Blog Culture/Agency Life

The 10 Commandments of Cross-Office Collaboration

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Megan KesslerChief of Integrated Marketing & Strategy

If you work in agency PR, chances are you have clients across the country, and teammates, too. With the acquisition of Vantage PR, PAN Communications recently expanded from our headquarters in Boston to new offices in San Francisco, Orlando and New York City. With all of the workplace collaboration tools available today – from Skype, to Zoom, to WhatsApp – the “four walls” of a traditional office have all but melted away. But while “face-to-face” communication is being redefined in the “virtual” age, we’ve quickly discovered a few rules that are vital to fostering successful cross-office collaboration.

  1. Keep it casual: When you share an office with your colleagues, it’s easy to have informal conversations, passing each other in the hall, at the water cooler, etc. When you don’t share an office, casual conversation becomes even more important. Skype (or an IM tool) should be kept open and team members encouraged to share successes and frustrations in real-time. Don’t discount the importance of “friendly banter” in building great teams.
  2. Review roles: When teams work across offices and time zones, it’s more important than ever for colleagues to come together and define who will own what initiatives on client accounts. If goals and roles are clear, work can continue seamlessly, whenever a teammate is online.
  3. Beware email overload: We all know the feeling – you walk into work, coffee in hand, open your inbox and BAM! a flood of email overpowers your once pleasant morning. Be cognizant of colleagues who might be coming into a scenario late. Take “back-and-forth” conversations off of email and into collaboration tools (like Skype), only including the team on details that directly impact their work.
  4. Check in on workloads: There is nothing like body language to let your teams know when you’ve reached max capacity for the day. When you don’t share an office, it’s easy to miss these cues. Make a habit of communicating workloads proactively across teams to help identify priority items and reduce the risk of duplicating work or missing deadlines.
  5. Mind the (time) gap: It’s never pleasant to join a meeting before sunrise or after dinner. Keep time zones in mind when scheduling meetings and doling out assignments across a cross-office team to ensure everyone enjoys the benefits of work-life balance. Respecting employees’ schedules makes for a happier and more organized team.
  6. Touch base (“TB”) regularly: When you can’t just glance over and ask your teammate a question, weekly TBs become essential to ensuring that everyone is on the same page. Do not be afraid to have multiple check-ins throughout the week as priority lists are bound to shift to accommodate pressing client requests.
  7. Encourage “face time”: There’s simply no substitute for face-to-face communication. Luckily, that’s becoming easier than ever to achieve across remote teams. Take advantage of tools like Zoom, Skype and FaceTime to host team and client meetings “in-person” whenever possible.
  8. Be mindful of workflow: If you’re on east coast, it’s a good rule of thumb to prepare tasks for any cohorts working on the west coast and send to them closer to noon so it’s not buried in the inbox. A big advantage of having teammates across time zones is that you can pass responsibilities to those who still have three more hours in their workday. #efficiency
  9. Check in before you check out: Before checking out for the day, check in with team members in all offices to see if they need anything else and to make sure that there is an organized passing of responsibilities.
  10. Out of sight, not out of mind: Just because a teammate is out of sight does not mean they should be out of mind. Remember to include remote teammates as often as possible, pinging them for counsel, dialing them into brainstorms, even FaceTiming them into happy hour. And don’t forget to share kudos for a job well done. Whether in the same office or not, everyone wants to feel appreciated and have efforts recognized. A “good work” email to the individual or team goes a long way!
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