By Scott Sargent
For many professionals used to working from a traditional office environment, working from home and communicating remotely is a new challenge. For marketing and communication professionals, however, it’s often a familiar hat to wear.
As someone who’s worked in this area for many years, I am perhaps a little better suited to our current communication challenges. The beauty of the digital age is that marcom specialists are quite comfortable using tools to work off site, while acting as a point of contact for both their team and external clientele. It comes with the territory.
I am also a member of the Canadian Forces reserves and we normally work part-time out of an armoury in Calgary. As that isn’t an option right now, we’re all working from home. As a 2nd-in-command (2IC) for a section of 10 Calgary-based soldiers, regular communication has its own set of challenges. Fortunately, there are a few standards we’ve established to stay connected. Now that I’ve been at it a while, I wanted to share five key techniques that work for me when away from the office.
1. Ace Your Workspace
Less is more. Create a ‘work oasis’ for yourself. That is, a definitive island of productivity where you can sit and know you’re at work (and so will everyone else). Figuring out where everything should be, and decluttering regularly will help in this area. After all, just trying to find a working pen, your pets want affection or your kids decide it’s playtime on a live call can be a challenge in itself.
2. Connect & Collaborate
Products such as Skype or Zoom help connect when you can see another human’s face. A decent web cam is small and relatively inexpensive, but for most the built-in cam and mice on a laptop may suffice. A video Skype session may help everyone feel more connected. Yes, we’d rather still be in the same room, but with so many software options, collaborative tools available like Slack will also help keep you connected.
3. Regular Check-Ins
I’m in touch with my team throughout each week for work-related questions and can track how they’re feeling about this ‘new normal’. I also have a duty of care to look after my people. This isn’t a time-consuming process, but highly important to keep everyone feeling connected.
Further, I disseminate important information a couple of times a week via email as it pertains to news and the bigger picture, then handle any questions during a regular conversation. The end result, should we be asked to deploy, is that I’ll know exactly who and how many of us are available and ready. Keeping everyone ‘fit to fight’ as they say, is essential.
4. Take Small Breaks
You save time in the morning to start work when you don’t have to deal with a commute, transit or parking. Need to take five or 10 minutes to stretch, step outside, grab a coffee, throw in laundry? No sweat! I find this is also a key to a productive day in front of the keyboard. It gives your mind a break and you can refocus better back at the keyboard.
5. Set Your Schedule
Define a solid schedule and you’ll be more productive. You’ll know when you’re on the clock and can then communicate this to your fellow co-workers. I like checklists and if you also know your hours of work then stick to them, with a little bit of flexibility.
It’s difficult to substitute for the human connections built by time spent working together ‘in person’. It’s also easy to focus on the negative aspects due to coronavirus. In fact, it may be an opportunity to foster and strengthen those connections by forming via a regular routine and employing the many tools at hand. That is why communications professionals are more important now than ever.