The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled business owners and individuals to rethink their current marketing strategies. With the new normal called working from home, building relationships and creating values are amongst the best practices. But many of them are not yet sure about the work-from-home best practices. They haven’t figured out how to remotely build trust and relationships with clients. Ryan Roghaar offers insight into this issue in an AMA with Designhill.
There is a vast difference between conducting business from a physical office in a conventional way and running it from home. In the present coronavirus crisis, businesses are gradually learning the new tricks of the trade. They are finding out how difficult it is to get the desired goals fulfilled while employees are working from home.
Considering that operating businesses in the ongoing crisis is proving to be difficult for many small to medium level companies, Designhill thought it fit to help them. This leading creative marketplace conducted an AMA with Ryan Roghaar on 11th June 2020 to discuss the issue. The topic of discussion was ‘The Future of Work’.
Ryan Roghaar is the founder of Teammate. He is an award-winning creative director and is a podcaster, remote work advocate, consultant, author, and speaker committed to building authentic end-to-end relationships for clients. He lays extra emphasis on building relationships and value in businesses.
During the AMA, Ryan discusses many aspects of work-from-home and how the future of the work is going to evolve. He advised businesses to create human relationships while working remotely. He emphasized on emotional intelligence, communication, adaption, and developing soft skills.
Here Is The Video Of The AMA Session With Ryan Roghaar
Here Are The Useful Tips That Ryan Roghaar Offered To businesses While Adapting To The Work From Home Environment
Designhill: Is work from home going to stay, COVID can be, an informal push to it?
Ryan: Work from home was a thing before COVID, and a lot of us may not realize that. Many of us were thrown into it as a result of the COVID outbreak. But work from home has been here for a long time, and it is certainly going to be a big part of our future.
A lot of the reports tell the story. According to the buffer state of work in 2020, 98% of workers would like to work remotely, at least for some portion of their career or for the rest of their working life.
With only 7% of regularly working people working from home before COVID, now nearly 54% of people would be willing to quit their job at this point, meaning remote work or at least the flexible work options are going to be a big part of our future of work.
Many people have lost their job due to COVID-19. They are nearly 64% of US-based employees, working from home now. Generally speaking, 59% of them are hoping to continue doing work from home after COVID. I think work from home is going to continue. It was popular in the past, but now people are more interested in continuing down that road.
Designhill: How to evaluate which departments can put on work from home?
Ryan: Remote working is not an easy thing to do for a company. It has to transition a whole team to a remote workforce or build remote work policies that are useful and valuable. None of this is easy stuff. It’s all work and you have to be committed to doing it. I think the ability of a company to make this transition has been exacerbated by COVID. So many of us were forced to make sudden decisions that required us to go work from home. As a result, we have solved some of the problems already, at least by now.
Most companies that went remote did so around March or April, and we have had a few months now of doing this. Hopefully, by now businesses have already worked through a lot of technological challenges.
One of the bigger problems is a greater impact on our mental health. We are going to see more problems, to deal with isolation and miscommunications. These problems will come around the issues that are sort of more related to soft skills than the hard technical stuff. This is because I think by now many of us have figured out software issues.
A rule of thumb is that if the job can be done on a computer from start to finish, then it is a good candidate for becoming a remote job. If you are working in manufacturing and you can’t take something online, it is not a good fit for the remote. So, it is certainly not going to be all things to all people.
But as long as your team doesn’t necessarily have to be together, they could have the option to work together or have the flexibility to work apart. The team doesn’t have to be together if you already have the technology stack or the processes in place that allow your team to communicate online. And, you know, there’s also the flip side of that. If you are hindering your team’s ability by forcing them to work in a co-located environment, I would say any of those criteria are sort of things to consider when trying to take a job remotely.
Designhill: How to ensure the output while working from home?
Ryan: Focus on output, not time.
One of the things that hopefully we have learned as a result of COVID and all this stuff is micromanagement. But it isn’t easy to know what people are doing at any given time. Therefore, what we encourage people to focus on is output, not time. When you focus on output, you can begin to measure your productivity using different results-oriented processes.
When focusing on output, set clear goals, deadlines, and expectations. That will give you a top-level view of projects being completed or not. Once things are getting done on time and projects completed as expected, the amount of time or how it got done largely becomes irrelevant. It becomes a matter of trust and understanding that your people are capable of doing what they are saying.
