Virtual Offices: The Growing Remote Working Culture With Danette Gossett
As businesses make the shift to working remotely, it's important to remember that not every strategy that works in a brick and mortar workplace will work in a virtual office. There are specific strategies that you need to implement to maintain balances now that every employee has to integrate their work life with their home life seamlessly. Joining Bob Roark is Danette Gossett, the owner of Gossett Marketing. Bob and Danette discuss some important strategies and solutions you can implement to manage your virtual office. You are not alone in this transition. Take the time to refine the way you operate to make the most of your time working remotely!
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Virtual Offices: The Growing Remote Working Culture With Danette Gossett
I’ve got Danette Gossett of Gossett Marketing. She's a highly respected marketer out of Southern Florida. She and I have been friends for a long time so I thought we'd have it on. What we're going to do is focus on the virtual business owner's thoughts and/or processes because it looks like more and more businesses are going to rotate toward the virtual office format while we're all in this pandemic condition. It may be that we find that we don't need bricks and mortar down the road. If so, these are some of the thoughts and observations. Danette, welcome.
Thank you. It's been interesting.
We thought we would structure this a little bit and talk about some of the observations. Danette had a case study as she was working with her people that are all working virtual on GovSpend training. Think of some of the things that are going forward and then thinking about whether it's Zoom or Microsoft Teams or GoToMeeting. How do you take and manage the use of your time so you can maintain effectiveness and optimize the time that you're working? Danette, what did you notice?
We've been at home for so much longer now. Even though things are starting to open up in some areas, Southern Florida is a hot spot, so we are not opening up anytime soon. They're talking maybe June for us. We've got another month. For a lot of people, the room started closing in a little bit on them. The trials and tribulations of having their kids, their dogs, their spouse, their significant other all around them all the time. Not that they don't love them desperately but being 24/7 is not what anyone signed up for, to be sequestered with an individual or a whole family or my dogs or the isolation. For me, I'm isolated. It's me and my dogs.
For me, it's “I want people” type of thing. Having more Zoom meetings has been a big part of it. Having my team wanting to spend more time with me on the phone or on the Zoom has ticked up. I found myself losing my day sometimes. I wasn't managing them and my time as I normally do. We're going to get back to that. A lot of companies are realizing now that this may go on for a long time where if you've got to have 60% less people in your office or more space between people, you may not have the space. People are going to have to be working remotely for months, if not a year or more.
Some companies are going to do that. I did have a conversation with a company. They don't expect to have 100% people in their office for almost eighteen months. The landscape of the work team is changing completely. How do you make sure everyone feels a part of the team when they're in 50 locations or even five locations? How do you make sure that everybody is on the same page, going through the same goals? How do you make sure that everyone is okay? Usually, when they come in the mornings, I can tell if someone's been having some issues or something's going on maybe at home. Sometimes you need to get that out in the open that they need something. When you're working virtually, sometimes you can’t see that. I set up a meeting and we had to change it.
[bctt tweet="One of the issues is preserving and promoting company culture even when people are working remotely." via="no"]
One of my team said, “I can't make that time.” At first, I was like, “What do you mean? I set this meeting, what do you mean you can't make it?” She goes, “That's when my son gets up from his nap because now he's at home. He's 2.5 years old. He's cranky then and it'd be very disruptive. He's ready for his snack and he gets a little while. That's when I take my break and I'm not in my office. I have my laptop and I'm working downstairs where we're getting him all situation. It would be disruptive to the meeting.” I'm like, “I get that. That's fine. We'll record it. You and I can talk about it later.” A lot of people are not necessarily feeling as if they can have that conversation. They’re possibly worried that they have to be that professional, buttoned-up, 100% person in front of their boss all the time. Now is not the time to be that way.
We were talking about this before. What I'm starting to hear from business owners is some of their discussions and meetings with not only their customers but their teams, are more authentic. You're going to meet the dog, meet the kids, take in and you're invited into their home. You think about the connection. Some of the things that I found somewhat interesting and maybe too surprising is you feel a little more connected to some of these people because of the authenticity of what's going on in the conversation.
You look at somebody and you can tell something's off and you have a conversation with them later and they're worried about a senior. “I missed my mom's birthday. I’ve got an elderly parent that I can't see or haven't seen. I'm worried about them.” Those kinds of things or, “I married my spouse for better or worse, I just didn't marry him for lunch or sequestering.” As business owners are adapting to this new virtual environment, remote work has been a feature of a couple of generations. It looks like we'll all get to enjoy and figure it out. One of the issues is how do you preserve and promote the culture of your company?
