For as long as I can remember, I have always longed for two things. The first thing is to live to see the zombie apocalypse. I’ve always been obsessed with zombie movies. I can imagine myself picking them off one by one. Fast zombies, slow zombies — it doesn’t matter. My weapon of choice would be a crossbow. I’d be kind of like a Jewish Daryl from The Walking Dead.
The second thing I’ve always dreamed of is to have a fulfilling career that allows me to work from home. I would go to sleep late, wake up at my leisure and never wear anything but my pajamas. I would have the freedom to step away to walk my dogs, run to Home Depot and work out whenever I chose. Eh, maybe not work out, but you get my point.
Now that we’re here and faced with the very sobering reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, I can say it’s neither fun nor exhilarating. The uncertainty of not knowing how long this will last and how many people will be affected has been unsettling on fronts both business and personal.
This new paradigm of working from home comes with a slew of obstacles. For those of us who aren’t used to working remotely, how do we make the transition? How can we navigate through the challenges?
For me, it’s been a mixed bag. I work in the digital media business. My company specializes in production and post-production for advertising agencies, media companies, publishers and brands.
When my partners and I started the company only eight months ago, we built a large part of our business model around what we call the Platform. This platform enables us to work with hundreds of artists and specialists around the globe by using a sophisticated dashboard to access cloud-based technology. Through the platform, we can arm those artists with virtual workstations and utilize the cloud for high-speed rendering and storage, all controlled by a producer supervising the project.
Why is all of that technology important? Well, for starters it keeps our existing pipeline of work running seamlessly. In addition, our staff has been able to pivot without much disruption.
Do you know what all of that fancy proprietary technology doesn’t do?
It doesn’t replace the power of human connection.
As a workforce, we’ve grown accustomed to daily conference calls, email check-ins and the efficiencies of using different content management systems to help multitask the days away. All of this stuff is great, but it’s not always enough.
I’ve spent the better part of my career cultivating and maintaining relationships with clients and peers. Making human connections is at the heart of what I do. It’s the meat and potatoes of sales and management. There’s a big difference between an email and a good old-fashioned handshake. Ask Dale Carnegie. How To Win Friends And Influence People Via Text Messaging wouldn’t have been nearly as effective.
You can’t mentor an intern via email. You can’t grab an espresso with your favorite client at La Colombe on FaceTime. And pizza Fridays kind of suck on Zoom.
But here we are, and we have no choice but to adapt. So, Zoom, email and text it is, but if you’re anything like me, you really have to try to make it work. Like, really try. Leaders need to lead. Managers need to manage. Salespeople need to sell — no matter what medium you’re operating on.
Our office culture is our most precious commodity. People are the secret sauce to any successful business. So it was really key to preserve that camaraderie we’ve worked so hard at developing. The first thing we did was make sure everyone had the tools they needed to continue performing at a high level. We also decided on day one of the new normal we would overcommunicate every single day, face to face.
We do video conferencing every morning at 9:30 a.m. to catch up and set the tone for the day. The first few minutes are usually spent joking about someone’s hair, admiring that view from our co-worker’s lake house or just saying hi to my partner’s cat, Cheese.
We take turns sending in funny “work from home” pics or videos to post on social media and we always ask each other and our clients how they’re doing.
Now, more than ever, we need human connection, and we all need to go out of our way to make those connections real. What’s happening out there in the world is really serious stuff. Life or death stuff. Nurses, doctors, law enforcement and all of the other essential workers are out there are risking their lives fighting this pandemic face to face.
Even though the rest of us aren’t necessarily on the front lines, we do have vital roles to play, even if those roles are played from home. Let’s use our time working remotely to try a little harder at making that human connection with each other, no matter what the platform may be.
Remember, whether this lasts a few weeks or a few months, we’re all in this together. Let’s make every connection count.