21 Aug Behind the Scenes: Remote Working at SOMS Digital
For a lot of companies, remote working was sort of forced onto them when the pandemic brought the world to a halt a little over 2 years ago, but with things slowly returning to a new normal, we’re unsurprisingly seeing more and more reports of people not wanting to return to the office – and we don’t blame them!
Perhaps you’ll be surprised to know that SOMS Digital Agency has been a remote company since before #WFH became a popular hashtag, and having staff members who have never worked in an office before, we thought we’d share some of our top tips and tools for working remotely across several time zones.
Without exaggerating, our team has tried every kind of project management tool out there. While Monday.com and Asana almost ticked all our boxes, it wasn’t until we stumbled upon Clickup, that we had found a system that worked for us. The platform is now dubbed the brain of SOMS Digital and is used to track everything from client’s details, budgets, daily tasks, meetings, timelines, projects – you name it!
Simply having a tool doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly become a more productive and efficient team – it is all about HOW you use it. Through constant tweaking and revising, our team have built custom templates, spaces and lists that work for us and over time, we’ve all become more systematic with how we use the tool within our company, with a belief that if it is not on Clickup, it simply did not happen and does not exist.
Use a shared calendar
Currently, we have team members who are based throughout South Africa, the UK and Mauritius. While we all have a time that overlaps for team calls and meetings, we do all start and end at different times and have different local holidays. Add to that, some of us are parents who are running between school drop offs and pickups, juggling extra curriculars, or we need to see a doctor and run a quick errand, and, well, as you can imagine, it can become very confusing keeping track of everyone.
Personally, I stick by the motto that we’re running a company, not a day care. Everyone in our team knows what is expected of them and are committed to getting the results we’ve become known for. We all understand each other’s personal obligations and respect that your time away from your desk is YOURS. To ensure we’re respectful and mindful of that time, and to make it easier to schedule team-wide meetings, we make sure to load everything to a shared Google Calendar, which includes everything from client meetings, to being away from our desk for school pickups.
At this point, I could probably tattoo, “communicate, communicate, communicate” on my forehead and nobody would be surprised. While it is true that communication is crucial in any working environment, we’ve learnt that it becomes the make or break in remote working environments.
It is just too easy to fall into the trap of working on your own, not reaching out to others in the team for general check-ins when you’re working remotely, which leads to frustration, lack of solutions, and a general break down in productivity and flow. Time and time again, we find solutions by having a quick phone call so that everyone can understand the bigger problem and contribute their problem-solving skills – it just makes for a more efficient and tuned in team.
In addition to regular calls, our team rely heavily on good ol’ Skype for quick status updates, discussions on strategies, briefing tasks and meeting with clients. Sadly, for Skype, the platform was way before its time and now gets outshone by the likes of Zoom, but using Skype everyday for the last 4 years, we’ve come to rely heavily on the platform and all its features which have had years to be fine-tuned to ensure seamless use.
Be intentional with your time
Being the chatty one on the team, I have had to learn to be mindful of everyone’s time (sorry, for chatting your ears off, everyone!). The best way for me to do this, was to start making sure that every meeting was an intentional use of time, by including an agenda.
The result is that everyone knows what to expect from the meeting and comes prepared – so instead of filling the gap with pointless chatter, while a team member finds an old email, we all come to the meeting with our mails, feedback, and questions ready.
Since doing this, our meetings have become more concise and to the point, and though I am still guilty of talking too much about F1, I do think I have gotten better at staying on track. (Ha! Great pun!)
Team morale matters
I think that working in a fast-paced environment comes at a cost when everyone is cruising through their work and tasks and not making time to check in with each other. In a traditional working environment, you come to know what people are interested in through chats over lunch or around the office kettle, but when you’re working remotely, it is easy to just skip over small talk, so you don’t get to see how someone’s face lights up over their interest or hobby, and you forget to ask how their sick mom is doing, or what their kid dressed up as on World Reading Day.
For someone like me, I force my interests and passions on to people. I think at this point, everyone knows that my weekends are spent reading, watching F1 and shouting for my soccer team but for other – more reserved – team members, who aren’t as enthusiastic about oversharing when nobody asked, they can easily become isolated and not feel part of the team as much.
Among my own team, I ensure we have weekly calls where we catch up on each other’s weekend and regular one-on-ones where I check in to see how each person on my team is doing. Everyone in my team knows I strive for an open-door policy; if something is bothering you or you’re feeling overwhelmed, I can only help if you let me know but I also know that words can only go so far and action is where it matters, so reassuring and encouraging my team, being sensitive to people’s tones and just generally paying attention to my team has meant that over time, we’ve become quite a close-knit trio who trusts each other.
For the company-wide team, we have made sure to “meet up” via Skype at least once a month, on a Friday afternoon, where one of us must organise a game to play as a team – my competitive side really shines through during these sessions – and is usually followed by a well-deserved early end to our day.
So, that’s some behind-the-scenes of how we make remote working work for our team and company. We’re very proud of the culture we’ve built over the years, but we know it wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of each person within our team who being committed to ensuring that remote working remains the most efficient and productive way of working. What are some of your favourite tips and tricks for making a remote environment work for you?
Originally posted 2022-08-03 09:58:49.