How do you make sure that the teams feel that they're part of the team? There are a lot of ways that you need to do that. One is the communication aspect. Virtually communicating and writing communicating. Make sure they understand and our mission hasn't changed. We're here to help our clients in the best way that we can and in ethical way to promote their brands. We're here to do that every day. That hasn't changed. It's how we do it in some ways has changed.
The needs of your clients haven't disappeared.
Some of them aren't going to be doing anything for a long time because we do work with the cruise lines and that business has shut down for a while, but it will come back and we'll be here when it does. I'm not used to my team being in their space all day long. They're usually out visiting clients. Usually, I have good blocks of time where I can get my work done. That's one of the things that I saw impact me because I allowed them to invade my time. It was the right thing to do because they needed me, but next time it will be different. Also, I’ve been very transparent with them.
We did get a PPP loan and I was very transparent before we got it with those that are salaried employees that if we didn't get it, there were going to be some possible consequences. When we did get it, they were as excited about it as I was. I was very transparent with them ahead of time that that was going to be an issue. I was talking to another company. I received an email from a company that I do business with that my account manager has now changed. It was a very vague email. I was not happy about the way the email was written. I reached out to my account manager separately via LinkedIn and said, “Are you okay?” She was let go. They weren't truthful to her when they let her go. They replaced her with the junior employee.
[caption id="attachment_5180" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Virtual Office: Since the lockdown started, some business owners' discussions and meetings with not only their customers but their teams became more authentic.[/caption]
We understand the economics of it. I understand completely. I'm a business owner. You have to make hard choices during these times. The way that the owner of the business communicated with me was very roundabout, "Now's the time making a great change for you. This is going to be a great opportunity for you as a client of ours.” She should have said, “Business is tough right now. We've had to let some people go. Your account manager was one of them but you're going to be taken care of. I’ll be more involved now.” She didn't say that. She should have. "We've got this other person who I know is very junior.” I don't feel as comfortable that I'm going to be as taken care of because I’ve been working with this other individual for five years.
I think about that as two things. One, if your employees as a business owner may be thinking they're going to be the next person that might be let go and then if you're the business owner that had to take and downsize, how to properly communicate that in a professional manner? You can say, “We made some choices and this is why we did it.” What you would like to receive as a business owner is the same thing you should adopt to take and communicate with your clients. For you with your employees, being transparent, “Yes, we did get the PPP. Yes, we're going to work hard. Yes, we have some of the pressure taken off the company because of that, but it's not a forever pressure relief.”
We're diversifying. This situation, I thought we were very diversified in our clients. We are, but we still took a huge hit because we have industries that are shut down, that I didn't think would be affected. We do a lot with the universities in this area. We have four universities that are clients and one of them has already told us they had a 75% budget cut. Their fiscal starts July 1st. At first, I was thinking, “It's the remainder of the year. You’re upset. I understand that.” No, it's for next year too.
That's dealing with the uncertainty. We talked about this before, volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. It’s taught in most of the military schools. One of the tenets is you’re going to have to think about what you think, where you step back and you go, “If things changed again and be aware that it's going to be evolving, the situations that we're going to be in.” You go, “What's changed? What's the same? What can we do? How do we adapt?” We were talking about the value of time. For me, I'm armed and dangerous from the time I arrive at the office until 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning. It's the time I get most done in my day.
Unless it's on fire or the barbarians are at the gate, that's a very structured period of time for me. I don't have clients. I don't have people come in. I don't have any calls, all that stuff. For a business owner, if there's an effective period of time that you don't want to be on a Zoom call and you tell your staff, “This is my business planning time frame,” let them know and say, “It's not that I don't appreciate what you're doing, but save it until this time and we'll schedule it.” You’ll manage your time better.
I time block. I have a color-coded time blocked calendar. They laugh at me sometimes. They look at my calendar and it's all these rainbows of colors. I do that so that I can see when I'm spending too much time with administrative, when I'm not spending enough time on business development, when I'm not spending enough time with clients or whatever. That's why I have it color-coded. I know what I'm spending my time on at a glance. If I’ve got too much administrative time in there, I'm like, “What am I not getting to my administrative person that I should be?” It's a good tool for me. They know that usually, I'm in the office early. Like you, I'm an early person and I too don't like anybody to bother me before 9:00 .
[bctt tweet="Business owners can manage their time better by being open about when they don't want to take calls." via="no"]
One of my people call me at 8:35 in the morning. It was Wednesday or Thursday. I answered the phone. I probably shouldn't have but I was like, “Maybe it's something important.” It wasn't. I said, “I can't deal with this right now. I’m in the middle of something else.” She was taken aback and I’m like, “This has to wait. I have to finish what I'm doing. I'm in the middle of it. I’ll call you. I have a 9:00 call. After that, I’ll call you.” She's like, “Okay.” I said, “We have to schedule these things. You can't just come at me for general questions about things.”
