You can take it with you

How to build a happy, healthy, and productive work from home culture

Will Staunton
March 31, 2020

A few Fridays ago, the team here at CommerceBear packed up our laptops, keyboards, mice, monitors and whatever else we might need to work from home. We put Jeff’s pile of mugs in the dishwasher. Monday was to be a trial of working remotely, to iron out the kinks in case we needed to close down the office. We haven’t gone back yet.

By now, most people have a version of this story. Just this morning, we got another email from a customer saying they were struggling to work remotely. For many organizations, this has been a difficult shift as they wrestle with the technology, the systems, and the communication required. We had a plan, the right tools, and the right attitude to make these last few weeks some of the most productive we’ve ever had.

While there’s lots of solutions out there, here are four key takeaways we’ve learned over the last few weeks.


1. Lead from strength.

If you are a leader, your team is looking to you for information. Is the office closed? What are you expecting of your staff? Are you making any resources available? The last thing you want is to cause uncertainty in your workplace, so it’s time for you to make some decisions and deliver a clear COVID-19 workplace policy.

Probably you’ve already got this figured out, but if not, better late than never. Feel free to take a look at our COVID-19 policy if you need a place to start. You don’t have to have an answer to every question, but you do need to cover the basics, and be available to answer followup questions.

2. Set your expectations, and provide the tools to meet them.

Your office may not be in the practice of working from home, so be extra clear in what you’re asking of people. Be concrete: tell people when you expect them to be available, and how you’d like them to be reachable.

Without a physical location, give your team an online home base. Getting everyone on a single communication platform is easy to do and essential for everyone’s sanity. At CommerceBear, we’re big fans of Slack, which not only has robust messaging features, but also built-in calling and video conferencing. Using Google Hangouts or Zoom throughout the day is a game changer. Maybe you prefer a different platform, but whatever you choose, don’t rely on internal email. Now more than ever, you need your team to be talking in real time.

You also need your team to have the files they need. When it comes to data, the cloud is your friend. Our company was able to switch painlessly to working from home because all of our files and data are stored online.

We use Google Drive for Business, and there’s lots of easy, secure, and affordable cloud storage options out there. If you need to access the actual computers in your office, consider setting up Remote Desktop (already a built in feature for PCs) or Apple Remote Desktop (a built in feature for, you guessed it, Macs) which allow you to connect remotely and control your office machines from anywhere. All the tech we need is literally at our fingertips.

3. Talk, talk, talk.

Once you get everyone and everything in one place online, lead by example in how to overcommunicate. At Bear, we’re trying out lots of daily routines, and a couple of things have stuck right from the beginning to keep our team talking and connected.

  • Say good morning. Give a few bullet points about what you’re working on that day, and ask your team to do the same.
  • Set your statuses. Most platforms will have “Available”, “Away”, and “Offline” statuses. Slack lets you type in anything, like “making lunch” or “walking around the block”. Keeping your status accurate and reliable lets Jeff know you’re not at your desk, instead of ignoring his messages. If people are “online” but unreliable, communication will suffer.
  • Be quick to call. Just because you’re not in the same room doesn’t mean you have to solve everything in chat. Plus, it’s nice to hear another human voice these days.
  • Say goodnight. Stopping to take care of life is important these days, especially while work and home are one and the same. By wrapping up your day and communicating it, you are helping to set realistic expectations for your team.

4. Keep your pipeline flowing.

With brick and mortar shutting down, it’s extra important to be on top of the orders you’re getting online. Ecommerce is booming right now, as people are shopping from the safety of their homes.

Online marketplaces, whether it’s Wayfair, Amazon, Overstock or another site, rank your products based on vendor score. This affects how close to the top your products appear when a customer is searching or browsing. Here’s a couple of tips to keep that score as high as possible.

  • Update your inventory. Do this once a day, at least. An out of date inventory can turn into missed sales, unhappy customers, and lower page ranking.
  • Make a clear order process. In the CommerceBear Slack, we have a dedicated channel where all of our orders pop up so nothing gets missed. Make sure someone is responsible for checking that every morning.
  • Run promotions. Every marketplace has its own sales and promotions that you can opt into, and in this economy lots of people are looking for deals.

(By the way, we’ve built some terrific software for managing inventory and running promotions that can drastically streamline your routines. We’ve been around this particular block enough times.)


So there you have it! These have been the four pillars of our success in working from home: strong leadership, standardized tools, tons of communication, and efficient routines. We’d love to hear what’s worked for you, or what challenges you’re struggling with.

In this difficult time, we want to do everything we can to support the furniture industry that’s treated us so well. If you’re struggling to get things up and running, we’re always happy to talk shop. Leave a comment or drop me a line at will@commercebear.com.

Stay safe and wash your hands!

Will

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