Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s monthly advice column, where Paul Chaney responds to your questions about the messy dilemmas content marketers face in their work. We are (obviously) not licensed therapists.
Unpopular Opinion: Let Me Back in the Office!
Dear Content Therapist: I may be the only one in the world right now who feels this way, but … I’m OVER remote working! Like most professionals, when the pandemic hit, my job went fully remote to adhere to federal guidelines. At first, it was great being able to be in my own home, work and still get my errands done during the week instead of waiting until the weekend. But now it’s been three years, and I’m starting to feel bogged down in the same routine. I do like my job, but I don’t think there are any plans to return to the office since the majority prefer remote work. Should I start looking for another job that offers a different work structure, even though I like this company? Are there any tips and tricks I can use to make working remotely a better experience? — THE IN-PERSON MARKETER STAN
Paul Chaney: I certainly understand your dilemma. Three years is a long time to work in a remote environment. I also work remotely (from home) and know how easy it is to get trapped in the same routine day after day.
However, if the company doesn’t anticipate returning to an in-office environment, you must either adapt to remote work long term or change jobs (and the latter option isn’t a bad one). Many companies are moving back to the office and looking for skilled employees.
On the other hand, assuming you like your job and don’t want to change, these tips can make the remote work lifestyle more enjoyable:
Find Ways to Break the Monotony
If you work from home, you may find yourself unable to completely disengage from your job. Don’t allow that to happen. Do you have a hobby, friends you could spend time with or other pursuits you love? Find ways to cut the cord on monotony, lest it become a stranglehold.
Make Your “Office” an Office
Many remote workers use a bedroom or kitchen table to do their jobs. If you can, designate a room as your office, and use it for that specifically. Even if it’s 10 feet from any other room in your home, it still has a particular purpose. Think of yourself as going to the office — because that’s what it is.
Make Your Office a Welcoming Space
Treat yourself to a bit of luxury and make the office a relaxed, welcoming space. That means finding a desk you like, a comfortable office chair, a sofa or loveseat, other furnishings, art — you get the idea. Also, mentally contrast that with working in a cubicle, where you have limited space and privacy (or with a co-worker who can’t help but constantly interrupt you).
Set Regular Office Hours
Suppose you were to go back to an office environment. In that case, the company likely enforces specific work hours: the proverbial 9 to 5 (with some exceptions, of course). Too often, remote workers don’t have the self-discipline to stick to set hours. They end up working nights and weekends, cutting into time for family and recreational activities. Do your best to shut the door at the end of the workday. Whatever tasks are unfinished will be there in the morning when you can start fresh.
Informally Connect With Co-Workers
There’s a panoply of ways for remote workers to connect: Slack, Zoom, the phone, text messaging and email, to name a few. You’ll probably participate in meetings online, but look for other ways to get to know and communicate with fellow employees.
If none of these ideas work for you and you still long for the halcyon days of going to and from an office, then, yes, it’s time to start looking for another job. And as I said at the beginning, that’s not a bad thing.
Is It Really That Hard to Say Goodbye?!
Dear Content Therapist: The company I work for has been around for decades and is very well-known by their community. However, times have changed, and the company’s competition is slowly (but surely) starting to dominate the space — putting the company I work for at risk. In an effort to overhaul their marketing processes and content, they brought me and another marketer on to reinvent the company and take it to the next level. The problem? Every piece of content gets reverted to the old vision by the founder. This isn’t my company, but I was brought on to do a job, and I want to do it because I believe in the company’s mission, values and their contribution to the community. How do I professionally ask my boss to step out of his own way and get him to be open to new ideas that can help the business? — THE FUTURISTIC MARKETER
Paul Chaney: A biblical metaphor fits this circumstance: “You can’t put new wine in old wineskins.” By that, I mean you can’t force new ideas on a mindset unequipped to handle them. It’s not impossible, but it requires patience and finesse. In the case of the wineskin, the old one is brittle and can’t take the pressure the new wine exerts. It will need oiling and conditioning to become pliable again.
In the same respect, you must be patient and find creative yet subtle ways to introduce marketing strategies that won’t overtly threaten your boss’ philosophies and ideas. You used the term “overhaul.” That may be too much, too soon. It takes time for people to adapt to change. Force it, and you can expect pushback.
With that in mind, here are some tactics you can try that may help:
Explain Your Rationale and Goals
Sit down with your boss and carefully explain the rationale behind your strategies and the goals you hope to achieve.
Ask for Permission
Ask your boss if it’s OK for you to try one or two of your strategies and see where they lead. With any luck, he’ll say yes, and you’ll have the success you’re hoping for, proving your ideas have value.
Build a Relationship
There’s nothing like building a professional and personal relationship with your boss to foster trust. But that takes time and intention. Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” holds several keys:
- “Become genuinely interested in other people” (i.e., your boss).
- “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
- “Be a good listener.”
- “Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.”
- “Make the other person feel important — and do it sincerely.”
Understand the Relationship-Building Process
Every relationship has four stages: forming, storming, norming and performing. If you’re a new hire, you’re probably still in the “forming” stage. Your and his marketing strategies may eventually clash (storming). That’s OK, so long as you understand that it’s a necessary stage you both need to work through to get to “norming,” where you begin to see eye to eye.
Only then can you reach the goal of “performing,” where you implement your strategies, albeit with his approval and oversight.
Make a Long Commitment in the Same Direction
Keep at it. Don’t become discouraged and give up, even if it takes time to get there (assuming you’re willing to take that course of action).
I coined a phrase some years ago when faced with a similar situation: “Hope for a mile but be grateful for an inch.” Try to stay positive and take comfort in the fact that you and your boss both want the company to do well, even if your approaches differ. Also, imagine how good it’ll feel when your strategies prove successful.
Is it worth the wait? That’s up to you to decide, but perhaps you’ll find that new wine and an old wineskin can work together.
Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider or legal professional.