Despite having over a decade of experience in digital marketing, our Head of Digital Owen has had to face new challenges during the coronavirus lockdown period. Here are a few of the insights he has gained into managing a team – and a business – completely remotely.
It’s been almost 2 months since Passion Digital moved to remote working and whilst it has been quite nice at times not having the commute, or setting up shop in the garden on a sunny day, the reality is that this has been a tough adjustment for everybody in the business.
Our Marketing Manager Kat wrote a fantastic and inspiring article about how to stay healthy and sane during a lockdown and I wanted to follow up with a few little bits that I have adopted around effective remote management. These have helped me along the way but if I am honest have only worked because I am lucky to have the support of a resilient, pragmatic, compassionate and dedicated team!
One thing that became very apparent was how important those little 30-second chats over the desk or in the kitchen are to day-to-the-day workflow. That natural interaction is not easily replicated virtually, and no-one wants more emails!
Making a conscious effort to increase the frequency of team catch ups – or, in my case, just dialling into the ones that were already happening – has been the most effective way I have found to stay in the loop. As sighted human beings we communicate so much physically so I think it really helps to use video calls as much as possible, not talking to a blank screen.
Being More Flexible
When we went into lockdown, we were keen to impress upon the team that “all that’s changed is the location – everything is as we were in the office”. Had it been just a week or two of working from home that probably would have been the right message. But as the situation progressed and more started to change around us, the more we have had to adapt.
Things aren’t as if we were in the office: we have staff on furlough, we are having to overhaul our short-term strategies and everyone is having to pick up more new business. Trying to rigidly stick to the business-as-usual process wasn’t necessarily the right solution.
Replacing our structured, fortnightly management team meetings with more regular weekly meetings that have a more fluid agenda has helped keep the focus on the most immediate agency priorities. Similarly, some departmental projects have had to be deprioritised and managers have had to step in to more of the BAU account management – not ideal, of course, but as a manager it’s important to acknowledge that and make those decisions to reprioritise consciously.
Being Respectful of People’s Time
Not everyone is able to keep normal office hours; childcare, home-schooling or trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance has meant that everyone is working slightly different hours. Again, it has been important to acknowledge that and to be respectful of individual situations.
Things like adjusting meeting times, booking time in to catch up in advance or just not asking to do long calls at 4.30pm are just a couple of examples of the little adjustments that we have made as managers to adapt to the new norm.
We have increased the frequency of our management meetings, all agency meetings and individual 121s. We need to be communicating honestly and transparently about furlough, client status, business projections, etc.
It can be tough at times as we don’t always have all the answers, and when I reflect back in months to come I know there will be things I would have done differently. For me it’s about trying to put yourself in the position of others, being conscious of their concerns and endeavouring to communicate honestly and transparently.
Being Positive and Giving Feedback
Lastly, It’s very easy to get wrapped up in your own day but it’s so important to acknowledge the hard work and long hours the team are doing in such challenging circumstances. We need to support each other and I think even something small like receiving Kudos from a colleague makes a big difference to my day!
We are two months in and it looks like we are now on the road back to normality. As much as I am looking forward to getting back into the office with the team I think some of these little changes in behaviour are still very applicable and I will be making a conscious effort to adopt them as the norm.