And so by setting clear goals and expectations, planning for increased accountability, you know, trusting and leaning on your employees a bit more analyzing and prioritizing your tasks to make sure that essential things are getting done when they’re supposed to be getting done. Then, track that progress using software or integrations with tools like Slack, etc. to monitor that process.
Monitor The Output
It will allow you to do an excellent job of monitoring these outputs versus the time spent. One of the things that happen with remote workers is that they are not great about setting boundaries and will often actually work more for you than your co-located people. The folks coming to the office and working eight to five have sort of a start time and stop time. Whereas, a lot of times, when we’re working remotely, those lines become a little fuzzy as we don’t have a start and a stop necessarily.
As a result, we may decide to work from 4 pm to midnight to get a project done for the following day, instead of 8 am to three or something. It doesn’t make any difference as long as the project is completed on time the next day. So, monitoring every minute they spent online is just probably not that big of a deal. But I do understand that it is difficult for a lot of business owners to make that transition to trust.
Building trust is especially tricky if you have a small business, a small team, and you are trying to keep an eye on how much time is being spent here and there. This is because so much of our system still revolves around time. A lot of us are paying our employees based on tracking of time.
I come from a marketing and advertising background. In our agency, for example, we don’t build trust by the time but by the project. In this way, we can break it into different segments of time and different deliverables. Then, by ensuring what we are hitting deliverable deadlines on time throughout the process, we’re able to trust our team that they’ll deliver on time. And so we can kind of watch that output and the amount of time they spend on it matters less.
Designhill: How to evolve beyond micromanagement?
Ryan: Micromanagement is indeed common as it is human nature to manage everything in detail. This is more so if you are a small business owner or have a small team, and you need to double-check that every dollar is being allocated correctly. You need to ensure that you are not overspending on time or resources.
Remote workers do not work hard is a misconception
One of the primary misconceptions is that remote workers don’t work as hard. Their perception is that they are on a beach somewhere or are sitting in their living room watching TV while working. So, there’s this understanding or this belief that your, your remote worker isn’t doing the work they ought to be doing.
The reality is that many remote workers have a difficult time setting boundaries and will often spend more time working on your projects than your other co-located guys. And so, I try not to beat on this too much. All the studies show that mainly speaking and in general terms, remote workers are more efficient and get more done than their co-located counterparts. Most of them don’t have the distractions of the office.
But the reality is that it is your job to trust your remote workers. If you have set clear expectations, you have helped them by communicating and ensuring alignment across the team. Everybody knows the rules, and so they do their best to try and stick to it. So I think it’s fair to start to trust your people in that sense.
Misconception About Data Safety
Another common misconception, and it can be true, is that your data is not safe. A lot of times, when you are working with a remote worker, a freelancer, or somebody who is not maybe on the team, there is always, especially in this day and age, a chance that data can become insecure. The great news is technology makes data security possible via remote. You can impose conditions like no use of public Wi-Fi and other such clear dos and don’ts for data security.
Wrong Understanding of Communication
Another common misconception is the idea that communication can be ineffective or burdensome in remote working. It can be difficult, but the truth is that your teams are more connected than they have ever been. You can reach out to an employee or a co-worker via Slack, a text message, an email, phone call, or Zoom communication with relative ease.
One of the things that we sort of advocate for as it pertains to communication is setting clear expectations around communication or setting up a calm structure. It will depend a lot on your corporate culture or your company’s culture. But let’s say if you send an email, the expectation is that you will respond within 24 hours. If you send a Slack message or something, maybe you need to respond within an hour, a text, or an SMS perhaps is 10 or 15 minutes, and then if I call you, I need you to pick up the phone.
And by sorting those channels in the order of urgency, email being the least urgent and a phone call is the most pressing. It helps set a framework for communication. People who are not working in the same office, whether across town or the planet, clearly understand how they are supposed to be communicating. So that’s something easy to work on to make this easier and do a little less micromanaging.
The misconception that it is a lonely work
The last misconception about remote working that I want to talk about is that it is lonely work. It is challenging for some people who are excluded from a social group in the office. It can be every bit as isolating as being left alone at your house. But I think isolation is not the problem. But we need to be focusing on the factor of choice being allowed to make a decision.
