After working in-house at an insurance brokerage, and through talking with a lot of our clients, I’ve come to find out that working remotely in finance, insurance, and real estate is a rarity. Sure, you may work on the go from time to time, but the overall sentiment is that these industries have been late to adopt the idea.
During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s likely the first time that many are working out of the office for an extended period.
Further, this is the first-time many managers are leading a remote workforce.
And salespeople…how many have depended on face-to-face meetings?
These are tempestuous times. It’s kind of a sh*tstorm.
But with change comes opportunity! And those ready for change will weather this storm.
What’s the issue with people working remote?
Up until this point, there has been a bit of a stigma with certain business owners about the staff that works remotely.
It’s kind of understandable.
The workforce has changed drastically over the years. Managers that still remember quoting over the phone instead of online portals, or marketing in the yellow pages before their websites, will struggle with this concept.
These are the same business owners that want a full office when they walk in. Going past an empty desk during normal work hours is abnormal to them.
This reminded me of a page from one of my favorite books The Magic of Thinking Big. As the title describes, the book is about finding opportunities when your thoughts are grand.
This excerpt stood out to me.
“ The traditional thinker’s mind is paralyzed. He reasons, “It’s been this way for a hundred years. Therefore, it must be good and must stay this way. Why risk a change?”
“Average” people have always resented progress. Many voiced a protest toward the automobile on the grounds that nature meant for us to walk or use horses. The airplane seemed drastic to many. Man had no “right” to enter the province “reserved” for birds.”
A bit of a drastic comparison, but not to those on the outside looking in at those struggling with a remote workforce.
But here’s the real issue.
Management doesn’t trust work will get done
Again, kind of understandable.
But that just means you need to shift expectations and objectives. You can’t expect an employee to be tethered to their desk at home the same way they are at the office. I can list countless reasons why.
Let’s go with one — children.
A parent working from home with their child has a whole slew of distractions. But that doesn’t mean that they cannot successfully work outside of the office. They adjust their work schedule, whether starting earlier than normal or working past the time they would regularly leave the office, and prioritize work events that are on their calendar. This makes you less of a slave to meetings and more empowered by your calendar.
So, I think the mentality about working remotely needs to change. It’s not going to be an hour-for-hour swap. Working diligently from 9 am – 5 pm is not a reasonable request for a remote worker.
Instead, work needs to be goal and outcome-oriented rather than a daily hour input. That change starts with a change in management.
Change your style to manage remote workers
Many business owners, managers, directors, etc. have never managed a remote staff. Sure, maybe a worker or two for a period of time but many have never led a fully remote staff. Fewer are truly equipped to do so. Here are some quick things to get you started.
Set expectations and keep them
Whether it’s a formal work from home policy or maintaining daily / weekly meetings, it’s important to have structure. Just because you can work in pajamas doesn’t mean you’re leading a circus.
Give your team structure where it’s needed.
Some team members will need definitive hours if they are in customer service. Those expectations need to be clear. Method of communication may change but the workflow should not be drastically impacted.
If you’re doing it, STOP.
If you have clearly set expectations, you don’t need to micromanage. Managers that micromanage their remote staff are less effective, and in turn struggle to see the value in it. I’ve seen business owners destroy years of built-up rapport with their teams.
Trust your team.
Companies May Not Be Equipped for Remote Workers, Yet.
Do you have the right technology stack ready for people not to be in the office?
There are so many ways to increase a company’s efficiency with technology. It’s a huge part of what we do! We deploy marketing and technology to create more human-to-human interactions.
From messaging apps like Slack, to video conferencing like Zoom Meetings (we now offer Zoom Meetings free through our marketing automation and CRM partnership with SharpSpring), there are reasonably priced options out there for your business to deploy better communication.
Our insurance client Honig Conte Porrino wrote a great blog outlining more in, A Business Owners Guide: How To Get Your Company Ready To Work Remote.
But let’s get back to what this article is about!
What are some positive changes from increased remote work?
New Affinity for Working Remote
I think that finance, insurance, and real estate are synonymous with long days and structured office environments – most marketing agencies would call it “stuffy.”
The opposite of that “stuffy” environment doesn’t mean that it is “sloppy” either.
Working remotely can be empowering. One of my favorite clients’ sales reps takes 3 trains and a bus to get to work. Imagine how efficient she is now that she takes back 3 hours a day!
Meetings That Could Be Emails Might Be
Jeez wouldn’t that be great!
With fewer managers able to depend on getting everyone in a room it may finally happen. I don’t think my experience is unique with this one. There are countless meetings that could have been calls or emails and so many that shouldn’t have been scheduled in the first place.
My hope is that through remote work we are better able to see who is making an impact, and better understand who is using a gathering of people to give the sense of importance.
Really. All of those meetings could (and should) have been emails.
We’ll Get Comfortable Being On Camera
This is a big one for me and probably one I am most excited about.
How long have we been hearing, “you need to be doing a video on your website and social”? Hell, I say it myself. But up until this point I have found every excuse not to be on camera.
That was all until I couldn’t see my team every morning.
When you lose that daily face-to-face interaction it’s weird. One of my top priorities on our first Monday morning of social distancing was setting up our Zoom meetings. We all still wanted to connect even though we couldn’t be in a room together.
The whole thing took some getting used to.
The dress code of working from home is a bit different, and remembering to not look like a schlub on a video call is important.
But hopefully, I won’t get to the point of dressing from the shoulders up, where I’m wearing the fake turtleneck like Zac Galifianakis in Dinner for Shmucks.
One of my friends at Lola.com described this look as an “office mullet” – professional up top, and a party/lounge below the waist. I cannot stop laughing about that.
I think that video is going to come out on top after this.
And there are opportunities outside of just recording yourself on your phone or computer.
We reached out to a client that had many conferences set up for Spring 2020 that were all canceled because of COVID19. Instead of letting the opportunity pass by we strategized and will be helping them produce their own webinar from this. After seeing how easy the process was, this attorney plans on adding webinars and recordings to their marketing strategy for the future.
Difficulty Breeds Innovation
During tough times there are always two options: look at it positively, or let the negativity fill the void. I think that there are a lot of great things to come from this time of social distancing.
Remember, the Renaissance was after the black plague.
If you have things that you are looking forward to because of newfound remote work for companies, please tweet us!