Collaborating in a Dispersed Workforce

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Working remotely for the Lazo Group from Rome, Italy and how we remain connected

Hi everyone! It’s Abbie Stark, Web Content Producer at The Lazo Group, sharing all about how I work remotely for the agency from Rome, Italy. As mentioned in our last blog post, we’ve all had to adapt to this “new normal” and learn to implement remote work into our daily lives. Being based in Italy, I experienced the quarantine while living in a foreign country and working for a U.S.-based company. 

One of the perks of working for a flexible agency, like The Lazo Group, is the ability to have our team dispersed all over the world, from various American cities to Rome and London. On a team level, we have many systems and tools in place to help us work more efficiently. In addition, I have my own methods of staying productive and connected with the larger team, honed from years of working with distributed teams.

How We Stay Connected as a Team Across Different Locations and Time Zones

Communication and Project Management

We collaborate with teammates and clients in locations all over the world on a wide range of subjects and projects. One aspect that is common across the board is that clear communication is key. We connect primarily via Slack, allowing us to instantly send messages and set our own “online and available” work hours. To remain as efficient as possible, we limit our team Zoom standup meetings to once a day for 30 minutes, giving everyone a chance to check in and review business items on a macro level.

Process Implementation 

For the last several months, we have been working on scaling our processes. Fortunately, there are a number of specialized software tools and apps to help keep our team and work on track. Our project management software, Monday, is our base of operations and where we manage workflow, client deliverables, and deadlines. We use Evernote to organize and share content externally with clients, making extensive use of metadata tagging. And Dropbox keeps shared client files and final work product securely archived for long term backup access. For time tracking, we rely on Harvest. All of these SaaS tools enable us to seamlessly deliver around the world throughout the day. 

Team-Building Activities

I believe that our bimonthly virtual team-building activities via Zoom have made the biggest impact on our team chemistry and overall success. As a group, we brainstorm informational sessions that provide us with the opportunity to learn a new skill or about a new topic from an expert. In the past, we’ve had Menstrual Cycle Alignment Expert and Life Coach, Vianney Leigh, speak on cycle syncing. We also scheduled what’s sure to be an eye-opening session with Cherise Belnavis about Black Allyship in August 2020. 

For more hands-on activities, each team member takes a turn to teach us one of their unique skills. In June, we hosted a Paint Night, which was a huge hit, despite my lack of artistic skills. In July, I led an Italian Cuisine gnocchi-making class where I showed off my fresh pasta-making skills from the comfort of my Roman kitchen. 

It’s invigorating to get to know our team members on a personal level while also learning something new, fun, and non work-related. Most of our team members have never met one another in person! 

While it has taken some time to work out the kinks in our processes and online tools while simultaneously growing and expanding our team, I’ve seen firsthand the difference it makes to have a company running smoothly with these systems in place. Not only are clients happier with the quality of work we deliver, but as a team member, it also feels much more rewarding to work for a company that prioritizes your mental and physical health above all else. 

Maintaining a Productive and Healthy Work-Life Balance from my home office in Rome

Speaking more personally, I’ve had to discover new, innovative ways to stay motivated while working for home for months on end. As someone who loves working on multiple projects at one time—from maintaining a travel blog about my life in Rome, to Italy travel consultations, and of course, creating marketing content for The Lazo Group.

Here are some strategies I use to maximize my working hours, while leaving me with extra time to travel and explore the amazing country I live in: 

Time tracking: Being prone to procrastination, time-tracking has been an incredibly eye-opening experience for me. I use tools like Toggl and Harvest to keep a running timer of the projects I’m working on and pausing when I’m not actively working. This allows me to evaluate how I have spent my time each day, and to consciously decide where I want to invest my time and energy going forward. 

Time blocking: Time blocking is a strategy that many implement in a variety of different ways. For example, some use a strict approach of allocating 10-minute blocks for specific tasks, others use time-blocking more loosely. While I’ve tried using a Google calendar to schedule every minute of my time in the past, a less intense approach seems to work best for me. I prefer to devote days of the week to certain activities, blocking out larger chunks of time to work on specific deliverables. 

For example, Mondays are always a bit slow for me, so I like to focus on administrative and less mentally-demanding tasks like scheduling social media. On the other hand, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are focused days, where I have a bit more energy and creative inspiration, meaning that writing posts and captions come more easily and naturally. Thursdays and Fridays are catch-up days where meetings, photo editing, and all of the other random tasks on my list get done. 

I find this flexible time-management strategy is a productive approach to getting work done, while also considering my personal needs and unique energy levels. It also lets me change something up if I need to pivot to address something hot or shift to a new tactic.

Journaling: The number one thing that keeps me on track while working remotely is my Bullet Journal. Having one small notebook where I keep everything about my life is very handy for me. I use it to jot down appointments, track my habits, write daily gratitude logs, and keep up with the never-ending to-do list that I can migrate over from one day to the next. If one system isn’t working for me, I can change it the next week without buying another planner. I can also keep notes or brainstorm without needing multiple notebooks. 

So that’s everything! Productivity and self-improvement are areas that I and The Lazo Group team are interested and vested in, and our strategies are always evolving and improving. For me, having the freedom to live and travel where I want is 100% worth the challenges that come with remote working, and I love being a part of a company that allows me to design my life the way I want. 

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