Remote Working, A Matter of Choice
So, remote work is not for everybody. And it is not about forcing people into some new modality. It shouldn’t be a zero-sum game where it is either all remote or not remote at all. Instead, you should have the choice to do what works best for you. The idea is that you are helping your employees be themselves. So, by allowing remote work as an option for those that work well for they’re welcome to do that. And for those who struggle, they will choose to work in the office.
Designhill: Amid plenty of work-from-home tools, how to have a friendly atmosphere that is professional enough?
Ryan: There is a mountain of technology out there that facilitates remote communication nowadays. And it can be difficult to choose from that plenty of tools as there are many resources online for finding the best platforms or doing your research. Most companies offer free trials and things like that now. So, it is pretty easy to try stuff before you buy stuff. And I think that that’s all great. But, you can do a couple of things to avoid being overwhelmed by these technologies.
And we talked a little bit about setting expectations around communication a moment ago, in terms of prioritizing your communication channels and making rules. When you make guidelines around the different modalities of communication, that seems to help mitigate some of the chaos that comes with using a broad suite of tools.
Stick To Your Choice Of Software Tools
Make sure that you choose your software stack and then stick to it. One of the things that happens a lot in this sort of technology space is there is a new shiny technology or new software or a great new app every day or week. Therefore, we are always jumping around between platforms, making it difficult for your teams to get fully aligned.
Also, it would help if you looked for complementary apps that have secure integration with one another. They can reduce the number of logins you have to make, and the number of different platforms. And the more the different platforms or technologies can communicate with one another, the smoother the processes can be.
Finally, make sure that your people are trained on these tools, rather than thrown in there. You can not go around, assuming that everybody has the same level of understanding. As the founder of a small tech company, you must train your people on how actually to use the tools. I think it’s essential to set those guidelines for people.
Designhill: What is your favorite tech stack?
We use Slack also like so many people do, but I am getting a little bit overwhelmed on Slack channels. So many people are using Slack now. And it is convenient to be able to jump onto other people’s slacks. But on Slack, I am getting so many notifications from so many different places, that it is tough to keep up and so, try and avoid that if you can. Other tools also work like Slack. There are other internal-external, third party type software that you can use for communication, but Slack is the one we use.
Another tool we use is called Notion. I don’t even know how to describe it because it Is all in one tool that does a million different things. We use it as sort of an in house wiki. Our teammates and our policy documents, everything lives in this document inside Notion. And you can schedule time off, look at budgets, do all that stuff through this one platform.
These are the two primary tools we use for project management. But we change project management platforms every two years. We are using one right now called Active Collab that is pretty great. It has a lot of functionality. It does all the invoicing, billing, and everything. And because it is an all-in-one platform, it ties very nicely to the projects that are being tracked. So it makes it easy to keep records. We like that as our project management tool right now.
Designhill: How to mitigate the doubts that as a manager arise frequently while building trust in our team?
Ryan: As we have discussed, I think to doubt and to micromanage is human nature, at least to some degree. If your job, as a manager, is tied to the performance of those underneath you, then you might feel this pressure. You want to make sure that your team is performing. Therefore, you do micromanage and be on top of your people all the time. And, it feels kind of counterintuitive to back off and give them a little bit of space. In this way, it is surely a challenge.
But I think you learn to deal with these challenges with some maturity and practice. You learn how to work with people, be open and honest in our communication, not hiding behind anonymity, and all those sorts of things. The more open and transparent we are with the people who work for us, the more it fosters an environment that allows us to trust.
Encourage Transparency and Accountability
I have read a policy of a company called Zapier, which requires that you have open communication and say anything you want to say to the management, but you can not hide your name, and you have to be accountable for the things that you say. By encouraging that sort of full transparency, it makes people tend to be a little bit more respectful. We all work for the common good, which helps us trust.
Build In-person Relationships As Well
Another aspect is getting to know one another. It is such a fundamental part of human relationships and a big part of how we live and how we grow. And, it is no different in remote work. It seems a little counterintuitive because thinking about working from home is about being at home. But really, the in-person relationships and the relationships we foster online are both contributing to our ability to trust one another. It is difficult to trust a stranger, but easy to trust your friend.
