I’m a people person – I like being around people, interacting with my team, brainstorming together, working through projects, and sharing a few jokes along the way. It’s energizing, especially with my team, since they’re a pretty cool group of people.
When the pandemic hit, like everyone else I went into coping mode, working with Inviso’s leadership team to figure out a path forward which inevitably meant 100% remote work. While not totally new for me and my team, it wasn’t until we moved into the reality of working from home, day in and day out, that I truly was able to understand what the experience was like – the good parts and the challenges.
Impact of working remotely
As a manager, I’m responsible for other people. It’s self-evident, I guess, that a manager has to take care of others, but that role became a big priority with C19. It was my job to make sure everyone was in a good position to not only continue their work but also grow their careers, with the right tools, and the right support system.
Right away, it became clear that I needed to figure out ways to stay connected with the whole team. I’ve always valued the drive-by conversations when you walk by someone’s desk or see them in the kitchen and catch up. Working remotely, you need to make those moments happen, sending a quick note on Teams or jumping on a quick video call just to talk through a campaign idea.
Harder for me was the extra organization or admin part of having meetings and connecting with people. Where before I could have had a 10-minute conversation, spending 5 minutes covering off on a question about a client, and then chit chat for a couple of minutes, I now had 30 minutes of a planned meeting.
Adapting to our new reality
As remote working became our new normal, I had to figure out a way to build team connections without an over-abundance of meetings. The first thing I did was to establish a morning scrum session three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). The meetings are drop-in, and while we do cover work items, we also spend a lot of the time-sharing stories and catching up.
Our scrum calls have turned out to be a really powerful way to stay connected. Not only do they give the old onsite staff a chance to replicate in-person, drop-by conversations, they’ve also had the unanticipated benefit of bringing our historically remote workers much closer into the fold. Before, they might have seen an email about doughnuts or mimosas on a Friday morning, but there was no way for them to participate, and I imagine there may have been a feeling of being a little bit left out. Now, we’re all in the same boat, and the connections are stronger than ever. Even today, with some team members going back into the office, I can’t imagine giving up our scrum calls.
A related side benefit is the ongoing Teams chats from the morning scrum calls – we’ve had one IM chat going on for months (or is it over a year?) now. People jump on to share an ad they love, creative inspirations, or news they’ve seen about our clients. It’s become an additional forum that we all interact on and has evolved into a really positive way to stay connected.
We’ve always had a weekly meeting with our broader creative team to sync on projects and priorities for the week. To help manage projects more efficiently and give everyone greater visibility into where projects are, without needing to be in face-to-face discussions, we adopted the Asana project management tool. It’s been working great for us and has been super helpful in helping us stay connected.
As you may have gathered, it’s not all about the work. While the above may seem a little “block and tackle,” the secret sauce to successfully managing a remote team really is authenticity. For example, in lieu of in-person gatherings, I’ve hosted events on Teams, even showing off my bartending skills by mixing up a few of my favorite drinks. My kitchen was a bit of a mess (they involved a blender) at the end, but I didn’t mind the team getting a close and personal look at my life – after a year and a half of working via conference calls, we’ve had kid sightings, pet sightings, good hair days, bad hair days, and more. It all comes with the remote working territory.
Speaking of which, I really should be planning our fall gathering. Anyone have a good cocktail recipe to share?