remote work, ways to do research, workshops, strategy

Find another way: remote work, workshops and research

Your brand can’t afford to avoid strategic and long-term brand-building for cost issues or whilst waiting it out for challenges to rectify. Within the parameters of remote work, there are ways to manage research, workshops and strategy, as long as you take the challenges into account throughout the process.

As published in First 5000, Australia’s mid-sized business network

Having worked in London through 9/11 and the GFC on global and regional brands, overseas travel was kyboshed.

Despite not having today’s advanced technology capabilities, we learnt very quickly to find ways to get together via phone/web conferencing and make it work well.

I’ve also included a portion of remote working in my week since the 90s when I lost my office to open work plan and struggled to concentrate when I needed to think. Playing music in my ears to cut out sounds I also find distracting.

Peace and quiet, the sounds of nature, natural light and an open space, with different areas to sit and lounge, I personally find the most conducive to thinking time.

For me, it is also a great environment in which to conduct phone and tele-conference meetings and new business calls, phone interviews and workshops for research.

Whilst there are many benefits to face-to-face in person meetings, research and workshops, the remote experience can be smooth, integrated and successful.

Brand-building with remote workshops and research

Since I started my brand consultancy seven years ago, I have been focussing on Australian businesses start-ups and small to medium businesses. Many of them have multi-city, regional and global employees and customers.

These businesses need cost efficient and effective ways to conduct meetings, research and workshops to build their brand – through the discovery and strategy development stages to planning and activation to ongoing performance monitoring and management. In person isn’t always an option.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve run a number of employee consultation workshops, focus groups and brand positioning workshops via teleconference, some in one location, others in multi-location. I’ve also conducted phone interviews with stimulus where teleconferencing was not possible; and replaced observation with diaries to gain deeper insights into people’s lives whilst reducing face time.

These are all situations where face-to-face in person would be typically chosen for observing participants’ immediate reactions and their body language in conjunction with their verbal responses, and for facilitating high engagement and involvement for quality responses.

Because I was aware of the challenges, I was able to talk to the client about them and prepare for them, both myself and all participants. Those involved were fully committed and participatory, the experience was rewarding for all and generated the output we needed.

When it comes to brand building workshops and research, there is a fear that remote constraints prevent the collaboration and quality of response that brand owners are seeking. With an experienced, dedicated and energised moderator, this is not the case.

Your brand can’t afford to avoid strategic and long-term brand-building for cost issues or whilst waiting it out for challenges to rectify, whilst other brands are steaming ahead and preparing for the future. It will cost your business performance now and in the future.

Remote work

When it comes to working remotely, some businesses do not trust their employees. Even less so freelancers and contractors, it seems. I’ve seen many agencies and companies nervous about allowing flexible and remote working arrangements and advertising for “on-site only” freelancers and contractors.

Businesses say they are worried about maintaining a collaborative, belonging culture with remote work. But there is nothing collaborative or belonging about preventing your employees, freelancers or contractors from doing their best thinking, their way, and then bringing people together when they’ve something worth sharing and bouncing. In fact, it can have the opposite effect of creating a disruptive, anxiety-building and unproductive environment and in doing so, creates greater isolation and mediocre work.

There are, of course, workers who want to be physically part of a social environment and situations where, similar to workshops and research, it is beneficial to have everyone in the same room. And it is more difficult to keep an eye on what people are not saying – their body language, mental health and wellbeing. So if flexible and remote working is activated in your business, its limitations need to be addressed with your team and approach.

There are many benefits to working remotely. Help your employees, freelancers and contractors find a way that gives them a rewarding experience and produces the best output for the business.

Ten keys to succeeding remotely:

Whether working remotely, or facilitating research and workshops remotely, there are ten keys to success.

  • Plan – set a plan for your week or your project and stick to it, pro-actively advise changes to your client and/or team
  • Remove distractions – give yourself the permission and clear the time and space to not worry about email, phone, messenger, door bell, kids, dog, laundry and the DIY to do list
  • Prepare – locations, stimulus, technology, how you’re getting stimulus to people, how you’re going to record and store the information from the meeting, workshop, interviews in a way that adheres to AMSRS/MRS code of conduct and country data privacy and protection legislation
  • Pre-work/brief – set meetings, workshops or research up for success by letting participants know what’s happening and bringing some thoughts with them so you don’t start cold
  • Energy and enthusiasm – moderate workshops, research or meetings with extra energy and enthusiasm that can be felt across the other side of the world
  • Identify location champions – where there is a team in other locations, identify and fully brief a champion of the project who can co-moderate and information collect
  • Follow up – follow up with the participants with outputs and findings, what you’re going to do with the information and by when; allow them to provide any additional thoughts so things aren’t left hanging
  • Update – regularly check in with your team or client how the project is going, proactively lead rather than leaving them wondering and then checking up on you!
  • Arrange opportunities to get together – whether virtually or in reality, it is still important for teams to get together to share
  • Mental health and wellbeing check – some people may not enjoy remote work and feel isolated from their social setting and disrupted with the change, but even for those who are good at it, it’s important to keep a check on your own and others’ mental health and wellbeing.

Rachel Bevans is Managing Director, Strategy and Planning of The Healthy Brand Company. Contact me on 0467 441 841 or [email protected]