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A Day in the Life of a Remote Manager – Meet Nikki From ShieldGEO

Nikki and her family

At ShieldGEO, we’re strong advocates for a flexible approach to work. Despite having offices in London and Sydney, we intentionally recruit globally, knowing diverse backgrounds promote a more dynamic team. This distributed approach lends itself to remote work. 

However, it’s not just our distributed team that works remotely. Many of our London and Sydney-based team work from home or outside the office too. We’re committed to supporting our staff to structure their work in ways that are the most productive and beneficial for them.

In a bid to showcase how this flexible approach can benefit workforces, we’re profiling different ShieldGEO employees and telling their stories. This month, we chatted to Nikki Sohal, our Client Services Manager and Subject Matter Expert.

Meet Nikki

Nikki has been with ShieldGEO since 2017. She works from her home in London, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.

Nikki’s role with Shield involves overseeing the Global Mobility team, dealing with any escalated client concerns and driving the invoicing cycle. She’s also a Subject Matter Expert for general employment and immigration.

“It’s kind of hard to outline every task that I do,” she says. “It’s always a different mixed bag.”

A day in the life of Nikki

6:30 I wake up and scroll through my emails, slack channels and social media. As I do this, I respond to anything urgent.
8:00 I’ll have a shower before waking up my 2-year-old, Amaara. She could sleep all morning IF I let her! Have breakfast –  usually toast!
8:30 At 8:30, I officially start work and check in via Skype with the EMEA half of my Team.
10:00 Get through my emails and Skype messages, then work on my Subject Matter Expert Cases, making the necessary updates to chatter or reaching out to local partners
13:00 Lunch at home! This could be either a boring sandwich or an Indian delicacy my mother in law has whipped up!!
13:30 I continue working on my e-mails, cases, and invoices. The USA half of the team is usually starting their day about now so I check in with them.
14:00 Support our USA team with their cases and/or invoices
15:00 Time to have a snack of crisps/nuts/crackers. Usually at this time I also have a call with someone in my team to catch up – I alternate days with everyone.
17:30 I finalise my cases for the day as Subject Matter Expert, then drive or monitor other cases, and if necessary, I’ll close cases.
18:00 At this time during invoicing I run the final checks on my dashboard, and note what’s been done or not done. I’ll check in with USA team if anything is needed.
18:30 Start dinner, feed Amaara, do her bath and then it’s bed for her around 8:30pm
21:00 Watching TV and relaxing

 

While every day looks different, for Nikki, supporting her team is her main priority.

“My team is always the priority,” she says.

“My aim from day one when someone joins my team is to really build their trust. Not just with me but with each other.” 

With remote teams, there are no incidental exchanges. There isn’t an opportunity for team lunches or walks to the local coffee shop or leaning over your desk to check-in. Yet trust within teams remains integral.

“I kind of keep the team together in terms of team morale and make sure the team is chatting together,” Nikki says.

She’s big on group chats and encourages her team to ask questions in their group channels to encourage team interactions.

“It gives different people a different moment to shine, and that’s really important to me. Normally you would just swivel around in your chair and have a bit of a team moment, and we don’t really get to have those, so we have to do it via Skype,” she says.

Despite this extra effort, Nikki maintains that the arrangement works.

“Even without anyone being here with me, my team are very connected with each other,” she says.

“They know I have a lot of faith in them. I constantly praise via Skype because I don’t have the ability to turn around and pat them on the back.”

 This trustworthy environment, which starts early on, means issues are dealt with quickly.

 “When someone does something wrong, they come to me and say, ‘I’ve done this, but I know I should have done this and can you help me?'”

Like many managers, Nikki also finds herself taking on the role of friend or counsellor to her team when personal issues arise. Because her team is remote, Nikki is sometimes the first person someone may speak to that day.

“When everyone’s remote, they rely on you,” she says. “You end up listening to a lot because they want to come to you and tell you why they feel a certain way or why they didn’t get that task done or even just why they want to start later or finish later.”

Because of Shield’s flexibility, it also means Nikki can offer solutions and support.

“I say go and take a break, have a coffee, go for a walk, finish an hour early today and make it up later – whatever works,” she says.

Getting the balance right

Despite needing to be more intentional in her managing style, Nikki actually prefers being remote while managing a team.

“I get a lot more done being remote because I can manage my diary better,” she says.

“If I were working in London, I wouldn’t be online by 7. I’d be getting up, getting ready, getting on the train for 9 and really, though I would do emails from my phone, I really wouldn’t kickstart my day until 10 or 10:30.”

It also means she can drop her daughter off at nursery each morning, and be there for any important events.

“I want to do those things,” she says.

“I’ve got the opportunity that others don’t have because I’m remote.”

Although she does admit, it hasn’t always been easy.

“I used to have no control over not checking emails, going on slack, going on salesforce,” she says. “It was just 24/7. I would find that I would dream about work.”

Nikki has had to put some boundaries in place and be intentional about taking breaks to help cultivate a more balanced work/life ratio.

“There’s more of a balance now. I do leave my phone upstairs, I don’t feel like I have to have it in my pocket 24/7,” she says.

“I now make a point of having lunch breaks.”

Having classes to go to throughout the week has helped to have structured time away from her desk.

“I now go to a yoga class twice a week, and to a swimming pool twice a week.”

While Nikki’s priority will always be her team, she’s found blocking off times in her week to get through tasks has been a move towards a better balance.

“It’s never a big chunk because that’s not fair on the team cause technically I’m there for them, but there are some things I need to get done as well,” she says.

She’s also making more of an effort to make the most of her remote work life by changing up where she works.

“I now come downstairs and work at the kitchen table. I’ll open the patio doors and look out the window when we’ve got great weather.”

She’s also had a few workations (travel while maintaining a full workload) in Dubai, Hong Kong and the US.

“Different places shift your mindset,” she says.

“Just having a pool view, a beach view, sea view. Mentally I didn’t feel like I was working, but I was still getting through all my tasks.”‘

–  Bree Caggiati August 2019

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