Successfully Working Remotely is A Shared Responsibility

Email marketing, like any career, is likely to include working and collaborating with people who are not in the same physical office.   If you are the remote person, you probably have concerns about keeping in touch with others on the marketing team or in your department, and if you are managing people who are remote, you have to pay special attention to keeping them in touch with the rest of the group.

In an eec Member Initiatives Advisory Committee meeting on the Career Paths project last month, we discussed the impact of this dispersed workforce, and how it affects an email marketing team.

Angela Baldonero, VP, People of Return Path, reviewed four broad trends for career development among the diaspora:

  1. Technology keeps us connected, and enables a broad dispersion of the workforce.  However, it also causes some practical issues. For example, we have an employee in Berlin reporting to a manager in California. It raises the question:  Is Skype enough?
  2. Social interaction is good for the business.  Bringing on people in new geographies can be challenging for on-boarding as well as collaboration.  It’s harder for new people to be remote.  However, people who have already built relationships in a core office and then move away can be successful in a remote environment.
  3. Dispersion affects the talent development lifecycle.  For example, the key needs of top talent are relationships and recognition and it’s hard for people to build relationships if they are not there.  Lots of good work happens when you are in the same room – including discussing the creative for the email campaign while you look over my shoulder, or brainstorming subject lines by the coffee machine.   Plus, it’s hard to “make your mark” if you do not have access to casual interaction, and the only time you “see” colleagues is in formal business meeting situations.
  4. It is easy to confuse connections with relationships.  It’s easy to have connections. It’s harder to build relationships.  However, it’s relationships that drive recruitment as well as career advancement. Geography supports or inhibits relationship depth and meaning.

 

As the group discussed these ideas, we realized that these are challenges for workforce, but also for proving the value of email marketing within the organization.  We can’t earn the respect we need for resources and a seat at the table just from the numbers; the relationships matter, too.

Other impact areas:

  • Geographic dispersion and even business unit silos within the same geography also affect the collaboration and governance of different brand/business unit email programs.
  • Participation in eec meetings is a way for geographically or functionally isolated professionals to network and be educated. It’s also always helpful to hear that other marketers have the same challenges!
  • Remote employees don’t have access to impromptu conversations which can help your career and move your projects forward.  Baldonero quoted, “A lot of work gets done when you talk about nothing.”  Relationships are not built just talking about business and trust is built when you know the whole person.  If you just talk business, you may actually have less trust, because you only know one aspect of that person.
  • Sometimes there is a perception that if you are working at home you are not working as hard.  Jennifer Carmichael of Tenet Healthcare noted, “Some remote employees work harder or longer hours because they’re ‘always on.'”
  • Relationships drive loyalty and the extra effort needed to get something done.  If I need help with a project or getting something run up the flagpole, it’s a lot more successful to stand in that person’s office, than to IM them.

 

In all this, we discussed that building relationships is a shared responsibility.  If you work remotely, you need to make time for making these connections since they don’t happen organically. This is both the responsibility of the individual and the organization.  If a business hires people remotely for email marketing or any task, there needs to be a commitment to support this relationship building.

Some ways to build your own long distance relationships or help make it easier for remote employees to engage:

  1. Stay an extra day when you do visit the office. Make time for coffee and hello’s.
  2. Corporate social networks can help facilitate information across offices.
  3. Seek out similarities – find the connections outside the office with your colleagues. This might mean taking a bit of extra time on the phone or in an email to get to know the person.
  4. Managers can facilitate team building prior to the business meetings. Build time into the weekly phone calls or hold quarterly in-person meetings that have time for socializing.   “This is a great idea that I can implement tomorrow,” Carmichael said.
  5. Conferences like the Email Evolution Conference are a good way to meet new people.   However, we are all busy; we have to make time for establishing these connections.  Nancy Atwood of Anchor Computer said, “In some ways, we are victims of technology – we can work all the time and we are always connected. So the “doing the work” is taking priority over “building a network.”  We invest our time in replying electronically rather than establishing a personal connection.”
  6. Corporate HR or someone needs to accept some level of administrative support and education, as well as the remote employees themselves.  Be proactive. If no one is reaching out to you, reach out to your manager or the HR team, Baldonero recommends.
  7. Working long distance is a reality for most email vendor/marketer relationships. Many of these same principles apply to good account management and client service. “Think of your colleagues as clients, and that might change the way you relate to them,” Atwood said.

 

Lastly, we discussed some things that the DMA/eec can be doing to help facilitate career growth and help us all build these relationships internally and around the industry:

  1. A member directory of names, company, industry, geography. Restricted access and “no sales calls.”
  2. Local events for members to meet and network and learn from each other. Perhaps in cooperation with local DMA groups.
  3. Ensure there are strong networking opportunities prior to and during the main DMA conferences.

What are you doing to build relationships with remote colleagues, clients and employees?  What else would you like the DMA/eec to do to help the industry? Please leave your comments below or email Stephanie Miller at the Member Initiatives Advisory Committee.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Successfully Working Remotely is A Shared Responsibility

  1. This is a really well written piece that every manager and HR pro should review regularly if they have, or are considering, hiring remote employees. I’ve worked from a well appointed home office for over 8 years and can attest to the importance of your points. I??m fortunate to have recently joined an organization and can both boast about having a great team back at Corporate in every functional role who strive to ensure the success of folks in my position, as well as having a presents in our local office where I can truly be part of the fabric of the Company (charity drives, team meetings, social events, etc??). My company and the other executives at e-Dialog do a great job of supporting desperate offices and employees. However, this isn??t a one-way street. As a remote worker I am accountable to regularly and pro-actively communicate with everyone back in the home office. Lest I be reduced to a mere number on a ledger??or forgotten entirely.

  2. I own a virtual business, with an office for necessary "shared space" such as inventory, physical files, hoteling, and a conference room. I can confirm from my own personal experience that there is a cost in relationship-building when associates don’t see one another at the office every day.

    While increased freedom and flexibility, as well as decreased overhead, compensate for this loss, it is still something to consider before you go remote.

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