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Diary of a Remote Company

DIARY OF A REMOTE WORKER: SIGNE

By | Diary of a Remote Company

NEW YORK, (June 29, 2020) –  Shelley Tanner, SanovaWorks CEO/President

Diary of a Remote Worker

Continuing with our Diary of a Remote Worker series, my longtime colleague and friend, Signe Philstrand gives her best survival tips on being a remote worker, and some extra insight and inspiration for our mental health during this pandemic.

Meet SanovaWorks Team Member

Signe Philstrand, Vice President

READ THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF COMMUNICATION WHILE WORKING REMOTELY

What is your speciality at work? Do you have a super power? Brag on yourself.

My job is to support the employees of our company in any way that will benefit them, and move us toward product and company goals. This comes in many forms, be it creating or refining processes, removing obstacles, coaching, training, mentoring, motivating, strategizing approach of projects, making decisions, developing strengths, creating plans to achieve goals, organizing initiatives, upholding morale and company culture, steering toward company strategy–and anything else that arises. My base goal is that people on our staff actually like their jobs, and truly enjoy working for our company, and can be proud of our company. When you have that everything else can fall into line.

Who is your work hero or shero? What is their superpower?

It would have to be Shelley. She really is the epitome of a fearless leader. I know that term is thrown around, but it is the perfect description of her. She is the reason that all of us are here, and that this company is so successful. Period. She’s a pillar.

How has life during the pandemic changed for you? Stayed the same?

As we have been remote for many years, work has not changed a bit in that aspect. We were fortunate to have time to plan and then to hone our remote processes over the years, and we have it down to a science. I can’t imagine all of these companies having to adopt it overnight. I truly believe it is how many companies should be operating, even when this pandemic is over, but it does take planning and effort to make it work right. Outside of the workweek, even though everything is pretty much open, we rarely go out to anywhere public that is inside. We go to the beach minimum several times a week, and ride our bikes, and fish–we always have spent a lot of time outside but now more so, as there is nowhere else to go!

What do you miss the most about life pre-pandemic?

Not wearing a mask! I feel like I am one of the few people in FL that is not opposed to wearing one though. I don’t like wearing one, but I do it because we should. Simple as that. And, I miss live music! A summer without summer concerts and festivals is strange, but they will be back at some point, and we will enjoy them even more. I’ll never take them for granted again.

What challenges have you and/or your family faced during the pandemic?

Again, super fortunate that my job hasn’t been affected, and my husband has a home watch company, keeping an eye on empty houses for snowbirds and second homeowners, so his job is not affected either. The challenges I have faced are what everyone faces: confusion, frustration, irritation, bewilderment, the feeling of it being like a movie, which has worn off now though, and I’m just left with the wondering of what’s the best thing to do, when will this all be over, and what will life look like in the future?

What’s your best advice for those people who are brand new to remote work?

Keep in contact with your team, meet regularly ON VIDEO. Also–train the people you live with that when you are working, you are working. Just as if you were not there and in an office across town. Yes, on the couch or at the kitchen table or on the lanai–you are at work.

What are your top 3 remote worker survival tips?

1) Set crystal clear expectations   2) Organize your online drives so everyone knows where everything is and where everything should be 3) Establish regular status updates and check-ins. And did I mention keep in contact and meet ON VIDEO? Phone calls won’t do it. You have to have the regular facetime in order for it to really work. If you’re not used to it, make yourself get used to it. It’s a key factor in successful remote working.

What have you mastered about working remote – that you had challenges with at the start – or saw a better way to do?

As I talked about in my best advice above–I’ve learned to train the people in my life that just because I am working at home, I am “at work.” I learned to have a strong resolve about it as it’s natural to keep chatting to someone who is in the house with you, and it’s hard to concentrate when someone is doing that. I’ve also learned to sit in places where no one will be walking around behind me, as that can be distracting to others when you are in video meetings. And I move around a lot. I have a number of “work areas” and I like to get a change of scenery. It’s sooo nice to be able to work outside. Take advantage of that perk. Also, regularly get up and stretch, get the blood moving, go outside for a short walk–don’t sit all day.

What are you reading for enrichment or just for fun? Work or non-work?

I just started Gathering of Waters, by Berenice McFadden, from a recommendation. I read a chapter of Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron almost every day because it helps to keep me sane and I like the short readings. And when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep, to distract myself I will read You Think It, I’ll Say It, short stories by Curtis Sittenfeld. Then up next is White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo. It was on back order at Amazon, but it just shipped.

What’s on the menu? What are your favorite foods that you are indulging in or purely enjoying during this virus spring?

Mangoes are in season and we’ve been eating a lot of them…so good. Our usual fare is fish, which we’re eating even more now as fishing is a good pastime when you’re not going anywhere inside or in crowds. And we live on peel and eat shrimp, another staple.

Speaking of self care, what do you do to reward yourself after a long week or a personal or professional success?

