Working from Home, why your professional brand is so important

With the rapid transition from co-located work to remote work during lockdown it has become the norm that certain standards have slipped. This is only reasonable, and I applaud businesses who have shown empathy with team members working from home under the difficult conditions brought on by lockdown. There is no way anyone could function at 100 percent capacity while working from home with little to no support services like schools, day-care, laundries, helpers, car washes – the list is endless.

Not only is there the loss of these services but also the sudden transition to using collaboration technologies for the first time. I have attended many meetings where meeting hosts were uncertain how to use the programs. Of course, this is entirely acceptable as we all went through a learning phase. However, I am reminded of the Stephen Covey’s principle of starting with the end in mind. And this is where a professional brand is so important.

What is a professional brand?

Although we know better than to judge a book by its cover, studies show that individuals will make up their minds about each other in 7 seconds. This influences their ability to trust and therefore connect with each other. Even the most egoless individuals want to be known for something, even if it is only their humility. This is called positioning in branding parlance. This means that when Person A sees Person B, or an image of them, Person A will get a particular impression which positions Person B in his/her perceptions. Therefore, it is important to understand what your professional brand is. If you worked from an office before you would already have an idea of how that brand merges with your own personal brand. Professional brands can also sometimes be influenced by the standards or expectations of an industry and we need to be aware of how that affects our personal brand. Consider how it would look if an investment manager came to work in board shorts and flip flops.

Why is a brand important when working from home?

All transactions in life are based on trust and that is why companies invest enormous sums of money into establishing a brand based on experience, expertise, competencies, and/or achievements. This is why a huge inhibitor for companies around introducing working from home is the lowering of brand standards. This could be from multiple perspectives as team members, especially those who have contact with clients, vendors and other stakeholders are representatives of the organization.

In essence, the business is asking whether the team member working from home is an appropriate extension of their brand investment. Does the team member show their individual experience, expertise, competencies, actions and achievements related to their industry through their professional brand? Do they engender trust with the business’s clients?

As you can see, especially in the current scenario where working from home seems to be the norm for the future, your ability to create trust and build relationships virtually depends on your professional brand. In the next post we are going to take a look at some of the factors that come into play when expressing your personal brand.

Dear Manager, this is not remote work, this is work-from-home

In a matter of days I have had numerous discussions with concerned business owners about remote work and how it has been forced on their businesses by the measures taken against COVID-19. They have been finding the shift from local to remote work challenging and have seen a dip in performance which few can afford given the economic realities of the day.

COVID-19 has forced many companies to implement remote working practices, but this presents two major problems. The first is that not all businesses have been set up to support remote work. The other is that what we see is not remote work, but rather work-from-home” under very stressful circumstances.

This is what a properly considered and executed remote work looks like in an organization:

  1. Remote work should be appropriate to the vision of the organization.
  2. Remote work should reflect the organizational culture.
  3. Implementing remote work should be well-planned from a systems and process perspective.
  4. Employees should be supported in creating a remote work location.
  5. Employees should be given time to adapt to working remotely.

From this list, it is clear to see that converting a workforce from local to remote work is a complicated process. In order to help employees adjust to remote work, the systems and processes need to be in place so that when they start using these the transition is a smooth one. When this is done properly the individual employee performance should not be impacted negatively by the transition.

This is what we are seeing:

  1. Employees do not have the same technological resources at home.
  2. Employees may not have had time to set up an ideal workspace.
  3. Employees may be sharing space with family members during isolation.
  4. Employees may be enduring the isolation alone and feeling disconnected
  5. Employees will react differently to the separation from fellow team members.
  6. Employees may be supporting an ill family member during this stage.
  7. Employees may be feeling poorly themselves.
  8. Employees may be feeling vulnerable during the crisis phase of the virus’ spread.
  9. Employees may be grieving the loss of a loved one to the virus.

In a regular remote work environment, where there is no COVID-19, most of what we are currently experiencing falls away. At worst the team members may go through sickness or loss but at random times and the entire team is not subject to the constant threat. Therefore as we have not had time to set up remote work in business, and the employees are in a state of distress we should not judge the efficiency of remote work for our organizations right now. Deal with work-from-home for what it is and slowly start looking at the list above to make minor adjustments to gradually shift your business from chaotic work-from-home to productive remote work.

If you would like assistance in setting up, or managing, your remote team look at our online training or reach out to us on +27 (0) 82 550 8867.