Camilo Paez  ·  May 4, 2020 

How To Lead Your Team From A Distance (Or From The Beach). (Update: In Covid-19 Times).

Once I was talking to a friend about how it was possible that in the middle of 2018 (Update: 2020), people still continued to attend (forced) to an office for 8 hours to work sitting in front of a computer, if we have been fortunate enough to witness the appearance of the tool that has divided the history of humanity in two: The Internet.

Once I was talking to a friend about how it was possible that in the middle of 2018 (Update: 2020), people still continued to attend (forced) to an office for 8 hours to work sitting in front of a computer, if we have been fortunate enough to witness the appearance of the tool that has divided the history of humanity in two: The Internet. Here I show how to lead your team from a distance

We found highly contradictory that technology companies (and other sectors) forced their employees to attend the company 5 days a week, for 8 hours a day, to end up using the internet to communicate. Couldn’t they just do it from home?

Since we create Foonkie Monkey, the company where I work and am a co-founder, we have believed in what they now call “teleworking”. Which consists simply not forcing employees to travel around the city to do the same thing they could do from the comfort of their home or anywhere else, and thus be happier with their work.

The city chaos

In our case, we have worked with people who take up to two hours to get to the office. Yes, Bogotá is really big. Of course, some people take 10 minutes on a bike. Suppose that on average a person spends 45 minutes traveling from home to work and vice versa. That’s an hour and a half a day, 7.5 hours a week (almost a day of work!), 30 hours a month, 360 a year: lost time. For things like these, we are always running out of time, we do not manage it correctly.

Map of Bogota-Colombia

Additional, and usually offices are located in specific parts of the cities and people usually live on the outskirts. That means that people make a trip, like a zombie marathon, from the periphery to the places of labor concentration in the morning, and at the end of the day, they all move at the same time, to the periphery again. Nonstrategic mobilizations where buses, subways and/or cars create a not recommended chaos for our inner tranquility.

If you can save your employees/coworkers that headache, believe me, they will appreciate it.

Crowd of people on a bridge to catch a transmilenio.

Fulfilling objectives, not working hours.

How to lead your team from a distance?, The important thing is not that people arrive at their workplace at 8 am and leave at 5 pm. The important thing is that they achieve the objectives you contracted them. And if you’re one of those bosses who use memos when an employee is late, seriously, you’re at the wrong time.

Get this: Most people (on this side of the world) are going always late. Nothing to do, it is something cultural. Either learn to take advantage of it, or you will be forced to have your employees check the clock from 4.30 to see the closing time, to stop answering emails from 3:00 pm and to have the attitude of a public official in office transit, with the flu and not having coffee all day long.

In the end, the important thing is that the work team achieves the objectives, not that people sit down to ‘warm-up’ chairs. Focus on the objectives set and not on the working hours.

Managing our own time: A priority that should be basic to everyone.

At Foonkie Monkey we have had cases of people who decided to work from home to have the time to watch their children grow. If you had that chance, wouldn’t you take it?

We have also had the case of members of our team who live in other cities/countries where they are happier. Or my particular case, that now I live in front of the sea (which I always wanted to do).

From my perspective and experience, a happy employee works much better and more committed because he values the place where he works and strives for that company to grow. It is reciprocal and they know it.

Talk to the team, give them the ability to manage their own time. Establish appropriate moments of the day to discuss work tasks.

For example, most developers love to work at night, when nobody bothers them. But keep in mind that it is very important to set the goals to achieve and define responsibilities.

There is a bunch of tools to maintain communication and tracking projects. My recommended: Slack, Trello, and Zoom. Important to note that this type of tools are appearing more and more and with better ´Features´. So when a member of the team comes with a suggestion, you have to analyze the possibility (pros/cons).

Image with background of palm trees with two mobile devices.

Don’t be the boss, be part of the team.

An important part of this process is gaining the trust of the team. And this is achieved by leaving behind the position of Account Manager / Executive, who comes to ask why there are delays in the project; A leader already knows the reasons and is the one who is working harder than anyone to solve problems. A team that feels supported by its leader works better. Don’t ask them how the project is going. Ask them how it can help them.

Human interaction.

Yes, human interaction is very important in some processes and sometimes working from home is not for all trades. It will always have to be put on a balance, depending on the work activity.

Although I do believe that there are tools (in addition to those already mentioned above) that serve a lot to solve these gaps. For example, memes are a great tool to give a little humor to the day and let the team members relax a little. We are finally working with humans, not machines.

There is something I strongly recommend: Establish a monthly meeting for lunch or to have a few beers where the company pays the bill. It is recommended that are not mandatory because the meetings are not to discuss labor issues but to increase strength as a team.

Image with three plates of food and two drinks.

Another thing we do at Foonkie is to meet in the office at the beginning of every project. And although in Foonkie almost nobody goes to the office to work, it is very important to have a space-enabled so that whoever wants to go to work in the office can do so: We have had cases of employees who get bored working alone at home and decide go to the office from time to time.

There the change is much greater, because they feel that the space is theirs and that they can use it when they prefer. Different case than when they are forced to be there. That’s way more effective than ping pong tables, avant-garde couches, and graffiti walls.

Working more than 8 hours a day is for losers

No one actually works more than 8 hours a day. That is proven. A well-being brain works better than a tired one.

It is very common (in some economic sectors) that employees arrive early and leave very late. What kind of life is that? Could it be that the leaders of those companies actually believe that their employees are working well for 12 or 16 hours a day?

No, they are distracted by other things most of the time. They are waiting for the opportunity to go out to smoke, have lunch and anything they can do to make time pass quickly.

And it’s just normal, people need to LIVE THEIR LIFE.

6 to 8 hours of dedicated work a day is a lot of time. The important thing is to use those hours effectively. And a person who can manage their time, who doesn’t have to deal with traffic on a daily basis, and who doesn’t have the “ability to work under pressure” will certainly use those hours better. It is all a matter of reciprocity and focus.

Trust your people

Nothing more disgusting than distrusting your team. An employee who feels trusted, works better, no doubt.

Now, when the objectives are not met in a row, and the justifications are not satisfactory, perhaps it is time to get a new member for the team. But in our 10 years of experience without forcing our employees to come to the office, that has only happened 3 times, and all have been too evident.

So, you have to start seeing things from the opposite perspective: Trusting that the team members will carry out their tasks, and not starting from the basis that they will not do it and therefore, they must go to the office to do it. Believe me, if they are going to trick you, they will do it in the office, at home or from any other place. It is important to emphasize are exceptional cases that very rarely occur.

Image representing teamwork

A happy employee works twice as hard.

It is clear that the larger a company is, the more difficult it is to implement a working system where people do homeworking. We are still far from that because it is a matter of education for the entire company, not just for the employees.

But it is important to keep in mind that it is a worthwhile effort, because an employee happy with the company is an employee who works twice as hard, focusing on his work and doing it with love.

Something that can be done is to start by experimenting with small workgroups to evaluate their results.

But, and I repeat, from our experience as a company, it has been 100% worth it.

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