That's framing. For the employees and the people as well, being aware of everybody's time. The fact that we're all available pretty much all the time now with a virtual office, you're at home and in Zoom, you can manage your time. Frame it properly with the employees and say, “It's not that I don't want to talk to you, but the more effective I am, the more secure your job is.” You look at it as it flows down from there. One of the things we talked about is if you get the same question that you think it's something that the team needs to hear, then you say, “Ask me the question again. I’ll put it on record.” You can share the Zoom video out to people and say this is something you can view at your convenience but I think it's important.
I was listening to The Virtual Advisor Series from Elite Advisor Blueprint. They were interviewing a company that has been running virtual now for over a decade and they've got 1,000 employees. They were talking about how they took and promoted their culture. They have a call every Monday. On the call, the rules of the call are no one can be muted and no one can turn off the video. If somebody muted it off, they say in the meeting, “We're waiting for good old Bob over there. Bob is still muted and doesn't have his video on, so we won't start the meeting until they do that.” Pretty soon they catch on and said what they found is in pushing the culture, reminding of what's important, maybe a good story from the week where it illustrates the culture and how you've helped your clients, which reinforces that. They said, “If everybody's on all the time, then it doesn't stifle a response if somebody has an idea.”
During this time, especially in a call like that, celebrating the successes that people are having. There's so much gloom and doom right now. We were talking about this and the first week was like, “What is this?” The second week was like, “We're all going to die.” It was like, “I'm over this.” This is a long-term situation. If we're not celebrating the successes we have, even if they're small success. I'm in a mastermind group and we talk now every week. We used to talk every other week, but during this time we thought, “We need to talk every week.” We still start with our wins for the week.
“Who has a win this week? What was it?” That way, we can all say, “That's fantastic," and recognize that I can have one of those wins. If they got a win, I can have a win. What happened this week? What did you do differently than you did last week to help you get that way? If you have a group of people or peers, we've talked about this before, maybe that's something that you do. One of my group, she indicated something and I'm like, “That's an interesting idea. Can you send me what you did?” She's like, “Yes. I’ll send it out to everybody.” I'm going to take a look at it and go, “Maybe this is something I can implement so that I can have a win.” We challenge each other.
Get the community of people together and you do those kinds of things. As you look at your week, there was a study that came out on you feel more fatigued after a series of Zoom calls. There's a whole psychological study as to why that is and going, “It's not something that's odd.” It's more stressful because you're on and they're in your house. You look at yourself and you go, “I look that way and I have this motion and whatnot.” If we're wrong and let's say this is a short-term problem, it's not long-term, then good for all of us, but I wouldn't want to bet my business that it's going to be exactly the same.
Being adaptable and thinking about, can I operate virtually and how do my employees feel about that? Can I communicate to the people that are on the team that we care about them, that we're worried about their health and we're worried about their families? We're doing this to take care of them as well as our clients. We're worried about our clients so we take care of them as well by doing this virtually until we get their immunity going. Worst-case scenario, this goes on for a long time and we learn to adapt. Best-case scenario, it doesn't go on for a long time and we still learned a new tool and adapt it.
[caption id="attachment_5181" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Virtual Office: In a long-term situation like the COVID-19 crisis, it's important to be celebrating the success that people have, even if they are small victories.[/caption]
People have been laid off. They've been furloughed or they've been laid off. How would we get back to work and they get to come back or they don't come back? What's the landscape going to look like? If I'm a larger company, maybe I’ve got 50% of my people in the office and 50% of my people working remotely, or maybe 30% of my staff is back in the office, and 40% are working remotely and we've lost 30% of our staff. How does everybody in the office and working virtually feel like they're with a company they want to support and be loyal to? How do we make that? Does everybody get a t-shirt that says, “Team One,” or something like that? Our next Zoom call, everybody's in their t-shirt or they're taking videos or images of themselves and posting it on the company's virtual board so that we all are doing something in their t-shirt?
Do we have something that's adding everybody's desks when they get back? How do we make people feel as if they're still loved as part of the team? That's going to be important. Right now, everybody's in the panic mode and working long. Eventually, they're going to get them to the reality that Bob that used to sit next to me is not coming back. Who's doing Bob's job? I am, and I'm not getting paid more for it, but I have to be grateful because I got to keep my job. After a while, that's tough. It's like, “I'm doing my job and Bob's job. Maybe I'm doing Susie's job too, and I'm still getting paid the same. I'm...