With the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the sudden transition a lot of companies are facing from office based working to remote working, we’ve decided to do a mini podcast series to share some insight and tips about working remotely.
PICHA has always been a fully distributed team – we connect virtually for most of the year and then having a face to face strategy week once annually. During the guide to remote working podcast series we’ll chat with different team members for some valuable insight into how to be productive and stay sane while working from home.
In this session, we chat with Josiane Faubert, PICHA’s founder and managing partner, about running a remote team effectively while managing family life at home.
What made you decide to start a fully remote company?
When I started PICHA I was living in Washington DC but I knew that DC was not going to be my permanent place. It was impossible for me to say when the move would happen. So with my nomadic life as well as the nature of PICHA’s offering, it was easy to make the decision to become a remote company.
It makes things so much easier for me – I can work from anywhere I find myself. Today our team spans four different time zones and we all benefit and learn from each other every day.
Something that was born out of necessity is now an advantage because we can source from a global pool of talent.
With so many companies switching to remote working with the COVID-19 pandemic, what advice would you give to leaders to help them get their employees and themselves ready?
First, communicate the benefits of working from home, i.e. flexible hours, no commute, no office distraction, etc. Secondly, you must present employees with organisational tools. For example, how to use a calendar or a project management tool, etc. Lastly, you must set boundaries and expectations, i.e. define work hours and deliverables.
What can a leader do to foster a good remote culture?
We’ve been through some trials and errors. We realised that social interactions within the team is very important. We switched from check-in calls to video conferencing so that we can connect and check-in face-to-face. Always make an effort to show up for calls.
The team also started a buddy system where they had set times and team members to call and chat with. This was really important for building relationships and improving communication within the team.
The biggest change to our company culture happened when we started doing the yearly strategy week where we would all meet in the same city for a week of intensive team building and strategising.
Virtual meetings – how often and what advice do you have for running effective online meetings?
Because we are a small company and our resources are limited my philosophy is not to spend too much time on long conference calls. So we just have one weekly video strategy meeting. Everything else is handled via a quick call, email or WhatsApp.
Many people are also dealing with school closures so it’s not just working from home but working from home while managing a family. How do you find balance and do you have any advice for parents facing the same challenges?
The last few weeks have been really intense with the school closures. My oldest kids can manage on their own but my youngest one needs adult supervision and guidance. It’s good that they have a schedule – times they have to be online with the teachers.
The mornings are very busy because of my connection with Africa. All my calls happen then and the kids have to be ready for their online classes as well. But while mornings are tough, the afternoons are quiet for work. I have a time for lunch and I’m trying to get better at including a few breaks and a workout in-between as well. Getting out for some fresh air also helps – going to the park and walking for an hour is great idea. Try not to spend the whole day just sitting down and working.
The night before I will go over my calendar for the following day. I rely less on to do lists but more on my calendar. All my personal items, business items and my kids items all go into the same calendar. That makes it easy to see everything at once.
What tools would you recommend for leaders and parents going remote?
Your calendar is the biggest tool you can have – synced between your phone and your computer. The biggest tool we use for work is Trello – it’s a fantastic project management tool which is great for remote teams. You can set deadlines, allocate resposibilities, share documents, etc. We use it for everything we do on PICHA. Lastly – WhatsApp makes it easier to communicate on lighter issues. Even though you’re far away a digital connection can really help you maintain that bond with each other.
Do you think COVID-19 will change the future of work?
I think it will change the way managers will think about remote working. They’ll realise that most tasks can be executed remotely. Working remotely also helps you to believe in yourself and it helps to reinforce your strengths. That way, when you are physically together, the team is that much stronger and inspired.
If you have any questions or tips about working remotely or managing a remote team then please share them in the comments below!