So, we sort of advocate for developing great relationships that will go on to breed empathy, build trust, and what we are trying to achieve. And the way that I talk about remote relationships sometimes is in using the metaphor of filling in the glass of water. For instance, if an email is 10 drops of water, a text is a quarter cup of water, and a Zoom call is 90% of a glass of water. The more we can keep our waterfall, the more satiated we will be. If we can meet in person and get our full glass of water, that’s great, but if we are on other sides of the planet or whatever, that’s fine, we will survive on 90% of a glass of water.
When we take our conversations online, they don’t have to be in person. But I will always advocate for dinner among friends or a coffee in person, even if the rest of our time we spend remote. And those relationships that we build will sort of help foster this culture of trust.
Set Clear Expectations
The next thing is about the idea of setting clear expectations and sticking to them. This is an extension of the transparency we talk about more often. But, if we all know the rules, we can rely on one another to live up to them. There is a little bit of social currency again involved here. If you have a relationship with your co-workers and trust them that they are good folks, they will live up to expectations.
If we all know the same expectations, we can all live up to those and make sure that we do our part. The longer we are all meeting our expectations, the more comfortable our management can become in building trust.
Focus On Output
We should focus on output and not on staying put. So it is the sort of an extension of the expectation and goal setting. But it is this idea that you can rely on a teammate to accomplish what they say and do, regardless of how they get it done. As long as the output is there, how they got it done is much less relevant. The last thing in this sort of category is automation. A great benefit of technology is leveraging automation to understand what is happening in our workplace.
But to understand what is happening in a workplace is not easy. There is a lot of data being generated all the time. So, if you integrate your project management system into Slack, there will be a steady stream of the completed work appearing in your Slack channel. As a manager, you can know that your team members are doing their job.
Designhill: How to empathize and extend it to various other sectors as well?
Ryan: I think empathy is a difficult thing for people to employ. I work with a lot of contractors and remote people all over the planet I never met, and It isn’t easy to trust those people. So, managers should lead by example. You can not force these guys to turn on their cameras even though it is the best practice to switch on cameras. As sort of an introvert myself, I hate being on camera. But, I recognize that it is a necessary evil and a big part of the work. If I’m to get out there and share my message and do these things, then, unfortunately, I have to suck it up and do it.
But if I had my choice, I would often not turn on the camera either, especially in the past. But now I understand I have to live up to what I preach. People have a myriad of reasons. Sometimes it could be just insecurities about their workspace, for example, maybe they don’t like the room they’re in or the places are a mess, and they don’t want to look bad on camera. It could be technology or internal problems, or they may be insecure and don’t feel right coming online. So all that stuff is going to be difficult for you to overcome fully.
However, if you should lead as an example, so, make sure that people understand that you do care about them and that you are trying to make life better for them. Make sure that you are open and transparent, sharing your space and even personal anecdotes. Bringing people into your life a little bit can allow empathy to sort of flow a little bit.
Designhill: How to get the fear of missing out of my head?
Ryan: We all have these voices of fear and missing out talking to us in our heads and making us feel insecure about different things. And, so it is a challenge for sure. One of the things that I think you can do is you require a little extra effort. Going above and beyond and over-communicate to people lets people understand that it is essential that you take pride in the work you’re doing. Make sure that you share those things with people. Sometimes, we do good work, and we want our good work to be seen.
But it is very easy for it to be overlooked, especially while we are working remotely. I mean, it might show up on a report or something, but what does that mean? And so, I do think it is imperative that you over-communicate. Now you do need to be careful.
You do not want to brag or come off, look at what I’m doing. But at the same time, it is crucial to be a hand raiser. If you have an employer and want to make sure that you are seeing or that you are on the radar, you have to be on the radar. You need to raise your hand when there are opportunities, and you need to speak up when there are opportunities to speak. So, as an employee, that responsibility is on you.
Your manager is busy managing people and doing a job as well. And, managers can not take the time to sit and do that. But the ones who do raise their hand and are always available and continuously providing feedback will be the people who rise to the top in a remote environment. Therefore, you should become the guy participating in all the Slack channels, and be a part of the conversations., You should be submitting your work on time and delivering, and exceeding expectations in any way you can.
Designhill: What are the best practices to be an efficient company, which relies on work-from-home support?
