Podcast, Remote Working

Working Remotely During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Shawn Winters – GitLab

We have Shawn Winter as our guest today in The Human Behind The Screen to share with us his experience as a leader of remote teams through these tough times. Shawn is an expert in Sales Development & Strategy for Early Stage Startups - Ranging from working in Seed round startups all the way to publicly traded companies. Shawn's real ambition and focus is around enabling others to become mentally stronger and more capable of becoming the best versions of themselves for their professional & personal lives. 

How the COVID-19 Changes the Working Scenario

We all have to find new ways to adapt, and this is important even for existing remote workers, who relied so heavily on external activities or places like the gym, the CO working spaces, or coffee shops, in order to feel at our best. But these aren't available anymore, so everybody's being forced to change their routines and switch up their calendar, as Shawn very well remarks. "Being thoughtful about my calendar was always something important early on at GitLab and working remotely, And I had not done a new iteration of my calendar and my schedule in a while, but I've been thoughtful about that since the lockdown... Because, things have changed, I'm not going to be going to the gym, I'm not going to be out and about as much by going to the grocery store or whatever. So, I have to take some time to work out from home, like building that into my calendar or add more social time with friends and family over video, which has been important for me as well". 

Keep the Transition to Remote Work Simple 

With new remote teams, it is even harder to manage because not only they perceive all the external things going on, but they have to deal with a whole new work dynamic that they've never tried before. So, as Shawn highlights, managers need to engage with their team members on a one on one basis and check in with them about how they are dealing with the changes. "I think clear communication between managers and employees is something that's paramount. And then I think beyond that is, what are the things that we can do as managers or teams that keep things simple? Let's not try to adopt every single principle of remote working on day one... Let's identify as a leadership group, what are the few areas that we can implement now that are going to help really define and encourage the right behaviours for our teams" Shawn adds. 

Keeping track of the team's performance is extremely important as well, things like how did they do last week with this new framework of remote work? Did they work? Did they not work? What can we improve? Really being thoughtful about what's being done on a day to day basis and then making changes week to week and little small changes just to keep things simple and keep things moving forward without overwhelming anyone. 

Be Aware of your Mental Health and Others

Mental health is a topic that has gained a lot of exposure in recent years, and it is a concern that is even more relevant now. Shawn points out that mental health challenges are not to take lightly, as managers and employers of companies that are moving remote should invest in mental health, now more than ever, by conditioning their employees to the new circumstances. "Humans are creatures of habits, and with things getting switched up and us being on lockdown, employers really need to find a better way of implementing mental health and conditioning strategies to check in on their employees. Make sure that their minds are growing, that they're constantly figuring out new ways to learn and grow during these uncertain times" Shawn said.

It was also discussed that leaders should take their own mental health in account, there is a lot of weight on their shoulders and as said by Shawn "how can you help others become their best if you're not at your best, right?" So, he encourages managers, employers, and leaders overall, to find their own space as well to have peace of mind, in his case, by meditating and exercising.

Keep Sales Employees Engaged and Motivated

Shawn shares that keeping very specific and clear goals for employees is key to keep them highly motivated, so it is crucial that managers help their workers to define what are their goals for the week or the month by identifying what some measurable metrics that can be tracked to meet their goals are. It also helps to make people feel these goals are very personal, not only aligned with the needs of the company but also to the workers themselves. Shawn assures that "Once team members and managers able to identify those goals and work them back to measurable metrics, it allows a lot more clarity for the sales team to know, hey, I'm going to do this on a day to day basis, and that's what's going to help drive me and make me efficient, keep my job and make money and at the same time".

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our everyday activities; there are now more, and more people working from home and companies are facing the challenges that come with working remote. Not even those who have been remote workers for a while are free of the struggles that come with the social distancing, for Shawn, it has been hard on a personal level as he shares with us. "Even for me personally, who's been working remotely for so long, there's still that thought of, hey, all these external things are going on and, how do I get back to basics at this point?".

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