Working from Home: Balancing Technology & The Personal Connection
Virtual offices, remote co-workers, working from home – these trends have all gained significant ground in the last few years. The U.S. Census reports that 5.2 percent of U.S. employees worked remotely in 2017, which has almost a two-thirds increase from 2000 (3.3%).
We all get that working from home offers greater flexibility for employers to effectively grow their teams with the best candidates, no longer being limited to a geographic location. It provides cost savings by not having the overhead of an office. For employees, working from home provides the ability to have a stronger work/life balance.
And there has even been recent news indicating that remote workers perform better than their counterparts in a traditional office. The ability to work from home seems to be trending upward.
So, here’s a fun fact: LinnellTaylor Marketing has been a virtual office for almost a decade.
Most of our clients know this. Some think we can work remotely when we want and that we still maintain an office space. There are people in the industry whom I work with on a regular basis who have zero idea we are virtual. And that’s the point. The only way that being virtual works for LTM is that we all have a great respect for the concept. Simply put, our work needs to get done.
Sometimes for me, that means getting up early and taking advantage of the quiet. For other LTMers that means staying up ridiculously late to bang out amazing content. Either way, we are dialed in on serving our clients and still remain accessible during “normal business hours” even if we don’t always keep normal hours.
Another key to our success has been leveraging technology but doing so in a way that keeps a personal connection. I believe the entire LTM team thrives on personal connection – strange for an office of people who all chose to work from home. We don’t have the luxury of just stopping into each other’s office to say hi, to brainstorm or to discuss any crisis that might come up. But technology has made a seemingly very isolated work environment into one filled with personal connection.
Here is a snapshot of just how we balance technology and still keep our personal connection:
Phone: It is still our #1 go-to when we need to communicate with each other or with our clients. I know some people still prefer to email but having a phone conversation elicits so much more. You hear laughter, you hear annoyance, you hear happiness, or even stress. It’s a great way for us to be there for each other, even in the absence of physical presence. A simple phone call from one of my co-workers can quickly change my outlook for the day – especially if it is a tough day.
iMessage, workflow platforms and Gifs: Oh, how I love me some Gifs. iMessage and text messages are a fast and easy way for our team to ask quick questions or have a random sidebar conversation. Group texts are even better. Beyond work-related messages, our conversations are often filled with Gifs, links to new recipes we have tried, or even pictures of new furniture or paint samples we are considering. Again, all ways you would build a personal connection in an office environment that is accomplished via technology.
Workflow platforms like Slack, Basecamp and Evernote have been a significant time saver for our team as well. Admittedly, I am not the best at Basecamp and Evernote but I am working on leveraging this technology to further create efficiencies for our team. Some habits die hard; I am a tried and true notebook to-do list girl.
Screen sharing: Having the ability to quickly and easily connect with my teammates to collaborate is amazing, especially when trying to explain something over the phone just isn’t working. By sharing screens, we can easily work on a design project or troubleshoot issues on a release distribution or on the LTM website. It offers a new opportunity to be connected without being together and a means to best serve our clients.
Video chats: I struggled with the idea of video chats. When one of our clients requested video call for our status calls (bi-weekly account check-ins) I had a moment of panic. I mean, I could no longer hide that I literally wear yoga pants and a hoodie every.single.day! Once I got over my hesitation, this technology has been a huge game changer for me. It has provided the greatest sense of personal connection. In fact, when I met said client – whom I have video chatted with for six months – in person, it felt like we had known each other forever (I had met him in person once before but it was a quick meeting). I am not sure if this connection would have been the same had we been conducting our calls over the phone instead. It also helps that this client was super excited when Bailey, our German Shepherd dog, ambushed our video chat earlier this week.
Working from home is hard. It takes a certain type of personality to be able to effectively separate work life from home life when those spaces are shared. And it takes a dedicated team to keep a personal connection when you can go weeks – even more than a month – without seeing each other. While sometimes technology can be overwhelming and feel all-consuming, it has helped this virtual worker feel connected to her team and to her clients.