6 Tips for Managing a Team Remotely during COVID-19

The advertising agency world is fast-moving and ever-changing, especially with the recent challenges of working remotely. Red Six Media’s Operations Manager, Ginny Mumfrey, knows the ins and outs of managing a team in the office – and now through Zoom calls and Google Chat in the comfort of our own homes.

As an ops manager, many days consist of assessing client deliverables, fitting new client requests into existing schedules and working with owners and account managers on new business estimates. But what steps do you take when your team moves to working from home for many months? In this Sixers Speak Series, Ginny gives us some insider tips and tricks for managing a team remotely during these unprecedented times.

1. Establish ground rules from the get-go. 

By nature our business is very collaborative and we’re used to working together in close quarters, popping into offices when needed and having in-person meetings. 

If I think back to mid-March, I’d say our whole team was worried about losing that aspect and how it might affect our work, but it took us less than a week to get into our groove of effectively communicating mostly via Zoom, Gchat, etc. We are a close-knit group and work really well as a team. We’ve proven over the last five months that we don’t have to be together in an office to do that.

2. Identify challenges from transitioning to the office to working from home.

One of our biggests challenges was rolling out a new practice management system while working remotely. I had started planning for this in March, never thinking we’d still be working from home when it was time to train the team on the new system and go live with it. But we got to a point where we couldn’t wait any longer so we went for it and it has gone very smoothly. We’re still tweaking things as we go along, but for the most part I could not be happier with the transition.

3. Create an action plan for the team and stick to it.

Regarding everyday communications, we were already using Gchat within the office so we’ve continued using it for one-off conversations and quick questions – but we did need to plan for internal and client meetings. 

Each Monday morning, I have separate meetings with each department – Account Managers, Media, Copywriting & Video, Design & Web – to discuss the upcoming week’s deliverables. Prior to March, of course, we were having these sessions in person, with all deliverables pulled up on the TV in our conference room. We’ve since switched to Google Hangouts and have had very few issues. 

As for client meetings, we have a system in place for checking to ensure our Zoom accounts are available and to determine who will lead the meeting and screensharing. I also have a daily call with the Red Six owners to discuss new business opportunities, internal resource needs and priorities.

4. Manage team expectations and be flexible as issues arise.

I try to be as available to the team and flexible with my time as possible. My job is one big puzzle, one that is reworked each day as needs and priorities change. I tackle each issue as it arises to keep things moving consistently. Our business is fast-moving and always changing. It’s key we keep that pace and not let anything fall through the cracks, especially when we’re working remotely.

5. Nail down an effective project management system.

Although we changed practice management systems mid-quarantine, our project management process has not changed. We use a specific client/project setup in Dropbox to house all files for creative, copy, account management, etc. We switched from our old practice management system to Workamajig in early August for project estimates, schedules, time entry, reporting, billing and capacity planning.

Workamajig was created specifically for ad agencies and it ties everything we do together, from soup to nuts. We can add a sales lead to the system, convert that lead to a project, build a schedule for it, track employee time and expenses to it, have discussions within the project, link to files within Dropbox and invoice clients, all directly from the system. 

6. Always over-communicate – especially with last-minute projects.

When a plan is set, communicate that plan to all applicable team members and communicate along the way, even when things are going according to plan but especially when they are not. Under-promise and over-deliver. Set realistic expectations as often as possible and communicate when things change.

by Ginny Mumfrey, Operations Manager

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