After working in this industry for over three decades, if you had asked me at the outset of the year, if 2020 could throw anything my way I wouldn’t be prepared for, I would have scoffed at the notion. Eight months later, I obviously realize I was mistaken. COVID-19 and the repercussions of this pandemic are unchartered waters for everyone and my role is no exception.
For TK Promotions I fill the Office of Federal & Special Markets in a service capacity, a role dissimilar to the rest of the team in more ways than one. Not only am I the sole client liaison to these industries, but I also do not work in close proximity to the rest of the TK team. With the majority of my client base in Northern Virginia and D.C. it makes more sense to work out of my home office so I can enjoy consistent, quality in-person time with clients, while the rest of the team operates in Richmond. We are also fortunate enough to have my father living with us and being able to be home with him more often than if I was in a traditional office environment is a true blessing.
This previously unorthodox set-up afforded me a unique perspective when the traditional working world shut down in mid-March. As everyone shifted away from desks at the office to living room sofas and new multi-purpose kitchen tables, I felt a semblance of solidarity as everyone else was now adjusting to the life I had been leading for the past seven years.
It’s not as if my life or work habits were not altered; I no longer could drop by and see my clients, coffee meet-ups were a thing of the past, and my personal and professional lives became even more intertwined with the dozens of new adjustments needed to be made each day. But with a few exceptions, my processes from 8:00 to 6:00 each day remained relatively the same and I feel fortunate to have some familiar experiences in a business-world that has been completely flipped upside down for so many.
As we began to navigate this new journey as a company, several members of the team turned to me for advice on how to best combat the new challenges of working from home. This is what I told them:
- Focus is priority number one. You must develop the ability to turn off your urge to get up a do a load of laundry. You have to ignore the dog barking at neighbors walking by. You have to treat your workspace like an office. Don’t feel obligated to go grab the package off your porch if you have work that should be done instead.
- Managing your time is the key to managing your work. For those who were bound to a schedule and now have ample time that was previously filled with meetings, travel, and office-based obligations, you have to make new routines. We’re in a new environment, and it will take new habits and adaptations to be successful.
- Respect your team’s time and needs. Walking over to someone’s cubical when they’re available to answer a question in the office is very different than having to engage a coworker remotely. Reach out to your team and ask how they prefer to be contacted when you’re not together. Whether it is text, e-mail, Microsoft Teams, or a phone call, gaining their insight and preference will ease future communications.
- Connect as a person. Not a client or partner. The human connection we form with our clients is what sets TK Promotions apart from our competitors and that is even more important in this pandemic era. Put pen to paper and send notes through the mail. Talk about things that have nothing to do with business or the situation we’re in. Remember that everyone is going through this together and everyone has their own challenges. Speak to your connections as humans first and clients second. The rest will come on its own.
COVID-19 has ushered in countless difficulties, but it has also brought a newfound appreciation for little things that I otherwise may have overlooked. My tremendous coworkers and family at TK Promotions have always been a source of strength for me, but as soon as things return to some level of normalcy, I aim to hop in my truck, head down 95 to Richmond, and give them all a big hug. When this COVID craziness is behind us, I look forward to the days of handshakes, high-fives, and smiles with my team and clients.