TVN’S FRONT OFFICE BY MARY COLLINS

Collins | How To Deal With Working From Home

The coronavirus hit and everyone has had to stay at home. While snags have developed, for the most part people have found workarounds. Reporters are filing stories, ads are being sol d and trafficked (admittedly fewer ads), and the quarter close happened on time. Here are some relevant ideas and good tips toward making the most efficient use of this new normal.

Like you, I have my own routine and strategies for working from home. I am also incredibly fortunate because I have some advantages that many other do not.

First, I already had a functional home office space. Originally intended to support me in graduate school, it transitioned to my full-time office when I took my first remote position. Additionally, MFM and its BCCA subsidiary, the media industry’s credit association, were set up to support work from home long before I joined the associations.

Finally, all I need to focus on is the business of MFM and preparing for what is now our virtual annual conference — Media Finance Focus 2020; I have no young children at home and a husband who contributes more than his fair share.

According to Global Workplace Analytics, it is estimated that 56% of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible (at least partially) with remote work. They estimate that, pre-COVID-19, only 3.6% of the workforce worked at home half time or more. A Gallup poll from 2016 said 43% of the workforce worked remotely at least some of the time. The current thinking is that, the longer people work from home, the wider the acceptance of it will be once our current restrictions are lifted.

The other day, when I was participating in MFM’s Young Professional Committee’s monthly call, one of the attendees remarked about how quickly their company had adapted to a remote workforce once they had to do it. Apparently, the idea of allowing some people to telecommute had been under consideration for years. The hurdles and objections just seemed too big to tackle.

Then, the coronavirus hit and everyone had to stay at home. While they’ve had a few snags, they’ve found workarounds. Reporters are filing stories, ads are being sold and trafficked (admittedly fewer ads), and the quarter close happened on time.

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Another committee participant mentioned attending MFM’s mid-April Distance Learning webinar, a session called “Overcoming Work at Home Challenges.” The committee member thought that speaker Laurie Kahn, founder and self-described chief multitasker with Media Staffing Network, had some relevant ideas and some good tips that are worth passing along to those who did not participate in the session.

Keep Planning For The Future

Kahn began by laying out an inescapable truth. That is, just because employees are working from home now, companies must not stop planning for the future. The need to attract, hire, and engage the right people will continue to be essential, so companies must be prepared.

She noted that how companies treat employees, clients and community now, will shape their ability to rebound. Given this, she believes companies need to add a focus on updating and adding training materials to a company online portal via a shared document program.

Almost everything one can do at the office, from sales and training to interviewing, hiring and onboarding, can be done remotely says Kahn. She also sees ways companies can benefit with a work-from-home workforce; these include cost-effectiveness, increased productivity, and efficiency.

Having managed a remote workforce before, and now adding ongoing interactions with MFM’s board, our members and potential conference speakers, I know first-hand that flexibility is essential. Kahn agrees, saying it’s a good time for management to:

  • Re-think what job duties and roles can be done remotely
  • Consider communication protocol
  • Create goodwill via company communication tools
  • Build a family-like team atmosphere
  • Communicate a caring and supportive culture
  • Encourage staff to keep to a schedule

Tips For Setting Up A Home Office

As I said, I have experience working from home. Kahn’s pragmatic suggestions for setting up a home office, agree with what I have learned through trial and error. Her recommendations include making sure the space you select allows you to focus, and ensuring you have adequate electrical outlets so you can keep your computer and phone fully charged. She discourages working in your bedroom because you need to be able to step away at the end of each day.

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To ensure that sales teams can operate productively, Kahn suggests investing in an online CRM (customer relationship management) system, if the company has not already done so. Further, sales management should require that employees make use of the software, and management needs to monitor it regularly.

On the tech side, Khan suggests the following as must-haves for all work-from-home offices:

  • Password protection and anti-virus programs
  • An inexpensive multi-function printer to scan documents
  • A headset for calls and meetings
  • A laptop riser
  • Wi-Fi capacity

Likely, you’ve already been part of a video meeting. Setting up an account with your conferencing tool of choice will make it easy to access, share, and conduct meetings. Kahn says such programs can even record your meetings to share with those unable to attend.

Setting up a communication system that works for your team is imperative. Kahn likes Slack because it keeps discussions more organized than is possible in long email chains. Microsoft Teams was popular pre-COVID-19 and continues to gain users. Such tools make it easy for the team to see each other and interact, share presentations, and attend trainings.

Whatever solutions you or the company select, it’s essential that your team is trained on how to use the services. She also recommends having up a weekly check-in with a set meeting scheduled on each team member’s calendar.

Finally, if your company has an IT department, make sure you know the process for remotely connecting to them and be sure to check with them before committing to new technology tools.

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Communication Is Particularly Important

During her presentation, Kahn stressed the importance of communication during this time. She said over-communicating is best. Specific examples include:

  • Laying out clear expectations, goals, deadlines, and expectations — cover them verbally and make sure they are also in writing.
  • Communicating regularly with team members, this includes communications from the corporate level.
  • Encouraging staff to call their supervisor with project-related questions to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Creating an intra-office communications strategy system to keep everyone aware of changes, updates, or notices.

Kahn had many additional ideas to share regarding recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and even onboarding. As the stay-at-home order appears to be moving into May, I will have time to share more of her helpful tips. She concluded by saying, “we are in a new world where life, work, and personal interaction are all different. What we do now and how we do it will have implications for a long time to come.”

I agree. MFM has already announced that we are turning what was to be our three-day annual conference in Los Angeles at the end of this month into a 10-week virtual conference beginning June 16. We are currently finalizing the 40 sessions we will be offering; several will be ones we’d already planned, and a number will be updated to reflect our new reality. You can see the schedule evolving in real time on the MFM conference website: https://www.mediafinancefocus.org/.

Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary, the media industry’s credit association. She can be reached at [email protected] and via the association’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.


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