By Cody Carroll
When I started college, I imagined my future job in a suit, working in a cubicle with a fancy phone and a room to report to when I needed to meet with my manager. Yet, here I am, approaching the one-year mark in my career, and I have met my manager in person twice. Yes, twice. And, amazingly, I find myself just as productive, if not more so, than I imagined I could be in that cubicle scenario. Like more and more companies in this age of technology, Event 360 is primarily a virtual office. We are based in downtown Chicago, and have a “real” office there, but our staff is spread across 63 cities, from large to small, bringing dynamic and diverse ideas into the peer-to-peer fundraising industry that have no geographic boundaries. From our remote home offices, we provide insight to individuals and communities across the nation about how people want to make a difference and give back. However, harnessing the most productivity from our virtual offices requires discipline in our daily habits and practices. Here are some of the best practices I have learned in my first year at Event 360.
Step 1: Find Non-Distracting Locations
Setting yourself up for success is the first step in achieving it in a virtual environment. Understand what environments serve which tasks best. Whether you are working in a coffee shop, at home, or in a quiet room at a coworking space, make sure your space matches your needs. It’s the equivalent to deciding whether you should work in a cubicle, brainstorm with your co-workers in a conference room, or close your office door to finish a project. I start my day looking at my schedule to plan for the space that I need to perform my tasks the best. I have learned that I write creatively better in a coffee shop. And that I can participate in a phone or online meeting better if I am sitting at a desk in a quiet location. If I know that I will be collaborating on a project with team members at my home office, I make sure that my dual monitors are available to multitask and screen share.
Step 2: Use Video, Audio and Screensharing
Speaking of collaboration, email can be a great way to communicate with your colleagues, but in a virtual environment you can’t rely on email only. You can also use instant messaging applications to communicate throughout the day, if you have a quick question or an urgent note. It’s also important to know when to pick up the phone. Tasks and clients vary and can require different project management tools and applications. Don’t be afraid to use more than one tool at once. There are mornings when a teammate and I are on a conference call, screensharing and using IM while collaborating on a project for a client. For me, hearing it, seeing it and doing it simultaneously help to fully understand a new concept. That’s why it’s important to figure out which communication system works best between you and your team to optimize a learning moment.
Step 3: Use Two-Way Communication
How many times have you sent a message to someone, but never knew if they received the message? Probably too many times to count. My coworkers and I practice a two-way communication method that helps us power through emails, IMs and phone calls. We make it a priority to acknowledge tasks and provide feedback during calls to ensure that we understand concepts and deadlines. Communication is important in any industry, but it is vital in peer-to-peer fundraising. Creating a year-to-year communication plan is a big part in setting yourself up for success in the future. Making this a consistent practice has created a fantastic work flow, and we have optimized our quality performance surrounding project deadlines.
Step 4: Pay Extra Attention to the Tone and Attitude you are Projecting
It’s easy to misread someone’s tone when communicating in a virtual work environment, particularly in email and instant messages. Emojis help provide more context when you’re chatting with friends, but in a professional environment you can’t rely on emojis. It’s important to stay present when you are building a work relationship to become attuned to the other person’s communication style. Some people have a more succinct tone in email and conference calls. Others can be more dynamic. It’s important to understand your own tone and how your coworkers perceive it. It takes a while to get there but developing that trust can take your working relationship to a new level!
Step 5: Be Honest and Curious
It’s easy to feel isolated when your team lives far away. Typical offices have ‘water cooler talk’ among their employees, but in virtual offices, it’s up to you to take the initiative to have those conversations with coworkers. I have had opportunities arise for me to help on new projects because I was curious about something that was outside my day-to-day responsibilities. Collaboration is a key factor in career happiness. Not only have I gained valuable work relationships outside my department, but I have also learned about different areas in peer-to-peer fundraising events — and how our company handles so many different challenges in the industry. My manager and I set aside chats each week to explore what sparks our curiosity and how we dive in and learn more!
It can be challenging to start a new job in a virtual work environment, but given the right tips, the situation can be just as rewarding and fulfilling as being in a traditional setting, if not more so. Since graduation, my views on working from home have expanded a lot. My manager and I continue to explore new ways to plan, produce and promote cutting-edge strategies for our clients, even if we only see each other in person a few times a year. These tips have maintained my efficiency and job satisfaction, as well as helped me grow in the peer-to-peer fundraising space. It’s exciting to be a part of a team that is dedicated to making a positive impact on the world one peer-to-peer fundraising event at a time!
What better way for digital marketers to work — than in a digital environment? Since our clients and events are all across the country, it’s easier to support all of these diverse projects and understand all of these unique communities because we have “boots on the ground” in so many places.
Check out our recent blog post about the good our staff do, as well as these older blog posts from past and current employees about home offices and the virtual work environment, and reach out if you would like to know more!
Cody is a journalist-turned-marketer driven to connect storytelling and targeted messaging to create industry-changing content. As a Digital Marketer, he is responsible for implementing and maintaining marketing strategies that help his clients increase brand awareness, generate leads, and acquire new customers. When he isn’t working, you’ll find Cody exploring the outdoors, reading a book, and volunteering with youth development programs.