When you’re looking for answers, it’s best to seek out an experienced leader. So, we decided to meet with Jon Tsourakis, the president and chief revenue officer of Oyova, to discuss the most important strategy for creative remote collaboration with his team of 25 employees.
“Creativity. Problem solving requires creativity. Connecting the dots takes creativity.” Jon’s web development and marketing company only recently shifted to remote work. While some employees work out of state and are often remote, the agency has two main offices in Florida and most employees were used to working in person five days a week.
“We honestly were not flexible about working remotely. But now, I wish we did this sooner,” Jon says.
Oyova’s shift to remote work has forced Jon and his team to be more direct when providing feedback, while simultaneously remembering to be human and adapt to the current situation. Rather than waste time going back and forth through email, colleagues across multiple departments were forced to get creative and learn to communicate and solve problems at a quicker pace. This has become a benefit for Oyova’s internal teams and also their client work, as clients are getting more available customer service and internal teams are quickly turning around development projects.
As the president of a company, Jon had high expectations for his team’s level of commitment when they first shifted to 100% remote work. He was pleasantly surprised.
“I was thoroughly impressed with the team’s level of maturity and ability to adapt to the situation, deliver, and execute.”
For both leaders and employees, this level of commitment has shown why remote work can be a long term benefit for companies. Not only does it change the discussion around work/life balance, but it gives managers the opportunity to communicate more effectively and intentionally with their teams.
Does he expect that all companies will stick to remote? “The smart ones will either go fully remote or keep it as an option,” he says.
Jon says that as a leader, you may be physically present in the office, but you may naturally close your door and make yourself less accessible without meaning to. With the remote work lifestyle, managers are able to be more readily available, as teams are speaking on more immediate terms via Slack and text. Because of this, relationships between teams are actually improving.
One of the most important aspects of remote creative collaboration according to Jon is the use of collaborative platforms like Zoom, Slack, project management software, a calendar, and email. Without the opportunity to collaborate in person with other teams or stop by your colleague’s office to ask a question, it’s more important than ever that employees keep their calendar updated and publicly shared with the rest of the team. It’s also imperative that teams align on what each collaboration tool is used for. “It’s greatly important that leaders outline the processes from the very beginning, while also being gentle and direct,” Jon says.
Jon’s strategy is to check in more often than usual: “Send a random email or Slack to your teammates. Let them know nothing has necessarily changed, while also giving that in-person presence.” It’s important for a leader to remember to reach out to their employees and colleagues, and to provide opportunities for water cooler Slack channels, like #jokes or #happyhour, so that teams have the chance to let off steam and stay connected to each other. This will help internal teams build stronger bonds as the future of collaboration continues through a screen.
What is the quickest way to take these strategies and make them best practices for your team? As a leader, set the standard for remote work communication and collaboration. High touch leadership and authenticity will go a long way towards a successful foundation of remote success.