Over the last decade, there has been a large increase in the number of companies using remote work as a part-time or full-time option for their employees. Many companies today are even created and function completely online.
However, not every company is prepared for remote work. And due to worldwide precautions related to the coronavirus, nearly every industry is having to reckon with remote work and telecommuting while attempting to keep business running as smoothly as possible.
It can be a scary time with a lot of uncertainty, but in most places there’s still an ability to keep life relatively normal without a health risk. What’s required is a change in how things get accomplished.
In marketing, this can be a big challenge. Part of succeeding is putting together a plan for what you’re up against and how to solve it.
So, here a look at some of the challenges marketers are currently facing and some of the tools they can use (if they aren’t already) to keep their team on the same page and productive.
Anytime there is a break in the usual routine, any deficiencies or holes in the workflow process will get exposed. This is especially true with a team shifting from working closely together in one place to collaborating remotely.
If your team isn’t used to seeing each other just over chat, a smart first step for a manager would be a team conference call to establish expectations and workflows. What’s our approval process? On what platform are we collaborating?
A lot of this should simply be a review of your current process, but when shifting away from face-to-face interaction, it’s important to make sure that everyone understands how they fit into the workflow.
If a team is settling into remote work as the new normal – at least for a while – it’s also important to keep everyone’s spirits up and to keep them feeling connected. Have team members give a little tour of where they’re working from or carve out one group chat that’s just for fun, non-work discussions that people normally would have had over lunch.
For people who aren’t used to working remotely, it can feel very isolating and that feeling will eventually limit how well they can do their jobs. It’s important for managers, on top of the technological challenges that this pandemic has brought, to bring as much humanity as possible to the new work environment.
All of the conversations have to shift online while roles and expectations need to be clearly defined. This is one area that requires a lot of effort from team managers and leaders, because if it takes too much effort to get everyone on the same page then the workflow completely slows down.
For team members who aren’t used to working remotely, the first question is where do they want to work from? Many people are happy and productive lounging around the house in pajamas all day, but for others that can be too much of a distraction to get anything accomplished.
Do they have an office room at home? Do they want to go to a cafe or library? It’s a personal choice, but team members can give each other advice and compare notes on the ways they like to work away from the office.
If any work is actually going to get done, there still need to be solid processes in place. Do you know where to go to find them?
According to the Content Marketing Institute, over 60% of B2B marketers don’t have a documented content strategy. Without a plan in place, where does your team turn in times of crises?
If you don’t know, then this is the time to put a plan together and change things for the better. Not only will it help you now, but also in the future as that same study cites that of the most successful marketers, 65% have a documented content strategy.
Marketing today can’t be accomplished effectively without technology, so marketers are certainly familiar with some martech tools. The question, and the primary challenge, right now is, are marketers capable of successfully using these tools in a strictly remote setting?
Furthermore, do teams have enough user seats in their tools? Are there clear permissions? Can team members connect securely outside of the office?
These were already important questions, but now they’re imperative. Because if the answers are “No” or “I don’t know”, then it might not be possible for business to continue at anything resembling a normal rate.
So, what kind of tools do you need to be utilizing?
Starting with the basics, how are teams communicating with each other? This is where everyone having their own preferred option can cause issues, because the same conversation might be happening in three different places at the same time without other team members knowing about it.
So whatever tool you use, it’s important to bring everybody on board so that there’s one destination for conversation. One option, Slack, is great for easily managing multiple threads, both group chats and one-on-one.
There’s also Google Talk – often referred to as Gchat – as an option that many people are already familiar with, and for content marketing teams who have a publishing tool, whether it’s Socialbakers or another option, there is the opportunity to easily discuss an idea or edit in the publisher.
For conference calls or other video needs, lots of people working from home – #wfh – have recently discovered Zoom’s “Touch up my appearance” feature, which functions as a built-in Instagram filter. Another video option is Google Hangouts, which combines video and chat messaging, and it pairs well for teams already using the G-Suite.
Once you’ve established where and how you’re communicating, do you know where you’re tracking and monitoring your work?
While the initial focus is on continuing and finishing what’s currently scheduled, many people will be working remotely for long enough that they need to implement full new plans.
Again, many of these martech tools might be something that marketers have already heard of or used a bit, but now they’re vital. When a team leader can’t walk over to someone’s desk to ask for an update, they need to come up with a digital version.
For those with a robust tool like Socialbakers, it’s possible to monitor status updates and everything in the platform. However, there are also lots of specific tools to accomplish this, too.
Monday, Asana, and Basecamp are options that allow teams to create workflows and monitor projects step-by-step while also integrating with other apps as needed. As mentioned before, though, it’s important for managers to make sure they have enough user seats and the correct permissions for the entire team.
It’s much easier to ensure your network is secure when everyone is working in one office on one wifi network. But when the team has to spread out and use external wifi networks, especially publicly available ones at cafes or home networks that aren’t setup properly, then network security becomes critical and two-factor authentication is a must for modern technology.
An app like OneLogin or Okta is important to make sure that you’re not at-risk of a computer virus that could cause further complications. And, like many of these tools, it’s something that should have already been implemented or considered before.
So if it wasn’t, now is the time to fix that so that the future is more secure.
With Socialbakers, teams can have transparent access and contextual understanding of the workflows they are a part of so they can do their part better. The platform also allows for lots of integration with the systems and communication channels that teams are already using.
Everyone involved in social media marketing can come together with Socialbakers: creatives, designers, copywriters, social media managers, content teams, etc. Many brands have stressed that it’s vital to keep the content machines flowing, because shutting them down at this time doesn’t keep anyone safe and hurts business.
Marketing has always been a field open to adapting to whatever is needed. In the current moment, that means putting together a remote working plan that keeps things moving along without risking anyone’s health.
Socialbakers is a user-friendly platform and intuitive for those who are just starting, great for easy ramp up of new users and non-users/stakeholders who may just want viewing rights. It’s great for marketing departments that have teams sprinkled throughout the world, which means it’s also ideal for teams that suddenly find themselves communicating only digitally.
Most of the focus right now, understandably, is on making the best of the current situation and continuing to work as best as possible. However, this could also be an opportunity to grow and improve as a team.
For starters, whatever holes are exposed in the workflow and overall communication channels should be fixed in a way that works whether or not people are in the same building. That’s one of the advantages of working in a digital field.
Whether it’s through adopting new tools or altering managerial methods, any potential chaos is also an opportunity for improvement.
None of this is easy, but if you’re lucky enough to not have to directly deal with an illness then it’s more of an inconvenience than anything else. And don’t forget to ask around for help, because many people you know have been working from home for years and have a lot of experience to share.
For the rest, find the workplace that works best for you and try to make the best of a new normal (at least for now).