One of the many seismic changes foisted upon businesses during the coronavirus outbreak is the very nature of how work gets done. Millions of employees are working remotely, a trend that will continue unabated at least through April (and likely longer) as city lockdown orders and social distancing guidelines are enforced.
For most of our customers, this is uncharted territory. Manufacturers and distributors are learning on the fly how to effectively work from home amidst a torrent of unexpected market upheavals. Sales reps can’t visit customers in person and critical new pricing strategies must be communicated over video conference rather than at branch offices. The team at Zilliant has quite a bit of experience working remotely, so we thought we’d share some tips on how to make the most of it for those that are suddenly juggling work and home life for the first time.
Five Work from Home Tips:
- Technology is your best friend
As recently as twenty years ago, a moratorium on office work would have been a crushing blow to productivity. Today we have Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams and other voice and video conferencing services at our disposal. We tell our team at Zilliant to have a bias toward video calling and we recommend the same to our customers. Seeing the other party’s expressions really does add to the communications. If you can’t meet colleagues and customers in person, in 2020 we are lucky because we can still see them. As effective as email is, even when in the office, it’s not always the right internal or external communication method. When a simple call will suffice, go off video to free up bandwidth for others using these services. It’s also important to have a dedicated workstation to conduct voice and video calls where you won’t be disturbed by family, dogs or delivery drivers.
- Be a creature of habit
Try to keep as much of your normal routine intact. Your commute may be gone but you should continue to do everything you would have up to the point of getting in the car or on public transit. Many of our team members report the virtues of getting ready, dressing for success and having a good meal before kicking off the workday. Sport coats look great even over a video stream! One team member’s former colleague actually gets in the car and drives around the block before firing up the laptop back in the home office. Whatever works to create that sense of normalcy and get your mind ready to attack the escalating challenges. Throughout the day, if you find yourself having trouble getting down to it, try setting a timer for 20 minutes. Make yourself crank for 20 minutes, take five, then crank again! It’s also very important to build breaks into your schedule. Without the commute and the lunch hour walk to your favorite eatery, you must make a concerted effort to find time to clear your head and even get a little exercise.
- Take advantage of new opportunities
It may seem counterintuitive, but your sales cycle can actually progress faster under current conditions. The inability to travel to your client’s offices means you have a lot more time on your hands. Use it wisely and adopt a high-touch approach. Remember when it was customary to have a two- or three-week delay between a requirements gathering phone call and an actual face-to-face visit? With the latter temporarily out of the question, take the opportunity to follow up sooner. While a sales call conducted over video will never be preferable, at least you can move the ball down the field with fewer logistical hurdles and have a better chance at creating a sense of urgency with two or three meetings in a week.
- Set clear goals
Being goal-oriented is always important for success at work and it’s even more apparent now. Set goals for your day, week, month and quarter. Having a clear idea of what to get done at the start of each day helps keep you from squandering time. Bullet Journaling is a great method for keeping yourself accountable in the absence of in-person one-on-ones with your manager. Challenge yourself to reach out to every important customer, partner and prospect regularly – remember, they are going through the same things you are. Free-flowing communication has a way of helping you reach whatever sales or KPI goals you’re currently staring down.
- Over-communicate with your reporting structure
It’s a good practice to call your direct reports once a day, even if it’s just to check up on how they’re doing during this tumultuous time. Don’t think of it as micro-management. Rather, consider it your chance to replace the hallway conversations, impromptu status checks and cubicle discussions that would be happening if you were in the office. Focus on deliverables with dates attached to ensure that work keeps progressing. Consider setting up a weekly or biweekly Friday video chat to replicate a sense of community and for team-building purposes. Ideally your upstream management team will be doing this as well, so be sure you are up to date on all the great things your team is getting done when you are asked for status updates.
Most importantly, stay safe and practice social distancing. We will get through this together by following new guidelines and maintaining productivity until we are allowed to return to our normal work lives.
As always, we’re available to chat over email, phone, video conference, etc. Don’t hesitate to contact us. Wishing you well, from our home offices to yours!