Originally published on Campaign US by Oliver McAteer, March 5, 2020
Brands and agencies need to adapt quickly to a more flexible way of working to avoid mass disruption.
Fears of the coronavirus show no sign of abating as events continue to be cancelled, travel restrictions grow and cases and deaths tally.
Disruption for the advertising industry is now unavoidable. But there are ways brands and agencies can navigate these choppy waters to ensure minimal pain when it comes to business.
Stephanie Nadi Olson, founder of We Are Rosie — a women-owned, diversity-focused talent network of more than 4,000 marketing experts who parachute into companies and implement greater internal flexibility to fuel growth — said “there are a few quick wins for organizations who will be charting the remote team waters in the coming weeks, based on everything we’ve learned about growing and scaling a business from the ground up with a fully remote team.”
Helping organizations shift to a more flexible way of working is among the most desired and common services We Are Rosie provides.
Olson said firms must first consider what they can do to maintain and improve their culture in the face of disruption. She explained:
1) Revisit your core values as an organization. These shouldn’t change based on where you all are working. Use this as an opportunity to reorient your team around your collective north star as an organization. Regardless of how you will get the work down, step one is making sure you are all moving toward the same targets from a cultural and business success perspective. This is also a prime time moment to remind your team that you trust them.
2) Acknowledge that people are feeling uneasy. As if the past three political years haven’t been enough to take a toll on mental health, your colleagues are now legitimately and understandably concerned about the safety of their loved ones. Create a space for them to share their concerns and be heard. This simple act can strengthen the bond of a team in uncertain times.
3) Note that most of your team is probably, on some level, excited about working from home. According to data from Flex Jobs, 65 percent of people think they work best at home! Imagine undergoing a crisis and your employees begin working better than ever and feel good?! At We Are Rosie and the most requested type of flexibility is simply remote work. This is an opportunity for your org to begin to support your team in a way that makes sense for their lives long-term. They will be eager to show you it can be done and many will also be excited if given the opportunity to really shine while working remotely.
Olson stressed this can be a great opportunity to re-center teams around the things that can and should matter to the organization — “running a values-based business in which the company walks the walk when it comes to caring for a team, strengthening bonds, and trialing a new way to work that will, without a doubt, set your org up for a future where remote work and distributed teams are the norm.”
So how does a company implement tactical operations for a quick shift to remote teams?
Here’s Olson’s advice:
1) Develop a hierarchy of communication that will serve as guidelines for your org. You will now be unable to rely on face-to-face communication and you will likely have people working outside of normal business hours as personal life (caring for kids who may be out of school) will definitely impact the times in which your team is able to work. For example, what is the best way to communicate that something is time-sensitive? How much communication (and what types) do you want coming through chat apps vs email vs project management tools?
2) Work with your IT team to ensure your team is able to access all systems and files remotely. Revisit any data governance policies that should be followed while working remotely. And make sure your organization has a preferred video conferencing platform that everyone has access to. Video will provide that face-to-face connection we crave.
3) Work with a third party remote work expert to ensure you are maximizing your ability to turn this disruption into an opportunity for your organization. What are the best processes to implement for your specific organization? How can you measure team satisfaction before and after the disruption? What is the appropriate feedback mechanism for your organization to be able to determine what pieces of the new way to work you want and should keep long term?
The founder added: “The steps to ensure your employees are safe while also running your business may seem scary at first, but you’ll be able to get through it. Who knows, you may find this way of work more desirable moving forward.”