Working ‘together’ while working apart is our new mantra

This column originally ran in the Memphis Busines Journal. You can read it on their site by clicking this link.

The “new normal” of this pandemic is our global reality for the foreseeable future ‒ as part of the human race, as individuals, as families and as professionals. And as many of our nation’s employees have transitioned to a work-from-home environment at a breakneck pace, the challenges can be many, daunting and exhausting.

But for a firm like ours that is built for remote work and crisis management from anywhere, our challenge doesn’t beckon operational or efficiency concerns but leans more to this proposition: We are culture, creativity and collaboration centered. How can we maintain our company’s essence when we’re miles and miles apart for weeks on end? 

The answer we’ve arrived at boils down to this ‒ our team will continue to do what’s important and valuable to us but in a different way. It’s a critical pivot for us and one many businesses like us are probably contemplating as we get weeks deeper into remote work. Here are some early lessons we’ve learned about staying connected and inspiring creativity. 

Work together even when you’re not together 

Thank goodness many of the tools that are indispensable to us during this shelter-at-home phase were already in our collaboration arsenal. Wrike is our workstream platform that tracks every job, logs every hour and ushers any project to the next phase. Free Conference Call, Zoom and other services like them are lifelines as phone and video calls are the new meetings. Google Suite is our collaboration savior, where we can all work on and view documents simultaneously and in real-time. Screen-sharing capabilities add a whole new dimension, as well. GroupMe and Google Hangout Chat streamline our account team updates and conversations instead of needlessly clogging email lines. 

But while so many tools were already in place, our proficiency and depth in using them have sharpened, and we’re finding even more tools that make collaboration second nature. That only makes our team stronger when we return to our traditional office setup and more “normal” operations.

Give everyone a big virtual hug or high-five 

If you ask remote workers (especially at companies that have healthy cultures) what they’re missing the most, they’ll likely say the camaraderie. They simply miss their co-workers. From quick “watercooler” chats about what you’re bingeing or how that new restaurant down the road has the best hibachi, these are meaningful interactions that can be sorely missed during a time like this. But all is not lost. Share the latest viral sensation, send a piece of relevant news and create opportunities to share experiences beyond the work. (We recently did a virtual team meditation session). The levity this can bring is so precious right now. 

And continue to celebrate. Celebrations (both individual and team) are a huge part of our culture. Whether that’s work anniversaries, birthdays, client successes, agency wins, etc., we’re properly pausing at home for the cause and giving lots of love to our team. Sometimes, that’s a gold star during our staff meeting conference call, a digital gift card for a birthday or a surprise gift to brighten a day. It all matters.  

Finding inspiration and comfort 

When writing and ideation are a majority of your work any given day like it is for us, sitting in the same spot for hours on end can dampen every creative cell in your body. Monotony can kill the spirit, for sure. Our team has found some ways to navigate this pitfall. 

Some simply change their work position in the home each day or throughout the day. You might start in the sunroom and end up all cozy in your bed with your laptop in tow. Breathing in nature is another source of energy and inspiration for us. Take that conference call on a lovely walk throughout your neighborhood or on your balcony. Create a healthy mix-up of morning routines to stave off boredom. Lastly, don’t forget to take advantage of this work-from-home scenario by creating a personal work sanctuary that’s perfect for you. Stream music that moves you, sit next to natural light or make sure the house temp is just how you like it.