In the blink of an eye, COVID-19 went from a mild flu contained in one Chinese city, to a pandemic that has seen hundreds of thousands of businesses around the world shut their doors and millions of workers swapping their regular work stations for kitchen benches and home offices.
And while remote working arrangements have long been offered by many Australian businesses, few were prepared for their entire workforce to switch to remote arrangements for an as of yet undetermined period of time.
So, as we charge ahead into uncertain times, 50 Crates offers a few words of advice on how to make the most of remote working and maintaining BAU when all the usual rules have gone MIA.
Frequent and meaningful communication between teams is as vital for morale and culture as it is for productivity. Working from home can leave many employees feeling isolated and disenchanted, so it’s important to take the time to check in on your co-workers – even if you’re not directly working with one another that day or week.
Utilise virtual meeting platforms like Microsoft Teams or Zoom for quick progress meetings and larger brainstorms and pick up the phone to chat through any problems or give feedback. But before you jump into work, don’t forget to take a moment to ask how they’re going.
With most industries conducting business on a global scale, virtual meetings are a necessary evil. They’re no substitute for face-to-face communication, but they’re the best way to manage team communication in a remote working scenario. Here’s how you can make them work for your business:
1. Take charge
There’s nothing worse than showing up to a meeting that has no determinable purpose or agenda. Nothing. If by some miracle all participants manage to join with clear audio and video connection, you better be ready to take charge of the proceedings, set clear objectives, and ensure all members have the opportunity to participate.
2. Name drop
Poignant glances and firm eye contact don’t work in this scenario. If you want people to contribute, you’re likely going to have to call on them to do so, especially if there are more than 3-4 people in the meeting.
3. Keep it snappy
Maybe you can get away with a 2-hour presentation and 90 slide deck in person, but you sure as hell can’t when your audience has the option to open another tab and start researching the current whereabouts of black-market toilet paper. Strip your presentations/updates back to the bare minimum and focus on giving participants regular opportunities to contribute ideas and help solve problems.
This is one of the five rules that govern the way we work here at 50 Crates. It can be hard to manage team projects when you can’t just peek over someone’s shoulder to see where they’re at with their part, but you have to learn to trust that the people you work with will do what they need to, when they need to. There’s no need to check in for a progress update every two hours. Unless they’ve given you a reason to be sceptical, trust that wherever they are, they’re getting the job done.
The COVID-19 situation has robbed most of us of something we were looking forward to. So far, the 50 Crates team has cancelled one wedding, one team conference, and two overseas holidays. It all sucks, big time. But we refuse to let the weight of what’s unfolding ruin the office culture that we’ve worked so hard to create.
We have a ‘not-about-work’ channel on Slack, which has quickly become a place for good news stories and the best coronavirus memes on the internet. It’s a small thing, but it’s important to find laughter and joy wherever you can in a time like this.
And of course, we’re making allowances to help keep our team safe and comfortable. While we haven’t implemented an office-wide work from home policy, team members have the freedom to work remotely if they feel more comfortable doing so. Alternatively, any team members who ordinarily commute via public transport are encouraged to travel to and from the office outside of peak hours.
These are wild and unpredictable times, and the situation is changing faster than any of us can keep up with. At 50 Crates, we intend to continue providing our clients the same fearless counsel and impactful creative that we have always delivered, just with more thoroughly washed hands.
Annabel Begeng, Junior Copywriter @ 50 Crates