Tips for remote collaboration during and after the pandemic

Here’s how one agency pro suggests approaching the realities facing PR amid COVID-19. Be aware of time zones, and ditch the burrito and Def Leppard T-shirt during videoconferences.

Young Woman Videoconferencing With Colleague On Computer At Desk

We’ve all become remote workers, trying to discern the best ways to communicate and stay informed.

Though there are new rules of engagement, some things will never change. There are also several habits we should break.

  1. What hasn’t changed:
  • Keep avoiding collisions. Similar to when air traffic controllers hand off an airplane on its cross-country flight, bicoastal teams must seamlessly collaborate on deliverables in order to meet clients’ needs. Agencies do so on behalf of all types of clients, but the ever-changing dynamics of the technology industry places more importance on this sunrise-to-sunset model. That means East Coast staffers are monitoring the news, sending out early pitches and responding to requests that appeared overnight, providing West Coast clients vital insights when they wake up. At day’s end on the East Coast, pending projects and deliverables can be handed off to West Coast teams in a way that includes clear context and actions so they can be presented in client-ready fashion. Work in New York doesn’t necessarily end at 6 p.m., but knowing your colleagues can pick up projects will ease pressure across the board.
  • Know your time zones. Respecting time zones can drive efficiency. This means agency teams must ensure they are aware of one another’s time zones and clients’ time zones as well, so they avoid sending one-off requests after hours—risking that they languish in the email ether, unanswered for hours. You might designate a team member in the same time zone as the client to run point on responding to client emails.
  1. What is different:
  • Let’s not talk about the weather. Expressing concern about our well-being has replaced small talk when we open video calls with clients and colleagues. We’re sharing less chitchat about the weather and are instead asking one another about the health of our families and our coping methods during these strange times. It’s a more substantive form of conversation, helping us engage on a deeper, more meaningful level.
  • See and hear me. Talking on the phone has long been the preferred method of connecting with clients and team members. Video is fast replacing this mode of communication: Zoom now has more than 200 million active users daily. For some, this has been a learning curve—everything from adjusting the angle of the camera to knowing where the “mute” and “end meeting” buttons are located. As we adjust to this reality, we’ve become more skilled at these meetings and experience less downtime due to technical difficulties. Perhaps our collective embrace of videoconferencing will become a worthy substitute for face-to-face meetings once we get through this crisis.
  1. What to avoid:
  • Save the vintage T-shirts for Fridays. The temptation is to dress down at home; after all, we’re all remote workers now, so if we all wear our vintage Def Leppard T-shirts, what’s the harm? When meeting with clients, though, we should present ourselves professionally.  Maybe this can be finessed by dressing “sportscaster style”: a nice shirt or sports jacket with shorts. As for the Def Leppard T-shirt? That can be your Friday reward for making it through the week.
  • Is that spinach in your teeth? Avoid downing that burrito or big salad while in a video meeting with your client or team. There were ways to get away with that via phone (muting while chewing), but unless you’ve set up a video lunch with your team or client, it’s probably smart to avoid eating.

Josh Lefkowitz is a vice president for Method Communications.

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