Making it work in a virtual office
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
We have heard and read so much about concerns with working virtually. I have to say that when it was first brought up to me in February 2009 when I started M&C Communications, I had many of the same concerns. Isolation, accountability, creativity….even having fun…all seemed daunting and things that seemed limited to working in groups in a brick and mortar building.
But then I thought about it:
* First, there was the financial overhead that I didn’t want to take on as I started my entrepreneurial journey, especially in the teeth of the Great Recession.
* But then, I thought about my last years working in my office. If I was isolated, it was because I chose to be…the same as working from home.
In the wake of our current “social distancing” don’t despair - give virtual officing a chance. In the coming weeks, we’ll go more in-depth about the tools, tips, and tricks for working virtually. At first, working from home can feel a bit weird, but if you’re old enough, remember how weird it was to use an iPad or learn about apps with your cellphone? (Shoot that wasn’t even that long ago!)
Here are the issues I hear about:
Accountability is key: as a manager if the people I worked with weren’t performing according to our detailed, goal-oriented schedule, and making accountability a priority in the office, it would make no difference for me managing a team from home.
I just saw a post from a colleague about how she missed being around creative people. Creativity doesn’t mean you have to be in the same room, but I agree to be able to see people can make all the difference! Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts are great options for seeing and talking to colleagues, clients, and partners. Not only is my team creative, but meeting virtually face-to-face has helped us create have great relationships with clients around the country.
Fun in the office
As for fun, well, I learned the term “tele-coffee” in my early years from one of my clients: that’s where you both grab a cup and have a digital chitchat. Throw in some silliness from Giphy and now you should see our Friday afternoon Google Chats, both video and digital. Yes, we have great fun. I also make sure to schedule getting out a couple of times a week to meet colleagues and clients in person for coffee or lunch.
While we are in this crisis, my in-person meetings have stopped, but it doesn’t mean I am not still scheduling social time on the phone, or on Zoom with friends and family. And… those who weren’t so sure about the technology before are now realizing how much easier it is to connect using these amazing tools.
Learning new technology
On the topic of technology, you can find my team members collaborating through Prezly, Meltwater, Sprout Social, and Google for Work. Sometimes I have to turn off Google Chat because we’re a little too chatty!
Don’t feel isolated- there are plenty of ways to connect! Get up, get dressed (if you want to), schedule real breaks where you walk outside, make time for exercise, or even grab a few steps during conference calls (just turn off the video first!)
Here’s my best advice: when you sit down to work each morning, start by sending your team a Good Morning chat. Check-in with them and see how they’re doing, how their night went, what they’re up to. It’s the same good morning check-in we all do in the office, just virtually, and it really helps keep everyone connected. And, when you really need to buckle down and get things done, do what we call a deep dive: turn off notifications, set an out of office notification that you’ll get back to everyone later, and just concentrate on what you’re doing. Make sure to let your team know so they know not to bother you and man, can you take advantage of working from home then!
When you just need someone to talk to or be creative, or laugh or vent, Google Chat and Zoom are your friends. It may be a new world, but as it is with so many things, it’s just a different way of thinking about what we do and how we do it. At M&C, we call doing what we do MOVING THE STAIRS- taking full advantage of the situation in front of us to make great things happen for our clients. Use the tools you’ve got to make the most of your current situation. You might learn to love it as much as I do.
Be sure to check out our LinkedIn page, where we are showcasing what we do each and every day at M&C!