81: Remote Work with Matt Dale

81: Remote Work with Matt Dale

Matt Dale leads a team that discovered they needed to be intentional about remote work as a develop a conscious set of behaviours to support that.


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Charlotte Ward 0:13
Hello, and welcome to Episode 81 of the customer support leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward. The theme for this week is remote work. So stay tuned for five leaders talking about that very topic. I’d like to welcome back to the podcast today. Matt Dale. Matt, lovely to have you back again. This week, we’re talking about remote work in support. As a company that I know has made the transition. I’d love to talk to you about your experiences there.

Matt Dale 0:48
Fantastic. It’s good to be back. It’s been a little while. Alright. So as we talked about companies and kind of making the transition to remote, I think there’s there’s there’s a couple of phases a couple different kinds of companies. You have the fully in office Old School everybody’s here we can talk to everybody we see everybody face to face. The second one is everybody’s remote. I think the middle area, which is where many of us prior to this COVID thing and found ourselves was kind of we have part of our team that’s remote and part of our team that’s in the office. And that’s something that illuminate we we came up against. We had been basically based here in Southern California. And we hired a remote person because we needed East Coast our support and it was hard to find people locally that wanted to get up at 4am and come and do support in a quiet office with nobody there until a we hired our First Person, Caitlin Baucus, like you know, Caitlyn, and he was off in Boston on his own. And I don’t know that I talked to him much in the first four months after we did the training in the office. We brought him in and we trained him and it was kind of like we hit our busy season and he was off doing his thing. And on reflection, that was a terrible thing to do. For me as a as a manager. I was I was a little younger, a little less experienced. But he didn’t have that he didn’t have the support structure he needed he was in his house by himself. And I think he went a little crazy like there’s a little bit of stir crazy going on there, he didn’t have the human contact that he was used to. And there was really a lot of stuff in the office that happened was missing out on. And so after that period of time, we sat down and he said, Look, we need to, we need to change this, this isn’t going to work if we’re going to build a team around around me. And that was that was the plan was to say, hey, let’s expand our remote operations. So we can cover Eastern and Central Time Zones here in the US. It’s okay, what’s what’s broken, what’s wrong? And you said, Well, first of all, like big long list, but first of all, like we’re having these meetings, and people forget to include an invite for the for the video conference. Now, again, this is five years ago, that wasn’t the standard feature in Google Hangouts. But But he said, this all points to kind of this idea of a remote first mindset, he’s I think we need to change and move from an office kind of traditional mindset to remote first one. And his challenge to me and I agree with that completely was we want everybody on our team to be able to work remotely without a difference, whether they’re in the office or whether there’s someone else, we want them to know what that’s like, what the communication to be done in a public way, in a way that that Everyone’s getting access to the same information that everyone has the same, same opportunities for career advancement. And, and feels connected. Like we’re actually a team instead of a bunch of people that are, you know, the in office people versus the remote people. And so that was the thought process behind it was how do we how do we build this remote first culture and really kind of levelled the playing field, so to speak, and to provide equal access to information?

Charlotte Ward 3:22
I mean, that transition from having one person remote that feels very excluded to having everyone remote, and it’s a very inclusive environment and a very enabled environment is a really long journey, isn’t it? But what would you say is the biggest thing that you changed? I mean, it doesn’t have to be really like hyper operational, but do you think it was a reset? Do you think it was a culture Do you think it was a tweak somewhere other than that kind of got the whole ball rolling?

Matt Dale 3:48
I think it was all of the above. We started off our meetings and said, I told the team I said, we’re going to be a remote first team. We’re building this mindset. Here’s what it means. It means that all the stuff that I’ve just told you and here how we’re going to do it. And really, it was a bunch of very small things. If we’re having a meeting, you include a Google Hangout link on the meeting. And if people are in office, they join the Google Hangout meeting, I talked to a CEO, we bought a bunch of the Google chromebox. For meetings for our office, we had a TV, we had a camera doing that. And then we said to everyone, it’s remote, where everyone that’s on the meeting has their camera on. So we can see each other face to face, nobody’s you know, folding their laundry or doing something else that we’re focused on. We’re here, just as if we were in the office, we’re, when we meet, we see each other face to face. We also made a more of an effort to focus on a little bit of connection time. So for the teams that were mixed, where there was some folks that were remote in some of the office, we increase the number of times they met together if they’d been meeting together once a week. We added in, you know, daily quick stand ups for five minutes. Hey, how’s it going? How are things? We added a process to where we tried to bring everybody together? No, this happened. How In a little while due to budget things, but we tried to bring everybody to the main office at least once a year. So they could come we could sit down together have an all hands meeting where we’re all in person. And we’re doing not just work stuff, but really focusing on how do we how do we build the business? How do we build the relationships with each other. And each of those days, we’d have work in the morning, and then the afternoon, we’d have a meal. And then we do an activity together, whether it was, you know, some trust trust building games, or one time we took a group out, and we did we painted pottery, which is not something that I would normally have thought would be a great idea. But it was awesome, because we were sitting around this table, and we’re just having conversations while we’re doing kind of a, in my case, a mindless activity. But but it was really it was really good, really healthy. So so things like that where we can come together and develop the connection with each other so that when we go apart, you know, I have a relationship, you know, I know who you are, you know who I am, and we’re more inclined to help each other and support each other. So I think it was kind of all of all of those things really kind of put together to say, number one for me, this is something we’re doing Is leadership. And then here are the steps that we’re going to do. Here’s what we’re going to commit to as a team, so that we can build these strong relationships. And I think it’s really helped. Like when when my boss came to me and said, We’re shutting the office down, there’s this virus and we want to make sure we’re keeping people safe. how’s that gonna affect support? how’s that gonna affect our customers? I said, I it’s not going to affect support, and our customers aren’t going to know because we’ve already been ready for this, like, unintentionally planning for it. It was super easy. You know, we had challenges like everyone’s facing, you know, dealing with kids at home all day and all that craziness but but the technology, the tools, the relationships were in place and it and it worked really well because we had that remote first mindset.

Charlotte Ward 6:42
That’s it for today. Go to customersupportleaders com/81 for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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