Many speakers talk about disruption and how it is the precursor to big change. Well, it’s not a stretch to call our current situation a pretty BIG disruption. The talk about working from home has been around a while but no one seemed to really know how to make it happen. Now it is baptism by fire. This is a forced experiment and who knows what change will come from its results. Frankly, I’m more interested in how to adapt and transform with it so I can continue to best serve my clients. Currently, I am seeing three avenues for this.
1 - For many of us, working from home is second nature. But I am discovering it is very foreign to many people. I fielded quite a few calls the first couple weeks of the quarantine from clients asking for help and tips on how to make a work-from-home situation actually WORK. Until those calls, I wasn’t really aware that working from home is really a skill set that I can share.
At an office, people have a desk, a phone, supplies, and coworkers. At home, they might be working from the coffee table, or the kitchen table, with a lousy chair, poor lighting, and noise. Many are sharing their home office with family, and they may need to pack up work and put it away or move it on a regular basis. They are probably on a laptop, which isn’t the same as a desktop setup with a big monitor. The technology may be problematic, and walking into a co-worker's office to vent isn’t possible. And the frustration level that might come from whether or not the office can handle the entire staff remotely logging in, or the security involved in files being sent or shared on a home internet connection.
Everyone’s situation will be different. Some people will make the transition smoothly. Others will really struggle. Both types may at times feel disconnected and isolated. It is important to remember you have a value-added perspective on working alone and/or from home that you can share with your clients. I’ve talked with clients about how to structure their workday, creating breaks, use a timer to keep on track, taking better notes, and creating new habits. I’m also asking about what they need to make working from home more productive for them to see if there are any trends.
2 - There is an opportunity for proactive employers who will want to provide items to their work-at-home force to help them be more efficient and set them up for success. Many others may just be hopeful that their employees will be back in the office before long and do nothing extra. Every business will be different, and if this situation goes on a while, needs will likely change. Reaching these work-at-home employees with products they need to help them be more effective is one important thing.
3 – And what if the work-from-home scenario turns out great and some of our clients continue that way after this is over? That’s a lot of valuable face time opportunity lost since we probably aren’t going to visit clients in their home instead of their office. Plus, I think the drop in pollution people are seeing might lead to some working from home options being the next green environmental step we can take.
Regardless, I think there’s a huge opportunity to forge a stronger relationship with clients NOW. What do they need now? How do you help them now? Their work-life has been totally disrupted. This is our chance to be a resource, not only for promotional needs but for basic human contact. Currently, my client's communication is via email. But I am encouraging clients to call and finding they are craving connection. I’ve been busy with friends on Zoom meetings this week and I expect clients to make more use of face to face meeting platforms as time goes on. I don’t like the idea of having to stop wearing a robe to work. But I do think it is a great chance to forge new and better relationships.
Last week on a nice day, I met a long-time client at the driveway of their house for coffee and a business brainstorming session. Keeping social distance protocol, I brought my own lawn chair, small table, and coffee. We got a lot done, never coming into contact, but having a face to face meeting. As strange as that may sound, it really felt kind of normal. We’ve all become more human in this outbreak, too. Talking about missed hair appointments, bad nails, and comfy work clothes.
A lot is going to happen in the days, weeks, and months ahead. It’s an ocean of change, fear, disruption, but also one of opportunity. To quote Leonard Cohen, “If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day.” So, let's ride the waves of this change and all come out ahead.
Glenda Stormes-Bice, MAS Bankers Advertising