Remote-working survival guide for small businesses March 20, 2020Lots of us are working remotely at the moment. Those who can are taking their businesses online, staying home, and advising their employees to do the same. It can be a pretty big disruption to your normal workflow, especially if it’s new to your business and you don’t have any structure in place. Here are Beacon Media + Marketing, we’re well-versed in working remotely. Our headquarters are based in Anchorage, AK, but we have team members all over the United States. Our Social Media Manager is based in South Carolina, our Website Development Manager is based in California, and our Vice President of Finances is driving across the south with her family in an R.V. (we think she’s currently somewhere in Texas). We’ve actually been doing this for years, starting with our President, Adrienne. She’s currently based in Reno, NV, where she’s busy setting up our second office, so when we say she’s a remote-working boss, we mean that literally. She’s tried and tested a lot of different tools and strategies over the years to make things run smoothly. We asked her for some advice to help your business survive social distancing. Looking for a way to help your business pivot? Have questions about digital marketing in a crisis? Simply need a sounding board for new ideas? Join our new Facebook group. Staying motivated while working remotely Members of our team enjoying the good old days, pre-isolation. (RIP 2019.) “One of the biggest challenges is the fact that people aren’t used to managing their own schedule, so it takes a different level of discipline to force yourself to sit down and work,” she says. “It really surprised me, when I first started working remotely, how much I got done. Part of that is because people weren’t popping into my office. I was exhausted after four or five hours and I would feel guilty about that. It took me a while to realize that I was actually doing about eight hours’ of normal work in a much shorter time. Forgiving myself and being OK with that took a while – I found I was actually tons more productive in that short period.” Getting everything done quickly is great and definitely one of the perks of the set-up. After all, who wants to be chained to a desk from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. if they can avoid it? The trouble, Adrienne says, is avoiding burnout. She recommends tackling the hardest tasks in the first three to four hours of the day, and looking at the more mindless and routine tasks after that. That way, you maximize your efficiency while your brain is working in a high gear. She also suggests setting a timer to remind yourself to get up and take a break, drink water and go for a walk to help yourself make it through the day. In other words, she says, give yourself permission to leave the desk. *GASP* This attitude is a real departure from more corporate environments, but it’s essential. “Some days, you burn through a lot in four hours. Other days, you might think, ‘Oh, this needs cleaning’ and ‘I should start some laundry’ and you get side-tracked by the distractions around the house – they exist in a different form at work – but they can get in the way,” she says. “Set a timer, stretch every hour and take the dog for a walk. I still have it in my calendar to take a lunch break, to put my computer to sleep and sit somewhere else to eat. Taking regular breaks has been really important.” Tips for remote-working collaboration #TeamBeacon celebrating St. Patrick’s Day 2020 from LA, NV, AK, SC and CA. The best way to avoid feeling isolated is always to reach out to the people around you. It’s never been more important than now, while we’re all doing our best to adhere to unprecedented public health advice. However, if you’re stuck at home, you can go a little bit stir-crazy. It’s perfectly normal that your motivation might suffer as a result. Truthfully, your co-workers probably feel the same way. The best way to combat it? “Your mind has to shift a bit in terms of how you relate to people and how you collaborate. Our instinct, especially if we’re coming from a corporate setting, is to stand up and walk to ask someone a question. One of our natural tendencies is out of sight, out of mind,” Adrienne says. “There is definitely a mental shift that has to happen when you make that transition to working remotely. Be the one to reach out. It’s different now, when everyone is forced to be remote, but making that extra effort to call instead of just texting all the time makes a big difference. “Reaching out at least a couple of times a day really helps with some of the feelings of isolation.” We live in the 21st century and we’re all lucky that we have a lot of different options. However, there is definitely a hierarchy to the methods available, and human-to-human interaction is key. Video calling is probably the best option, even just for a quick chat about a current project or client, then calling on the phone, then text, then email. Seeing a co-worker’s face and enjoying a few minutes of chatting can provide a huge morale boost for everyone. For more stories about businesses finding ways to pivot, as well as crisis communication tips, digital marketing advice and a sounding board for ideas, join our Facebook group. Setting up a successful remote-working routine William, one of our account managers, giving Lilly-Grace a crash course in data analytics. It’s easy to throw routine out the window when you start working remotely. After all, your commute suddenly got cut from 20 minutes in traffic to perhaps 20 paces from your bed to the kitchen table. As long as you look presentable on top, you can work in your pajama bottoms and no-one will know. You can drink a river of coffee – judgement free – and you can snack, snack, snack all day long. However, a bit of discipline when it comes to working will make all the difference. An example, Adrienne says, is the daily “huddle” we have at Beacon Media + Marketing. Every morning at 9am Alaska time (our headquarters are based in Anchorage), our team meets to talk about the top three things everyone is working on each day and any “stucks”. Generally, we have a large team that dials in from the office conference room as well as others dialling in from Nevada, California, South Carolina and anywhere else our team members happen to be traveling. It’s a daily touch point that keeps everyone feeling connected and on the same page. “We got the idea from a business book,” Adrienne says. “I was the first remote worker for Beacon, so what started as a, ‘Let’s try this out’, from a book became absolutely vital. It’s become a lifeline to connect my team visually and to hear what we’re all working on.” The other key is a weekly production meeting, in which the full team sits down and runs through all accounts to make sure all of our clients’ needs are being met and nothing is falling through the gaps. “We tried a lot of different techniques and methods. We tried just doing it with Teamwork (our project management software), but I was having to constantly check-in with everyone all the time. If people didn’t respond, either because they didn’t want to be held accountable or they were busy with other meetings, it handicapped our ability to stay on top of our projects,” she explains. “The more our team became remote, the more important that meeting became – what are our projects, how are they going, are there any stucks? Seeing everybody’s face once a week is really nice, too. It replaced that ‘I’m going to pop into your office and see how you’re going’ mentality.” Best tools to help businesses work remotely We found her! Lisa, our Vice President of Finances, and Buddy are working near San Antonio, TX. As we mentioned earlier, there are lots of tools and communications channels available online to help team members connect remotely. Beacon Media + Marketing uses and recommends: Slack, which is a communications channel that keeps everything in one place Teamwork, a project/document management system Zoom, which supports video calls and conferences Many companies are providing free and discounted services to help businesses navigate the current climate. If you’d like to read more, we recommended six free tools in this blog post. “It’s been a process over the last few years to transition into the habit of using them,” says Adrienne. “I could see it being a challenge for businesses now, who are being forced very quickly into transitioning into a remote working environment. It just takes time to adjust to using these channels instead of communicating verbally.” She says the key to success, more than the actual tools you end up choosing for your business, is simply to be consistent and make sure every team member is committed to using them. Once that happens, the rest will flow smoothly. “More and more businesses are starting 100% remote and staying 100% remote,” she says. “Generally, it keeps overhead costs down and I think people are more productive. It’s a little difficult if your business has a customer-service aspect, but there’s a lot more flexibility.” Setting up a business for remote working can be daunting. If you’re new to remote working and you’re feeling isolated, we’ve love to connect with you. In fact, we have a whole community of other business owners who have found themselves in the same boat. Join our Facebook group.