Photo: Fatima Syed (Views from FATMO Media Group’s recent Sound Sessions Boat Cruise with FAME Media)

By: Fatima Syed

As the lines between business hours and personal life merge in today’s fast-paced digital world, the corporate mindset is quickly becoming replaced by an entrepreneurial mentality and the rise of startups and remote companies. At its best, this shift represents all the positive things about the working world today- youthful energy, creativity, diversity, non-conformity and the embrace of technology. However, the upwards spiral of the changing, non-traditional workplace also introduces some new characters to the game, such as the expectation of 24/7 connectivity. As the Founder and CEO of FATMO Media Group, I have had the pleasure of leading one of Toronto’s fastest rising media startups since our inception in 2018. With our firm continuing to grow and expand in its format as a digital-first, remote-company, we have a front row seat to the changing world of business (in addition to front row seats at all the events we frequent as a team).

However, I have also learned when it is necessary to take a back seat from the digital working world- otherwise, we risk staff burnout and mental health stress. As a Millennial leader, here are some thoughts and experiences on remote leadership in today’s social media age.

  • Let your staff have a break from their #workfam to focus on their real world families: While I always aim to be kind, humble and warm towards my team and we have successfully created a family-like, enjoyable and creative corporate culture at FATMO Media Group, I have also been guilty of texting at all hours and sending emails after hours. As I evolve in my leadership, I realize that this is one of the aspects of toxic startup culture, something which I always strive to avoid. The entire mentality of “we are a family now” is positive in the entrepreneurial workplace only when the entire team is seeing positive results, collaborating, experiencing creativity- and has a life outside of the digital workplace. When staff members have personal matters, second jobs or family concerns outside of their day jobs, expecting responsiveness may not be realistic. We are work family, and I want to be viewed by my staff as a kindly, older sisterly figure, but I never want to be that boss- the one who prevents staff from seeing their families on holidays or long weekends. Many younger Millennial bosses such as myself can be “digitally demanding,” with iPhones never being turned off, nonstop Instagram notifications and work emails synced to their phones. We simply never stop thinking and innovating, as today’s economy demands it. If you are a leader and reading this article, please note that you deserve to be commended for the enormous personal and professional risks that you took in pursuit of entrepreneurship. Chances are that your family, loved ones and personal friends, in their continued quest to extend intimacy and warmth to you as you take this unconventional career journey, have accepted that you are often working after hours. However, your staff are employees, and their families are expecting them home for dinner, in their hometowns for the weekend and personally connecting with them (without smartphone in hand). At FATMO Media Group, we now digitally disconnect on Sundays, for the sake of mental health and a balanced corporate culture.
  • Merge work and play: As we don’t have a physical office location, team meetups and social events are definitely key to keep the energy, positive vibes, teamwork and creativity flowing in a modern day company. In the early years of my career (pre-entrepreneurship), my senior directors and superiors in the workplace were much older than myself, and followed more of a nine to five mentality. Today, I have successfully merged the concepts of work and play at FATMO Media Group, with regularly organized fun and interactive activities, outings and events. Complimentary corporate tickets to a Toronto Argonauts game, courtesy of our friends at MLSE? YES! A Summer 2019 Sales and promotional activation on a day cruise ship, as everyone enjoys the sun, dances the afternoon away and parties in the broad daylight? Most definitely. Press invites to fashion shows, media previews for lifestyle brands, arts exhibits and innovative conferences such as Facebook Boost? These are all ideal. Also, no daily office culture means that meetings in trendy cafes and at rooftop patios become the norm. Again, these are all reflective of the changing work environment, and take away the formality and clinical nature of a corporate office. As my employees are young, energetic, dynamic and extroverted professionals, this flexible, engaging work structure suits their personalities and lifestyles.
  • Engage your clients and partners: Whether it’s sending along complimentary or VIP invites to external events, entertaining your brand’s biggest supporters at company parties, shipping over thank you gifts or supporting their brands on social media, managing a remote company means that you must creatively search for creative avenues to connect with your network and clientele. Meanwhile, a startup thrives on high energy, which can come from engaged clients and business partners who are welcomed. I have long since believed that the team that eats together, leads together! Keep everyone in the business family feeling appreciated (despite the lack of a structured space), with occasional client/partner lunches, nights out or team parties whenever your budget allows. Don’t force your employees to work at these functions- instead, set up a comfortable environment and watch the connections build up naturally. Now, everyone can truly be family (at least until the weekend hits, of course!)

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