I love a glass or two of Pinot Noir on Friday evenings, right after work. Since the pandemic started and restaurants became a no-no, my neighbors have been meeting in driveways in beach chairs spread apart for cocktail hour, so nowadays I can usually pour a glass and wander outside and find some company to share it with. It puts a period to the end of the week. Or starts the weekend, however you want to look at it. Weekends = beach, and that’s where we unwind and relax. You can always keep driving and find some empty area away from others to put your umbrella.

What is in your Netflix, [Hulu, Amazon, AppleTV, etc.] queue? What are your recommendations? Why?

Netflix: Dead to Me (I love both of those girls); Never Have I Ever (If you love Mindy, that show is so Mindy); Tom Papa – You’re Doing Great (He is so hilarious, probably one of my favorites); I Am Not Okay With This (It’s so great, just try it); Dark (Season 3 just started–if you watch you have to watch it in its original German and read the subtitles, don’t do the dubbing!)

How do you stay positive?

See my answer to self-care above. Kidding! Being outside; Being some-sort-of-active; Meditation.

What are you most grateful for right now?

I am grateful now and always, that Kurt and I like to spend so much time together. I hear of people saying that the divorce rate is going to go up because of Covid. We are the opposite, we are glad for the excuse to just hang out together, the two of us. I’m also grateful for our amazing company and the people in it. I am impressed daily. I am grateful I am one of the people that still has a job, as so many had the bottom fall out beneath them unexpectedly. And I am grateful my colleagues, family, and friends are healthy.

Any other shout outs or closing thoughts?

A shout out to our whole SanovaWorks team–staff members and contractors–each are top pros in their area, and it shows. Our team is incredibly strong and tight. This group has worked together for many years and we know how to work together well. With the changes to our industry that the pandemic has brought, everyone has had to step up to the plate to help fill in gaps. We are so thankful and fortunate to work with the sort of people that can and will do that!

VISIT OUR DIARY OF A REMOTE COMPANY SERIES

Shelley and Signe

Flexible work at SanovaWorks

REMOTE WORK TECHNOLOGIES INSPIRE PATIENCE, UNDERSTANDING, AND DETERMINATION

By | Diary of a Remote Company

NEW YORK, (Mar. 26, 2020) – Shelley Tanner, SanovaWorks CEO/President

The pandemic caused by the spread of the COVID – 19 has changed the way we live, they way we socialize and the way we do business. When we feel helpless in the wake of a national tragedy or a natural disaster, not unlike the way many people are feeling right now, full of anxiety and worry; we can try to offer practical help. That’s what we are doing at SanovaWorks. While many companies are struggling to “get up to speed” on a remote workforce, SanovaWorks has been 100% remote for many years.

Follow our Diary of a Remote Company posts to get some insights from Team Sanova.

When I asked the Team what insights they can share to help other companies that are transitioning to a remote workforce in response to the pandemic, Karin spoke specifically to the need for patience when dealing with technology and varying skill levels and experience. I think her advice is worth sharing.

Karin Beehler, Executive Editor

Patience and understanding – Everyone has different levels of technology skills

Their area of work may be different and require different types of technologies and knowledge of programs different from the ones you use. Just because they do not understand the program you are using doesn’t mean they are incapable of learning it and getting up to speed. For instance, we encounter many doctors who are not experts at InDesign and Adobe PDF maker and editing tools or web conference software although obviously have other expertise! They may need some tips to get them on track so be willing to share your knowledge in a kind and professional manner. Be patient and understanding about other people’s learning curve and encourage their ability or interest to learn a new program. 

Where there is a will, there is a way

We can do this! It might not be perfect, and it can be frustrating when “all the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” but determination, patience, understanding, tolerance, and persistence will pay off. Sometimes conference calls don’t work out because someone can’t log on, or there is a major update needed, or a virus, or a crash, black-screen, files lost, files not found. These are just the normal obstacles of the work from home environment, like trains not running or printer is jammed, like with an office workplace. We do what we can to avoid them, but they happen so just accept and move on, find a work-around.

As my mother says, “you may not know what you want, but you know what you don’t want.” If one tech solution doesn’t work, stick with it until you find another one that is better. There is no one-size-fits-all but there are usually work-arounds that suit most people. Don’t get frustrated and sabotage your goal, and don’t give up.

 

See our post on generational learning for more insights on differences in learning styles.

video conference

REMOTE WORK AND BENEFITS OF VIDEO CONFERENCE

By | Diary of a Remote Company

NEW YORK, (Mar. 26, 2020) – Shelley Tanner, SanovaWorks CEO/President

In the wake of COVID 19, I wrote a article about the Top Immediate Needs of a Remote Employee

Regular communication through video conference calls was at the top of my list. I asked the team what their thoughts were and received a great response from Nick.

Nick Gillespie, Assistant Publisher

Use video conference tools, not the phone.

