Secrets to running a successful remote-working PR agency: top tips from the Babel team
This week, the UK got a plan (of sorts) to help lead us out of lockdown. Some of us might be filtering back to offices soon, but most businesses will continue to operate with remote workforces, in a hybrid at-home/in-office set-up. And many will do so successfully.
PR is all about effective communication – and while face-to-face comms plays its role – digital has helped PR agencies engage better, faster and easier, across borders and time zones. Babel has historically supported remote working, with a number of our team having worked from home pre-pandemic. For others, the experience has been entirely novel.
Despite this – and in some cases, because of it – Babel has continued to thrive and, as such, our clients have too. So, we asked a number of the team to share their secrets of remote working success, and tell us their tips for making this a long-term reality.
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Matt, Campaign Director
“For me, I’d say there are two, somewhat interlinked, tips for long-term remote working – creating a separate, professional workspace and making sure you get out of it when you can.
“The former could be as simple as arranging and tidying that workspace and setting boundaries for cohabiters, so that it’s clear that it is a work environment that should be as distraction free as possible.
“On top of that, investing in better equipment – for me an office chair with better back support and a ring light – can help boost productivity and create a space that’s more conducive to good outcomes.
“On the latter point, it’s rare that people hang around in the office for hours after work, eat evening meals there etc. and the same thing should be true for remote work. Creating clear boundaries and removing yourself from both the physical workspace and work mindset is something I find very beneficial – whether that’s pottering about in the kitchen, heading out to a cold garage to rack up some more miles on the rowing machine, or getting out for a walk in the countryside.”
Simon, Associate Director
“It is vital that you have the right tech, and the most important piece of kit is a second monitor screen. I find it particularly helpful when writing content – if I am drafting an article or a social media post, it’s useful to have another source, such as a third-party website, on the second screen.
“My other big tip, especially when you’re in a noisy household, is to make use of the huge range of ‘noise cancelling’ sounds on sites such as YouTube.
“You can access lots of sound cancelling clips via your headphones such as white noise, nature sounds or ambient music. I find it really helpful to focus.”
Dan, PR and Digital Marketing Manager
“For me personally, to collaborate effectively I need a blend between calls, whether that be video or just audio, instant messages and emails. I can’t just do Slack all day, as useful as I do find it, constantly being bombarded by instant messages can stress me out.
“I find that not being able to read tone of voice or body language can sometimes lead to misunderstandings. I’m a big fan of picking up the phone and speaking to someone
“I know this isn’t for everyone, but I find it not only to be the most effective way of communicating, but I think at the moment it is also the closest we can get to watercooler conversations from the days of offices (remember those!).”
Declan, Campaign Manager
“I’d say our biggest learnings from a year of remote working have been around media relations, and how it’s slightly different – but you can hear more about that in the first episode of our new podcast.
“As for a tip, if you’re going to buy a new laptop, make sure to check it can handle video calls before you buy it.”
“Two main things have really made the difference for me. Firstly, Babel Breaks. Knowing that mid-afternoon it’s not only suggested, but expected that we all take 20 mins away from our screen to get some fresh air and exercise. It’s too easy otherwise to spend hours on end just staring at the screen.
“The other thing is working Zoom calls, getting on the line with the team and working through ideas, or proposals, or even just working “with” someone else. It’s been vital in not losing that team dynamic and keep the collaboration going.”
Abbie, Senior Campaign Executive
“It sounds simple, but I’ve found colour coding my diary has really helped as a visual prompt for time-blocking tasks and sticking to my to-do list. Sharing calendars across the team also gives everyone visibility into everyone else’s day – a must for scheduling client calls and media briefings. These basic approaches have helped me remain productive throughout the whole day, and to better manage my time.”
Jen, Campaign Director
“I have found exercise to be very important during lockdown, as a way of keeping me focused and releasing endorphins. I try to run at least three times a week during my lunchbreak as I find this is the optimum time. Not only is it still daylight, but it’s a pleasurable way to break up the day and ensure I take an all-important screen break.
“I also find running gives me a solid 40 minutes of thinking time, which is very helpful in coming up with fresh perspectives and pitching angles, and working through creative content challenges, so I am ready to kick-start my afternoons!”
Ed, Campaign Manager
“Be strict with yourself to ensure that work life doesn’t bleed into your personal life. In the absence of a commute to the office, it’s too easy to keep chipping away at your to do list at the cost of your evenings. Giving yourself the time to unwind will help you stay focused in the long run.”
“My top tip for working remotely would have to be to make sure you’re using your breaks (whether that be a lunch break or Babel break) to get outside and get some fresh air! I’ve personally found on the day’s that I don’t move from my desk, I quickly become very lethargic and my sleeping pattern becomes very disrupted. Getting fresh air throughout the day is a great way to boost your mood as well as productivity.”