Working from home during Coronavirus - How to make it work for your business
These are unprecedented times. As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spread, businesses around the world - of every scale - are asking employees to work from home.
Working from home (WFH) arrangements have long been the subject of spirited debate. Are they more productive, or will employees use the freedom as an opportunity to slack off? Do they free up valuable desk space, or create empty offices? How will teams work together? How do meetings happen?
Now it seems the arguments on both sides will be put to the test, and there is only one question that matters:
Are you prepared for the coming change?
The challenge: Humans (and _especially_marketers) are social creatures. The sudden transition from a social office environment to only pets and houseplants for company can put a strain on mental health.
The opportunity: Managers should be stepping up and arranging meaningful virtual events to maintain social connections. Employers can proactively start conversations about mental health and check in with staff.
The challenge: Some employers are sceptical of WFH because they believe employees’ productivity will nosedive without supervision.
The opportunity: In reality most WFH/remote working advocates see higher productivity rates. Without the normal office distractions, work is getting done faster and with more attention to detail. Employers should trust their teams, and collaborate with layers of management to set clear expectations on deliverables.
The challenge: Brand managers and marketing agencies work together all the time. There is constant back-and-forth discussion, media plans being sent, ideation sessions and document updates.
The opportunity: Trust in your tools. Technology is enabling collaboration at a distance like never before. Agencies and brands with streamlined collaboration tools have been working together for years this way and achieving incredible things. Survey teams and find out what features they need in a collaboration and productivity tool, then try to find one or two that do it all. Too many new systems to learn will almost certainly disrupt workflows.
The challenge: Group discussions and ideation sessions normally happen around a whiteboard. Teams are spread out (likely without whiteboards) but creativity still needs to flow.
The opportunity: Once again, software is the saviour - kind of. Creative teams may face an adjustment period in the first virtual brainstorming sessions but they’ll soon get the hang of it. For the kind of creativity that solves problems, communication is key. Make sure everyone is on the same page and trained to use the team software.
The challenge: Even with teams working together, speaking often and hosting virtual Friday drinks, it’s likely a large number of people will feel overwhelmed as COVID-19 continues to reveal its full extent. Global health organisations are concerned about the mental health impacts of this pandemic.
The opportunity: Managers, leaders and co-workers must step up and support each other’s mental health. We are working separately but still connected. Here at Mediatool our team is regularly checking in with one another, sharing jokes and memes, and increasing communication across the board. Small efforts make a big difference, especially during the disruption of transitioning to WFH.
Schedule regular team calls and check in on the status of projects, just like you would if everyone was in the same office. Fair warning: it is possible to be a micromanager from a distance. Avoid checking in so much your staff don’t feel trusted, and make sure expectations are clear.
Now is the time to put your collaboration and communication tools to the test. If employees struggle to share files or can’t communicate effectively, pipelines break down. Investing in the right tools will be critical to managing remote teams. Our team is spread around the world, and we rely on:
- Slack for messaging and quick updates
- Mediatool for campaign planning, media management and collaboration, including version tracking and logging changes
- Google Hangouts for flexible video calling
- G Suite for creating, collaborating and storing documents
Harvard Business Review suggests the most effective way to manage a remote team in flux is to focus on reducing what they call ‘affinity distance’. That is, trust, values and interdependency. Trust your team to make the right decisions. Understand there may be some disruption to normal routines and relationships. And most importantly, support your teams with the tools and information they need.
Of course, if there are employees taking advantage of looser hours - missing deadlines, skipping meetings, failing to respond to messages - then treat the transgression as you would in the office. First ensure they are safe and healthy, then manage the problem to reach a resolution. Working from home is still working, after all.
How many emails have you received from companies letting you know how they’re responding to COVID-19? Weigh that up with how many clients have personally reached out to update you. Especially in the client-agency relationship, early notice is crucial to a smooth transition. The last thing you want is a client phoning an empty office and thinking your company is in trouble.
Social connection (in the virtual sense) is almost as important as social distancing (in the physical sense). With so much negative news and uncertainty spreading, it’s easy to spiral into anxiety without noticing. Stay connected with your colleagues by sending messages and arranging video calls.
WFH doesn’t mean pressing pause on your campaign. Keep working as you normally would - and that means striving to hit new targets. The sense of achievement once you realise your team has launched a great campaign from your respective homes may just provide the boost you need to stay positive.
- Wake up at your regular time
- Dress as if you are going to the office
- Separate work and living spaces (no working from bed!)
- Break up your day with lunch and coffee breaks as normal
- Make sure your manager knows your work hours
Keeping distance between work and personal time means home can still feel like home, while a small section of your living room feels like the office. It doesn’t mean you need to work 9-5 every day, but keeping a regular schedule means work/life balance stays intact.
Gyms, yoga studios and cafes are closed but you still need to switch off from work (and the media) every now and then. You can still practice #selfcareSaturday without leaving home:
- Find a YouTube yoga instructor
- Look up at-home workouts if you’re missing the gym
- Go for a short jog in the park
- Share a (virtual) drink with a friend on video chat
- Read all those books collecting dust on your shelf
- Complete a Pinterest DIY project
- Bake or cook something delicious
Here in Sweden, fika (making time for friends, over coffee and cake) is an important part of social life. We might not be able to have fika at our favourite cafe, but we can still brew a cup and chat with a friend in the afternoon.
From the entire Mediatool team, we hope you, your colleagues and your families are safe and healthy during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
We know the transition to working from home is a logistical challenge. But it doesn’t have to come at the cost of productivity.
We’re giving new users 1 month free to make social distancing easier for brands and agencies. Until the end of May you can get the full functionality of the industry’s leading software to plan, track, analyse and optimise media and marketing campaigns.