Sometimes staff can feel that it’s an imposition, but the quality of meetings for those participating via video is infinitely better than just via phone

I would say the most important tip is to embrace the video component of remote working.

People quickly become used to the video interface, to the point where it becomes no different from meeting face to face in the office.

Gaging facial expressions and body language is very important for effective communication.

I think if you are a manager in a company, you should make video attendance mandatory for all. 

Some links about the benefits of face to face meetings (even remote ones):

https://timemanagementninja.com/2012/10/5-reasons-why-meeting-face-to-face-is-best/

https://medium.com/@shannonkelly_80469/steve-jobs-on-the-importance-of-face-to-face-meetings-even-in-the-age-of-iphones-a5a4b83621a6 

https://sebastiancorp.com/10-reasons-video-conferencing-is-better-than-a-conference-call/

THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF COMMUNICATION WHILE WORKING REMOTELY

By | Diary of a Remote Company, Remote Work

NEW YORK, (Mar. 23, 2020) Signe Pihlstrand, Vice President, SanovaWorks

In the wake of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing, many companies are having their staff work from home, and a great portion of them don’t have a routine remote policy or have remote processes set up. SanovaWorks has been successfully 100% remote for over six years now, and we gave ourselves many months of preparing, the better part of a year, before launching our remote work culture. These companies unfortunately don’t have that luxury and need to keep their workforce productive and the wheels rolling with an abrupt start to their remote experience. When I think about the most important things a company can do to lay the right foundation for their remote procedures, the plan for how you will communicate regularly is the first thing that comes to mind. 

Working remotely requires clear communication and clear expectations.

If your team isn’t used to working remotely, you can’t assume that everyone will be on the same page about how to connect. Setting up defined guidelines for when and how you will communicate is so important. 

  1. When – This has the tendency to go both ways: It’s not productive to be bombarded with IMs and emails throughout the day, and radio silence can leave you wondering if anything is getting accomplished. Set up and communicate a clear plan for when you expect to hear from your staff, or colleagues – for instance, a 15-minute touch-base call every morning, emails returned within 24-hours, or maybe a daily end-of-day report from your staff.
  2. How – Pick the ways that your team will communicate and get everyone on the same tools. You don’t want to have to check numerous places for messages. Plus, decide what is communicated by each. Short, occasional messages are best for IMs, while longer messages can be via email – while longer yet should be done in a conversation by video chat.

These ideas may seem obvious, but if not set up to make sure everyone has the same idea about what communication looks like, it can really wreck productivity. If everyone is left to their own devices, you could be fielding phone calls, texts, IMs, video chats, and emails from whatever program someone has on their phone or laptop, at all times of the day, or not at all. Remote working requires its own set of procedures, just like you have at the office.

At SanovaWorks we train everyone on our designated tools and procedures and make it a priority to use video chats whenever possible for the best communication and team member connections!

TOP IMMEDIATE NEEDS OF REMOTE EMPLOYEES

By | Diary of a Remote Company

NEW YORK (Mar. 11, 2020) – A Note from Shelley Tanner, SanovaWorks CEO/President

SanovaWorks transitioned into a 100% virtual company at the end 2012 at the same time press was reporting market leaders like Yahoo and Best Buy stopped all remote work at their companies. To the outside world, it seemed like we were making a crazy decision, heading in the opposite direction from global brand in terms of office culture and environment. We were convinced of the many benefits, so without hesitation we transitioned from two floors of a small office building on Park Avenue South in Manhattan, to a completely remote workforce.

I realize that due to the Coronavirus outbreak many companies are forced to transition some or all of their teams into remote teams without a solid plan, and so I felt compelled to share some of my thoughts on this matter.

The main things remote employees need in the short term are:

  1. Access to information immediately
  2. Regular communication
  3. Clear visibility of priority and goals

For this reason, I am including some of my “must-haves”:

  • Use video conference tools, not the phone. It take more internet bandwidth, but it provides a more engaged experience of meetings. If you don’t know what I’m talking about watch this live enactment of a conference call by phone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYu_bGbZiiQ
  • Use online project management tools for collaboration and project tracking. We use Wrike.com but there are many other options like Asana or Basecamp.
  • Use online file storage for easy access to documents. We use Egnyte, but there are options like Dropbox and Google also.
  • Ask for feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask what people think. Communicate that this is new and you are figuring it out, but want to support your teams and accomplish results in this new environment. Your teams will give valuable insight into accomplishing results.
  • Commute time turns into connect time: With a remote culture – everything can feel like a meeting. Be prepared for a feeling of meeting fatigue and get out ahead of it making meetings meaningful with clear agendas and timekeeping, etc.

If anyone has specific questions please comment on the Linked In post or direct message me and if I can’t answer, I will ask one of my extremely competent virtual team.

Best to all during these challenging times,

Shelley