when you, as management, will undoubtedly be available.

Heather, Director: Even while staying in fairly close contact via tools like Slack or Teams, it’s important to remember that everything you write is interpreted by the other person through their filters and vice-versa for what you read. You might not have intended the tone of your message to sound short, or annoyed, but your team member may “hear” it that way.

Body language and tone of voice are critical when it comes to effective communication, especially when times are stressful. And online, this can be lagging. If left too long, this atmosphere can quickly become toxic and erode your online culture. We’ve learned to work around this by using virtual meetings to check in and reset the tone of communication. Additionally, the heavy use of emojis in chat channels helps to ensure closer interpretations of intentions are received. (We all have our personal celebratory or fumbled emojis …. 🐡🌮🎉 are just a few 😊)

Phil, Founder + CEO: Remote working tools are just that, tools. And while text channels and emails are great, you don’t have a literal watercooler or break room to squeeze in any face to face human interaction.

Set aside time for your teams to video chat, and let them chat. Not after work hours, not on their lunch breaks, just as in an office we pop by a coworker’s desk for a quick chat or linger after meetings to catch up for a few minutes, carve out time during the workday when it’s OK for your team members to hop on a video call and just chat to catch up. When you’ve nothing but the walls, your pets, and the same people in your house 24/7, it’s essential to have casual face to face interactions outside the home.

Communication and boundary-setting are top-priority.

If anything, remember that every person on your team, whether a seasoned work from home professional or a remote newbie, is going to be experiencing extreme emotional and mental distractions. This calls for an increased amount of flexibility, understanding, and grace from managers and c-suites.

Communicate regularly and openly with your team, figure out what boundaries look like for both management and team members, and work to respect these boundaries from all sides.

In truth, we don’t know how long stay-at-home orders will remain in place. Some companies can’t wait to get back in the office, and others are starting to consider keeping things remote even after the orders are amended. Either way, we hope these tips help you make the best of the current situation to emerge with a stronger, more cohesive team when we all come out on the other side.

Do you have lessons you’ve discovered over these past few weeks of managing a remote team and working from home yourself? We’d love to hear more or answer any questions you may have! Our team is always available for strategy sessions, whether it be on working from home, managing a remote company, or – our area of true expertise – email marketing.

Reach out and let us know how we can help. We’re only a quick chat, call, or email away.

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