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VMblog Expert Interview: Frank Suglia of BitTitan Talks Best Practices for Successfully Working Remotely

interview bittitan frank suglia 

As we keep a watchful eye on what's happening with the COVID-19 Coronavirus, many organizations have started recommending that their employees work from home rather than coming into the centralized office.  For some, remote working is something already quite familiar.  But for many workers and organizations, this concept (beyond a day here or there) may prove foreign, and this could quickly become the longest period of time they've ever spent away from both the office and each other.

Organizations which have never done this before are currently investigating ways to implement a mass work from home effort in order to make the transition to a remote workplace as seamless as possible, while keeping the emotional disruption to a minimum.  But if employees don't have the necessary tools and support systems in place during this transition, they won't be productive and in turn, won't be successful or effective.

VMblog recently spoke with an expert at remote work and managing a global/remote team -- Frank Suglia, director of technical sales for BitTitan -- who shares a number of tips and creative ideas on how to be successful working remotely.  

VMblog:  As we kick things off, can you provide an overview of what BitTitan does as a company and how your organization has developed a successful remote work program and culture?

Frank Suglia:  BitTitan is a cloud services provider based in Bellevue, Washington. We're also the developer of MigrationWiz, a fully automated, 100% SaaS cloud migration solution. Because we serve many global partner organizations and customers - we have more than 43,000 customers in 187 countries - working with others in remote locations is routine for our business and has been since day one. We have a flexible work environment with a cloud network designed for remote workers. 

My specific role with BitTitan serves as a prime example. Our headquarters are in the Seattle area, but our sales teams are global and in various time zones. I'm based in Austin, Texas, and I manage a team of employees who are located in Europe, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, and the U.S. Remote work is the norm for my team and necessary to support both our workforce and our customers to ensure success.

VMblog:  Can you specify how BitTitan helps employees routinely work remotely?  And how do you ensure working remotely is successful?

Suglia:  There are a few key ingredients that help our employees work remotely on a routine basis. Much of what we do is cloud-based and can be accessed anytime from anywhere. We also prioritize implementing the right technologies and tools to help employees stay connected and enable collaboration. Workplace collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams are incredibly useful for quick check-ins and visibility into the availability status of co-workers and colleagues. At BitTitan, we use Teams to streamline internal communications and declutter our mailboxes. All of our employees use Teams' call and chat features. Our HR department uses Teams for messaging to all department heads, our global sales team uses it for customer tracking, and our marketing team uses it for project updates, meeting summaries, and of course, team fun. We even have specific channels for customers and partners within Teams, which allows us to focus on customer and partner communications there.

As a company, we prioritize accessibility, which makes working remotely simple and seamless. Enabling accessibility helps with streamlining operations to maintain connectivity and productivity. At the end of the day, work needs to get done no matter where it's being completed so the same policies and expectations around work performance still apply.

VMblog:  How can people best mentally separate work from home life when they are working from home?

Suglia:  Maintaining the correct mental approach is key to working remotely and sticking to a set routine can be helpful. For example, if an employee typically starts their workday at 8:30 a.m. in the office and leaves around 5:30 p.m., they should follow that same schedule while working remotely. Having a designated work area can help keep you mentally prepared for being productive and eliminating distractions. Be deliberate with your approach to working from home and make sure to communicate your expectations with family members.

At the end of the day, it can be helpful to leave the workspace and move on to a personal task like chores, running errands or working out -especially if it gets you out of the house. This physical sense of separation can help establish a clear transition from work into home life.

VMblog:  What are some tips or creative ideas you suggest to help employees stay engaged and connected while working remotely?

Suglia:  Maintaining consistent "live" contact with colleagues throughout the day can help create a sense of normalcy when working remotely. Communication is always key and can help ensure motivation and productivity both remain high. Team leaders can consider sending a team-wide communication to help officially kick off the workday, such as holding a daily video meeting to check in. For employees, they should practice letting colleagues know when they'll be available during the day by either sending a quick email to their teams or setting a "busy" or "do not disturb" status on their company chat profile. This will help employees set aside time for projects that require more focus and it also allows them to remain available and accessible to their colleagues during other parts of the day.

For urgent questions or comments, pick up the phone and call your co-worker instead of sending an email. Phone calls are more personable and can also be more efficient, as you can get an answer on the spot without having to wait for a response over email. Teams and other communication tools make this particularly easy and help maintain a collaborative mentality.

VMblog:  What are some ways that people can make the most of remote meetings with their co-workers and teams?

Suglia:  First, continue having scheduled team meetings, and use video conferencing to create a livelier and more personal feel. Seeing your colleagues' faces can be incredibly beneficial. Video conferencing works for larger meetings too, so there is no need to delay important business meetings until employees return to the office. Having the ability to record key meetings can be helpful for employees who are juggling childcare or health issues. They can play back the recording later so they don't miss out on hearing the meeting firsthand. Be sure to provide instructions in advance for attendees to help them access audio through VoIP or via dial-in. Speakers may also want to rehearse the presentation controls ahead of time to make sure things run smoothly.

VMblog:  What are the best technologies that people can leverage for working remotely or from home?

Suglia:  Again, collaborative tools like Microsoft Teams are incredibly effective and can help people stay on task while also staying connected with their colleagues. These tools can be used to chat, manage project updates, share files, create meeting summaries and provide a channel for remote employees to share moments of camaraderie and fun. More broadly, tools like Microsoft Teams can be leveraged for businesses to promote a virtual culture and share company news.

Also, it's helpful to model your workspace at home to replicate your office workspace as much as possible. So if you employ a double-monitor setup at work, you should have this at home as well.

VMblog:  You've indicated that BitTitan has "pillars of success for remote work."  Can you elaborate on these?  What do these pillars entail?

Suglia:  To help ensure success for remote workers, we established several pillars to outline best practices and provide guidance for working remotely. These pillars include:
  • Mentally Prepare - Create separation from work and personal life by establishing a designated area in your home for work away from household distractions.
  • Communicate Early and Often - Stay in touch with your teams throughout the day and let co-workers know when you're available. Budget time for individual work.
  • Leverage Technology to Enhance Productivity - Technologies like chats and video conferencing can help you communicate and stay in the loop. Use video to help employees feel more connected. Continue to have regular team meetings and have agendas to specify action items and results. Engage virtually.
  • Maintain Connections and Keep it Fun - Keep in touch on a personal level to boost camaraderie and team-building. Use humor for enhanced engagement.

VMblog:  Finally, what's the most important piece of advice you have for those who aren't accustomed to working remotely?

Suglia:  Continue to engage, use video, communicate, and do your part to keep it fun. If your entire company is working remotely, that means you and your co-workers are all going through similar experiences. Maintain those connections and keep them strong, you're in this together and all working toward the same goal. Don't forget to keep up your sense of humor when communicating with colleagues. A small gesture like a joke or an emoji can make a world of difference.

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Published Tuesday, March 17, 2020 7:34 AM by David Marshall
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