Ryan: Most of the best practices will be for small business owners, although I think they are mostly true for the worker. Our focus should be on both educating the employee and the employer because it is a two-way street, we have to work together. I do not have the expertise to tell every company how to get organized.
Adopt A People-First Culture
But I can tell you that having this great foundation at the beginning, whether as a manager or an employee, is critical. So, we should have a people-first culture. When you empathize, you do care about your people. The byproduct of this care will be the feeds, excellent performance, and high outputs. It is because you care about your employees that they want to do that work for you. So, I think starting your organization and people’s first manner is something to consider.
The idea of creating a culture of empathy is that you do care about your co-workers. They are not just a line item or a number on a sheet, and instead, they are an important piece of your business. It is important to you that you have a relationship with them. You can do this through regular touch bases or calls you can do so much by email and Zoom but, maybe once a quarter, you get on the phone with everyone or do one meeting with people on how your team works.
The next thing to be empathetic is that you have significant processes in place. So again, it is about setting clear expectation rules, guidelines, giving people what they need to be able to do their job well. Making them understand what is expected of them so that they can try to live up to it is critical to running a business even if you are a remote worker. Those of us who freelance and spend a lot of time working on our own as self-employed have those processes.
Have A Positive Intention
Another topic I talk a lot about is the idea of intent. Make sure that we approach things with the proper intention, either as a worker or as a manager. If you are a worker, going out with an appropriate intention will help you achieve that end. If you want to be seen or your work appreciated, you act in a way that is according to that, then you will likely rise to the top.
Similarly, if you are trying to be a great manager, you want people to understand that you are empathetic and care about them. All these things set the intention upfront and understanding that I want to be the kind of manager that people understand and care about. So, I think the setting of intention is really good.
In general, the best practice is to make sure your cameras are on all the time. I know it is uncomfortable. I don’t like it either. But it is something we need to do. If it’s going to be 90%, of filling that glass of water in terms of relationship development, then we must be able to make at least virtual eye contact with the people while talking to them.
Lead by Example
Finally, it would be best if you were leading by example. Make sure that in our company, leading by example is critical. If you want people to work hard for you, or achieve great things under your management, you need to lead by a great example. If you spend all day on the sofa and are part of the problem, people will have a hard time empathizing and working for you.
Designhill: What are your thoughts on the fact that sometimes it is hard to put a creative idea on a piece of paper while the timer is on?
Ryan: Value of work should be the objective
It is not easy to do this. And honestly, I am not sure anybody has solved this. Undoubtedly, deciding what the value of your creative work is super-objective. And basically, the idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is why Banksy can spray paint a piece of concrete and sell it for $200,000. But I spray a piece of concrete, and my wife just gets mad at me. I mean, it all has to do with value, perception of value.
And so, confidence is one of the most significant factors. As a great designer, somebody spent a lot of time. There are certainly differences between good and bad, creative, and non-creative. I mean, you can use some objective metrics to look at those sorts of things and understand that this is not technically well done. So you can obviously, judge creative work on those kinds of parameters.
Value Is Being Useful To Clients
But understanding what the real value is basically what the person buying it will pay for it. Therefore, it is challenging to do that. It is the value that matters. This goes back to our conversation about empathy and understanding.
You are doing creative work and creating a better brand that will sell them more products or whatever. But if you’re coming from a good place and trying to do great things for your client or end-user, you’ll find that the value usually comes with it. The more you can solve an inexpensive problem, the more valuable your work becomes.
Clients, generally speaking, do not want to pay for your creative work. It’s the perception of value and sort of the intangible nature of creative work that we should understand. I mean ultimately, it is all up to the end-users opinion. But the value of what you are doing is more inherent or obvious if you come at it from the right perspective, and you are intentional in the work you are doing. Your work’s value depends on the efforts you make to be empathetic to the end-user or client and the problem you are trying to solve.
Hopefully, this conversation with Ryan Roghaar helps pinpoint your problems as a business owner and individual while working from home. By implementing his advice, your business can surely benefit in terms of building trust and ensuring productivity.
The future of work, it seems, is in working from home if the present coronavirus pandemic is any indication. Ryan Roghaar advises picking the right software and sticking to it while working from home. But the businesses should focus on output and not on time. The building of trust amongst remote workers is vital to make valuable relationships. He advises adopting best practices while working from home.