Security — For some companies and teams, there are sensitive files and documents that might be compromised when they have to be passed on from one location to another.
As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carlo Borja.
Carlo Borja is the online marketing manager of Time Doctor, an employee productivity software. He is a full-time digital marketer and remote worker.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?
I have been working fully remote since 2009. I’ve seen the industry grow and how it evolved. I am part of the small company that built Time Doctor to help people manage remote teams. Now, we are already at more than 100 people across 30 countries in the world.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I had no idea what digital marketing is. All I knew at that time was that it was possible to make money from the Internet.
I’m glad that Time Doctor took a chance on me, guided my passion and provided an environment for me to learn everything I needed to know about it.
Now, I am leading the entire online marketing team of the company. It’s been a great ride.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was a “yes” man. Everything my boss told me to do, I agreed and said yes.
It took me a few years that saying no and (healthy) disagreement in a team is actually one of the best environments for growth and learning.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?
Find a way to turn off work. Weekends are ideally the best way to do that. But, you can also do that at dinner time when you are with family.
Never let work creep in or worse replace your time with family and people that matter.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?
Around 8 years.
Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?
1 — Communication
Not having proper tools as well as protocols for communicating remotely can greatly impact productivity.
For instance, if you have a query that needs to be answered immediately you should not be sending it via email.
2 — Productivity
Making sure everyone in your team is working productively and not slacking is something you have to think about when managing remote teams.
3 — Team Building
Keeping a good culture is an even harder challenge when you don’t get to see each other every single day like how it is in an office.
4 — Isolation
Most people say remote work isn’t for them because they have not anticipated the fact that isolation is the biggest adjustment they have to face.
5 — Security
For some companies and teams, there are sensitive files and documents that might be compromised when they have to be passed on from one location to another.
Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?
1 — Know when to use the right channel for communication. For meetings, it has to be a video call. For quick and instant queries, instant messaging. Do not expect to get a response right away when you are sending via email.
2 — Use tools to monitor efficiency and performance of the whole team. Tools like Time Doctor were built for this purpose.
3 — Look at virtual team building ideas. Here are some.
4 — Encourage your team to have a work-life balance. Make sure they also find a way to “turn off” work at night and over the weekends.
In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?
Always have data to back up your criticism or evaluation. This makes you objective.
And, you should not end there too. Give clear suggestions as to how the person can improve. Then, hold him or her accountable for it.
Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?
From my experience, emails can easily get misinterpreted. As much as possible, never give critical feedback via email.
Use the email to schedule a video chat with the person. Then, take it from there.
Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?
It takes a mindset shift. Not the same rules apply anymore. There are a lot of adjustments.
Find a way for the team to stick together as you go through the transition.
It gets better day after day.
What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?
Compensate for the fact that you are not seeing each other by communicating more than the usual — and do it on video as much as possible.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The future of work is remote. That’s it. ☺
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There is a Navy SEAL quote that says “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
This is essentially how I learned a lot of great things and progressed in life.
Thank you for these great insights!