Working from home: Advice from PRGN members around the globe

March 19 2020

A growing number of office workers around the globe have been forced to work from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and this trend is likely to continue for some time.

Many of the 1,000-plus employees from PRGN’s 50 global agencies are already accustomed to remote work scenarios. We’re happy to share their advice for businesses that are new to a remote workforce.

While working from home, don’t forget the most important thing about business: personal relationships – with your staff, your clients, your vendors. Use this opportunity to pick up the phone and really talk to people. What I’m most impressed with during this challenging time is the humanity that is expressed in everyday ways – let’s do that in business, too.
David Landis, President, Landis Communications, Inc., San Francisco

Have team “lightning round” calls for 15 minutes first thing in the morning and at the end of the day for the first week. This allows everyone to connect and jumpstart the day. It also allows management to spot issues that may be coming up. Let everyone know that yes, things are a little unsettling right now (particularly if they’re not used to working remote). That’s OK. We’ll get through it. Make sure everyone knows what technology tools are available and confirm that they work. That includes video conferencing, project management tools such as Basecamp or and others, as well as communications tools such as Slack and anything else appropriate for your area of the world.
Leeza L. Hoyt, President, The Hoyt Organization, Los Angeles

Go out of your way to add a little humor or lift into a stressful situation that your clients and staff are facing. We’ve found that when clients are working from home, many of them are watching or listening to the news, which tends to accentuate the negative aspects of COVID-19, while they work. Help to counterbalance that negativity with some good news, humor, compassion or inspiration. Remind them they are not alone, we are all in this together, and we will get through it. This is a time when our humanity is needed more than ever.
Jim Bianchi, President, Bianchi Public Relations, Detroit

First of all, in a crisis like this: Think outside the box. On team-building and bonding for staff:
• Host a virtual lunch cook-up with your staff on Zoom. Hire a chef to host it. Send ingredients for a recipe to all staff by using a local delivery service (if still possible).
• Deliver lunch to your staff from a local business.
• Get a yoga instructor to do a virtual yoga session for meditation.
To stay on top: create a Corona channel on Slack for all Coronavirus related news and updates.
Aaron Blank, President and CEO, The Fearey Group, Seattle

Do what science tell us: Bursty communication helps work-from-home teams thrive! “By designing systems that facilitate bursts of communication and collaboration among team members, employers can achieve higher quality collaboration in their teams, all while balancing employees’ desire to work remotely.”
Mark Paterson, Principal, Currie, Melbourne

Add significantly more warmth to your written correspondence – simple ingredients like “please,” “thank you,” “appreciate it,” etc. That usually might seem unnecessary or repetitive, but they are now more necessary than ever. Be aware that most people are in a state of uncertainty. Show utmost politeness, think twice before sending critique or harsher words, try to imagine how recipients will interpret your message in the worst case and adjust the wording to that. This is always key to communicative success, but now more than ever a must.
Robert Bauer, managing partner, accelent communications, Vienna

We aren’t always set up with an ideal home office to help promote work in a creative sense. So, we’re checking in with our teams to see what they need to be best set up for creativity and productivity. We’ll then evaluate it and see if we need to get them tools for their home that would make more sense and help them perform. The biggest thing I’ve learned in this time is to really get an open and honest assessment of how your staff is doing in these tough times. We’ve been very open in asking how folks are doing, how they are coping and what they are worried about. For our team that works on healthcare clients, last week was hard. It’s going to continue to be hard. We’re also seeing our friends, neighbors and community lose employment or businesses because they can’t stay open in these challenging times. It’s weighing on us all heavily. So, the more you can express those worries, thoughts, concerns the better.
Chris Guizlo, Vice President, The Fearey Group, Seattle

Mirror the workday as best you can. It is very easy to start working as soon as you get up and keep working through dinner – your desk is wherever your laptop is, and it’s usually not that far away from you. Do your best to stick to work hours. […] Of course, we have managers in the office. But when working from home, you must be your own self-authority. Don’t be too rigid and work from sun-up to sun-down and definitely don’t be too lax, eating potato chips all day on the couch. Practice the art of balance… and yes, this takes practice.
Advice from the blog of The Castle Group, Boston and Atlanta

Gábor Jelinek
Executive Director, Working from home: Advice from PRGN members around the globe
With 15 years of agency management and communications consulting experience, preceded by a 10-year media career, Gabor is the Executive Director of Public Relations Global Network (PRGN). In that capacity Gabor is the center of action at the global network, supporting the work of the President and the Executive Committee to grow and develop the 30-year old communications network. Working closely with PRGN's Business, Marketing and Membership committees, Gabor is the driver of global business development, self-marketing and membership retention and recruitment.

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