This is Technical.ly’s How I Work series: Remote Edition, in which we ask some of Philly’s remote workers — seasoned and new — about their routines and tips for staying productive. If you’d like to be a part of this series, email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Old City-based creative and marketing agency Garfield Group helps its partners build their brands through digital, public relations, social, and paid media channels. As the VP of strategy and client service, Langhorne’s Matt Pfluger oversees all client work, manages a team and helping to “solve big, hairy problems of wide scope and scale,” as he puts it.
Newly remote Pfuger talked to us about how the agency’s strategy has changed and what it’s like hiring new team members during the coronavirus pandemic.
What’s the first thing you do every day before doing any company-related work?
Make coffee. Drink coffee. Drink more coffee. Hit the shower.
For ongoing projects, how do you keep track of your progress?
We use a wide array of tools. Some specific to clients, some specific to the agency, and some specific to functions (like design and development). Even with all these tools, I still rely on a good old fashioned to-do list to keep me on task. Some tools we employ frequently — and are relying on exponentially more lately — include: YouTrack, Zoom and Google Hangouts.
When you need to take a break, what are you turning to?
I’m on lockdown with my family so I like to run outside for 15 minutes and shoot some hoops with my kids. I’m definitely NOT looking at my portfolio.
What’s your gear and at-home desk setup?
MacBook Pro is my workhorse. It’s portable and runs all my cloud-based productivity tools. I find myself moving throughout the house to find quiet spaces to work, so I don’t have one single work environment. I also use The Ear Buddy — these soft foam ear plugs available online and at your local CVS. They are absolutely clutch when working from home with the rest of the family and you just … need … some … quiet.
How have you adjusted your strategy in managing a team, maintaining client relationships and building new relationships in a completely remote environment?
It’s hard staying connected from a human perspective … remotely. The work gets done, but human interaction suffers.
I’ve historically blocked video on my web meetings (deep down I’m just a shy guy), but I’ve found that more and more people are sharing video these days … and it helps. Might seem silly, but seeing — actually seeing — that other people are also unshaven, wearing t-shirts and working from their kitchen counter helps us all feel connected.
I also think it’s helpful to just try a human check in with different people each day. Ask things like, “How are you? How’s it going? Stir crazy yet? Are your kids/dogs/loved ones driving you crazy yet?”
We’re also taking the opportunity to remind people of the current benefits offered by the agency that can help them cope with the disruption. I’ve also joined a few virtual happy hours which were surprisingly fun. And for some reason unknown, I find myself using way more emojis. Perhaps to add some additional levity and humanity during such a stressful time.
Garfield Group is onboarding new hires remotely right now. What are your tips for helping them feel like a part of the team amid odd circumstances?
Wow. What a time for this. It’s overwhelming for anyone new coming into an organization and learning new processes, let alone having to do it remotely and with people you barely know.
Our approach here has been to keep training and focus on the core platforms vs. the nice-to-haves. Zoom and others have been great for screen sharing when doing walkthroughs of how to access certain tools and platforms are needed.
I check in with new team members daily and encourage questions of all kinds. I also try to acknowledge the difficulty of the situation and let them know it’s okay to be overwhelmed, that they’re not alone and that we will help get them to where they need to be.
How has the company’s overall strategy changed, given the uncertainty of COVID-19’s effect on the economy?
Thankfully we’re well-equipped to work from home as a group, so it hasn’t been as disruptive as many other companies are experiencing. From an internal standpoint, we try to reiterate that the team should focus as much as possible on what can be controlled. Stay focused. Do great work. Remain accessible.
From a client standpoint, it’s been wild to see how things are unfolding. Some are being negatively impacted in a big way and pulling back on work. Others are finding themselves, their services and platforms in higher demand as a result of COVID-19.
We’ve been working hard to keep both clients and internal teams aware of how we’re handling disruption and planning for the future … like “when will we be allowed back to the office.” We’re staying in touch with clients and helping them to navigate a path through this uncertainty as well. In some cases we’re helping clients to craft messaging about their own response to the crisis; in other cases we’re helping to concept and produce campaigns focused on how customers and consumers can productively respond and remain forward-looking through the crisis.
Knowledge is power!
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