The move to working remotely was already happening, but the pandemic has accelerated that progress by several years. The problem with such a fast move is that not everybody is going to be ready for it, and as a brand manager, you need to get to grips with very quickly to support your team and keep delivering a service to your customers, who will probably suffering from a similar upheaval.
You will have realized that there are no hard and fast rules for making this work in all cases due to the different tasks involved and the different size and makeup of teams. So, here are some guidelines around which you can build a more bespoke framework that is a good fit for your business model.
1. Recreate the old physical structure virtually
As far as your customer is concerned, the service they are paying for has not changed and still has to be delivered. Your first challenge is to ensure that happens while your team is working remotely, so you need to a quickly as possible recreate the old reporting structure virtually using the technology available.
Not just for the team as a whole but for all of the smaller groups or key relationships that made the business tick when you were all in the same building.
This sort of situation is tailor-made for project management software, especially one that is designed for working with teams in different locations or offices. This will be able to show your team the progress of projects and give you the kind of overview you would have had in the office environment.
2. Empower and trust your team
For many business owners and managers, working from home and ‘shirking from home’ are synonymous, and as a result, tend to micromanage staff or frequently check in with them.
Working remotely is every bit as big a change for your workforce as it is for you and the business. They may not have a spare room or quiet space to work from and have the constant distractions of other people in the house just getting on with their daily lives.
This means that if productivity is a bit less than expected, it might be for other reasons than watching Netflix.
Another reason could be that now they are no longer part of a dynamic office environment that motivates them, but instead feeling isolated, lonely, and uninspired. They have also lost their daily structure, which can affect sleeping and eating habits.
Any upheaval of this nature will affect results, so a higher level of support is needed, and you need to ensure that you communicate that you are just as available as you were before, except now it will be via technology.
Part of this will be about being clear with where your business is going now people have lost the ability to just pop in and ask a question. A vital tool here is writing a brand brief.
A brand brief will outline to your team what you are trying to achieve, how to achieve it, and the values you want to communicate while you are achieving it. This will include your values, the TOV, and personalities used in communications so that your team won’t have to check everything with you and feel more empowered as a result,
3. Keep having meetings
Even though for many companies, remote working has proved that most meetings don’t need to happen, and could just as easily been a simple email instead, if you had meetings before – you need to have them now.
Foremost among these is the morning meeting or ‘huddle’; it allows everyone to touch base and make sure that everyone sees this as the ‘real’ start of the day.
The same goes for individual feedback and communication. Any one-to-one meetings you had before, whether they were formal or informal, need to happen in this new set-up too. If a team member would come in to bounce ideas off of you, you need to duplicate this virtually, so the creative link is not lost. It is when teams are separated like this that you realize how much work was done collaboratively with a word here or an idea there, but perhaps you didn’t recognize it.
However, things need to be different if they had a ‘bad day’ at the office. When you are all under one roof, in a working environment they can walk away from at the end of the day, a reprimand has a definite context. On the other hand, receiving the same message in their home environment, especially if they are feeling isolated, can have a much more telling effect. So, while working remotely, a more gentle approach may be in order.
4. Create a virtual break room or coffee machine
A lot of workplace conversations that are not about work also are major contributors to productivity. There is no way you can recreate office banter and gossip virtually; although the morning meeting should tick a few of those boxes, it won’t be quite the same as being together in person.
Create something like an office Whatsapp group where the non-work-related nonsense that keeps many offices ticking over can be shared and enjoyed.
This overlaps nicely with you being able to detect any problems building up between staff members or those that are experiencing personal issues. Now that you are not all mixing together every day, you won’t be able to see via body language that somebody is not happy.
5. Send everybody ‘home’ at the end of the day
Last of all, when your entire team is working remotely, they can’t exactly ‘go home’ at the end of the day because they are already there. This can mean people can go on working way past when it is doing either them or the business any good.
So, in addition to the morning ‘huddle’, you could have a meeting 15 minutes before the end of the working day so people can discuss any issues, but most importantly so they know when to close the laptop and finish working for the day.