Podcast, Remote work

Ep 14: How to Operate Remotely During an Emergency with Liam Martin

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Ep 14: How to Operate Remotely During an Emergency with Liam Martin

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What is Time Doctor?

Time Doctor is a time management tool for companies who have employees that work remotely. Their goal is to help organizations, remote employees, contractors, and other individuals be more productive so they can be less distracted. The 9-year-old company employs people who work remotely as well, as they have people from 36 different countries, all over the world.


Problem: How do you get your team to work remotely during an emergency situation, like this?

Liam has had to refocus his efforts on making sure everyone has the ability to work remotely during this weird time. While things are chaotic now, he is sure that we can get through all of this together. 

Like everyone else, Liam, his cofounder Rob, and Time Doctor have lost funds and have had to readjust their events and lives due to what is currently happening. Conferences have had to be canceled, rescheduled, and altered. In fact, Time Doctor is now leading an online event called, “Remote Aid” in lieu of the in-person conference which was planned in April. Adjustments need to be made (for individuals as well as businesses) and that is one way that Time Doctor can help you.


What steps do you have to do to get your team working remotely during an emergency situation?

Liam insists that the framework is pretty simple. Whenever you look at disaster mitigation, focus on three things: 

  1. What am I going to do today?
  2. What am I going to do next week?
  3. What am I going to do next month?

These three things do not need to be taken care of right now; what does need to happen are a few small steps. Fundamentally, what needs to be taken care of sooner rather than later are:

1. Do a financial assessment

  • Take a look at your office leases. If your office lease is going to renew in the next three months, you may come to the conclusion that you might not have needed this expensive cost. This is often, upwards of 30% of a business’ budget. You may find that you can cut this, instead of cutting your staff/employees.
  • Tools. Employ the right people, get the right processes in place, then place the right tools in order to accelerate that process.

If you’re a business owner right now, you need to be able to look at your business and figure out, ‘What can I cut to keep this business functional?’

2. Build your process documentation.

You need to get as strong as humanely possible in the next few weeks, in order to weather the storm ahead. Audit all of your processes. Create process redundancies when able. The largest remote process document in existence is also a great tool for any business and you can find it on GitLab. Dimitri, the head of GitLab, encourages people to steal the document and use it as a basis for your own.

You need to discover the history of the processes because the history of the process may be really stupid.

3. Communication is so important

In remote teams, communication needs to be scheduled, documented, and there needs to be clear outcomes from it. 

  1. Synchronous versus asynchronous communication styles. 
  2. You also need to have a hierarchy of communication. For Liam, he rates in-person interaction at highest. After that comes video, then video beats audio, then instant messaging, then email. As you move up the hierarchy, you become more synchronous, as you move lower down the hierarchy, you become more asynchronous.
  3. As much as possible, getting people on video is important to see where your team’s heads are at. Being focused during these meetings is essential. Sometimes that means playing games to keep your team’s heads in the game. Sometimes that means setting guidelines and rules (like always having both video and audio on during Zoom meetings).

Just because you’re looking at a computer screen, doesn’t mean you’re not communicating with real human beings.

4. Metrics and Mental health

Check-in with your team on a regular basis, not just about the metrics of the company but also to see where everyone’s head is at. The whole world is trying to function at a high level of anxiety right now. Look at what you can do to reduce the anxiety level of your team. What you need of your team is to be relaxed so they can operate at peak efficiency. Liam and his team uses The Five-Minute Journal religiously as a way to check-in with themselves and with one another.

Empowering people to be able to work whenever they want, wherever they want.

– Liam Martin’s personal mission statement

What are some of resources Liam suggests for listeners?

Liam currently uses the Bose SoundTrue Ultra Earbuds (which are unfortunately discontinued). They are both comfortable and have a great quality microphone. He suggests that business owners who want to encourage their staff to work at home, start off with a great headset with a great quality microphone. Focus on microphone quality instead of audio quality.

Liam also uses and endorses 1Password, which makes password management for a fluid, unstable, or any batch of remote workers easy. 

Speedtest.net is another tool, which can help guarantee that your remote workers are working with good tools at their own homes. 

Google Apps for Business gives you a cloud calendar, documents, spreadsheets, drive, presentations, etc at a low monthly price, which can ensure that your files are accessible and that everyone is using the same programs (to avoid funny formatting problems). It also gives you your own domain.

Liam emphasizes the importance of communication, which is why instant messaging programs like Slack are so important. If you’re not a big fan of Slack, he gives an honorable mention to Twist.com (which is made by the same person who created ToDoist).

Video communication can be just as important as quick messaging. Liam suggests Skype (which is free) or Zoom (which he calls the best paid option on the market).

For project management, Liam lists Asana, Trello, Basecamp as great programs to help communicate information to your team.

In order to help your team’s mental health, Liam encourages business owners to buy their team large external monitors. He uses the ViewSonic VX32 which can connect right to his Macbook Pro for easy access and use. A really good mouse is helpful as well. Liam uses the Logitech MX Master 3.

He encourages the use of a good time tracker as well, to help make the transition easier as well as heightening productivity in your team’s altered environment, which is what Time Doctor does.

What is Remote Aid 2020?

Remote Aid 2020 is an online conference that is a donation run. You can attend for free but donations are encouraged. All the donations will be going to the Red Cross.

This interview is part of the How We Solve podcast. To hear more from industry experts who are solving everyday business problems, check us out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and on our website.

About the guest

Liam Martin

Liam Martin

According to the Time Doctor website, “Liam is from Montreal, Canada and enjoys swimming with mermaids, seriously.” He runs Time Doctor with co-founder Rob Rawson.

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