Today, many brands and agencies around the globe are undergoing a major business transformation. Remote working is increasing, as more and more organizations ask their employees to stay at home and perform all their tasks remotely.
For those who aren’t used to working remotely, these WFH policies can seem overwhelming. Many employees will have to figure out how to stay organized, feel fully engaged in the workflow and communicate with colleagues effectively in a new environment. For marketing agencies, this is especially challenging, since they need to communicate both with their team and their clients.
But there are ways to achieve your maximum productivity and deliver results, even when you’re staying out of the office. We reached out to agencies who managed to organize remote work and asked them to share their results and what worked best for them.
Provide equipment and the online tools to make your team effective
Here are some of our top tips:
- Video calls. We find these a much more productive/efficient use of time than an email or a normal phone call. It’s also good for morale to see people.
- Equipment. Ensure the team has everything they need to be comfortable and effective working from home – at Hallam, we distributed desks, office chairs, monitors, keyboards, and anything else required to the team’s homes.
We distributed desks, office chairs, monitors, keyboards, and anything else required to the team’s homes.
- Stand ups. Daily morning video calls in each team so everyone can discuss issues or request any support they need.
- Access to tools. Ensure that the team can access any useful tools they need, such as SEMrush, from home. We use LastPass for this.
Maintain steady contact with the team – but also with your clients
The Re:signal team has been working from home 1 day a week for the last 2 years, and we’ve recently been trialing 2 days, so we are already familiar with this. It makes it easier when everything we use is already in the cloud, from Google Drive docs to client comms (Basecamp), SEO tools (SEMrush, SEOMonitor etc.) through to accounting (Xero). So, in many ways, the only real thing we needed to adapt to is the lack of face-to-face time. To counter this, my tips would be:
Use the video function for online calls – it helps to know that you have someone’s full attention and make more of a connection.
Do team scrums, lunch and learns, virtual socials – again with video on, and then you can each share what the other is doing. Jump on a call if you need to run through something rather than a long email (especially if it’s something you’d normally chat through with someone in the office).
Also, it doesn’t always have to be about work, we ran a social drinks call on Friday afternoon with the team, where you can talk about life in general / share how people are coping with working from home, in a more relaxed environment.
Communicate heavily with clients – don’t push too much back on to them, it’s a hectic time for everyone, but show them you’re thinking about them and have a clear plan you’re working on together.
Have a comfortable working environment – for 1 day a week working from home, I can get by working at a kitchen table/sofa/garden etc. – but full-time remote, you need a proper desk and a good chair as the basics.
Use this time to build a team resistant to any challenge
- Keep up the human connection. You lose real value when communication is purely text based; hearing colleagues and the tone with which they say things can make a massive difference to the way we all work. Move your existing catch-ups and meetings to Google Hangouts (or similar). Just because you are not in the office, doesn’t mean you should stop properly communicating and connecting with each other.
- Schedule a daily tea break. Found are seeing great engagement with these, with up to 30 people joining the daily 4pm tea break for banter and biscuits! Everyone needs little breaks and chats, so make sure there is a daily Hangout that the team can jump onto if they want to have a chat about all the non-work stuff.
- Set expectations. It can be daunting being left to your own devices without your office buddies to keep you on track. Make sure you set expectations with the team and set processes that allow you to communicate regularly about work tasks. Set up a daily tracker so your team can plan their day in the morning and then update at the end of each day on the status of each activity.
- Know your team. Some people will thrive on being at home without the normal office distractions, whilst others will struggle with the lack of routine.
Knowing your team will help you approach each individual team member in the right way and help you to support them through the change.
- Keep up morale. Whether it’s daily themed collaborative Spotify playlists (which are going down a treat), Friday hangouts with a beer in hand, or simply encouraging your team to reach out to talk to each other regularly, it’s important to do what you can to keep your agency culture alive whilst we’re all being forced to stay apart.
Strengthen your professional relationships – in and outside your company
Working from home. They’re the three most popular words in any business right now, and no-one can say they’re an expert at it. We’re all adapting to a strange new world, but hopefully by sharing how we’re doing it, we can all adapt better together.
At Rise at Seven, almost all the tools and resources we need are cloud based. We use Google, Slack, and WhatsApp for most of the work we do, along with other online apps that integrate with each other. For example, we’ve connected ContentKing to Slack and SEMrush to Trello.
This means that when we work at home, we can take our work with us without many problems.
Having not been at Rise at Seven long, this has been an interesting time. Most of the team work in our Sheffield office, and I was planning to spend a lot of days there meeting them and working together. This sudden switch to isolated home-working stopped all of that.
It also stopped our usually very social team from, well, socialising. If we graphed the age of everyone here, I’m one of the older outliers.
The management have had to focus on psychological wellbeing, with daily all-team video chats, a social WhatsApp group and even a digital birthday party for Carrie on Google Hangouts.
This has helped keep the camaraderie that brings us together going strong, even at difficult times.
Another challenge has simply been space. We aren’t used to working from home, and most of us don’t have the space set up to suit it. Many of the team live with other people, and while those in Sheffield are lucky enough to afford more than a London shoebox, it still likely doesn’t come with its own office. Everyone has their own laptop, and so far we haven’t noticed any issues, but lumbar support may soon become one.
One of the main reasons I joined Rise at Seven was their culture, their inclusion and their passion, and it’s not always easy to bring that across without seeing each other. Using Slack for work chat and WhatsApp for everything else has really helped, and it’s crucial we keep it going in the weeks, or months, to follow.
Key tips for an agency at this time:
- Listen to the staff.
- Understand that the water cooler chats are important to their psychology.
- Still have the meetings – phone calls, hangouts.
- Jamboards are awesome for hangout interaction (it is similar to Miro).
- WhatsApp is a great tool for allowing social chats to happen outside of work hours.
- Have a Virtual Pub session after work for those who want it.
- There are remote communities beyond the ones that are just your team; the SEO ones on Discord, Slack and Facebook often discuss tips on staying healthy when you are restricted to the gym.