Woman video conferencing on computer

Online polls of Two Rivers Marketing Associates about working from home make it pretty clear: We missed seeing our coworkers in person every day and having a clearer work/life balance that’s possible when working in an office.

But then again, we were happy to avoid the commute and enjoyed the increased quiet time and flexibility that comes with working from home (WFH).

Two Rivers Marketing temporarily became a 100% remote agency in response to COVID-19 on March 16. To get a handle on the pros and cons of our necessary isolation, we conducted a series of informal intranet-based polls of our associates. Some clear likes and dislikes emerged.

The Benefits of Working from Home

No commute. Not having to drive to work every day was by far Two Rivers Marketing’s associates’ favorite aspect of working from home. “The traffic on I-235 is terrible,” said Derek Steffen, social media specialist. “I totaled my car in a seven-car pile-up on the way to work last winter. Needless to say, I didn’t miss that drive.”

Katie Alexander, digital coordinator, has invested the time she’s saved in commuting into “making healthier lunches and going on jogs over my lunch hour, plus no need to wake up as early.” Katie McClure, digital strategist, used her saved commute time to start work earlier to capitalize on “more focus and quiet time before email and chats start blowing up.”

Strategic Communication Supervisor Avery Amenson thinks the lack of commute has served a business purpose as well. “It’s easier to connect with international clients earlier in the morning and gives me more flexibility after work,” she said. “Nothing like a 10-foot commute to soften the blow of a conference call first thing.”

More focus, fewer distractions. “Focus time working at home is life-changing,” said Lisa Niebuhr, creative director, content. “Particularly for a writer needing to stay focused on the story.”

Copywriter Wendy Lyons said, while she misses in-person collaboration, “peace and quiet is a haven for a copywriter. I will sit down at my laptop and start writing, then look up and four hours have passed. That doesn’t happen very often at the office.”

Flexible hours. The forced WFH experience has proven that working remotely doesn’t always correlate with reduced efficiency. “I think it’s great now that we know how well the agency can adapt to working from home,” said Cassidy Bringle, media coordinator. “Sometimes when there is a project or things to get finished, it’s good to know that working from home could possibly be the best way to put your head down and complete a task.”

Negatives of Working from Home

The temptation to work longer hours. When your work station and your living station are only a few feet apart, it’s very tempting to check some email or do a little work at 9 p.m.

“The type of work I do is almost never truly done,” said Jasmine Liu, a UX designer. “One too many times I’ve gotten burnt out working overtime. This is a good lesson because now I hold myself accountable and try to separate work from life by ending the day at 5 p.m.”

Lack of in-person interaction. Even with the advance of virtual and video technology that makes video conference calls simple, associates found there’s no substitute for true face-to-face interaction.

“I have always considered myself to be an introvert (with bouts of extroversion),” said Alyssa Young, strategic communications manager. “But not being able to chat and collaborate with my team as easily has probably been the hardest part of work from home for me. I miss my people!”

Positive Things We Discovered

A love of video conferencing. “The thing I like best about working from home is being able to video chat individuals, asking questions, having quick discussions, and reaching a conclusion, without having to have a long, drawn-out email back and forth,” said Jeanette Eckhardt, resource manager. “In the pre-pandemic days, discussions only happened by scheduling a meeting or walking up on someone at their workspace. Plus, video chat enables me to meet people’s dogs. Bonus!”

Whitney Free, strategic communications supervisor, also liked seeing another side of colleagues. “It’s been fun,” she said. “We get a peek into each other’s homes and get to see kids and pets every now and then. It’s a different type of camaraderie.”

Strategic Communications Supervisor Josh Hafner found many benefits associated with video conferencing. “Video conferencing has added a whole new dimension to our meetings with remote clients as well as remote associates,” said Josh. “Facial expressions and body language cover a ton of distance when connecting with teammates across the country.”

Bringing it Back to the Office

Two Rivers Marketing has started a phased and voluntary return-to-office plan. With the recommendations developed by our return-to-office task force, we’ve created a safe environment that ensures social distancing and provides enhanced cleaning procedures, plus other important safety protocols. This plan allows us to slowly and safely begin our return so we can achieve our ultimate goal — to return to our office and conduct business together.

As we continue toward a return to in-person operations, we’re excited to apply the learnings and possible improvements (flexibility in how we work, focus time, fewer interruptions, less printing, more intentional meetings, etc.) that have surfaced during the months away from the office.

“No one is productive 100% of the time from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” said Jasmine. “Studies show that each person has an optimal time of day, and it varies from person to person. During downtimes of my day, my preference is to do something else and come back to the work that needs to be done later in the day to increase productivity.”

Getting technology in place to allow video calls between a meeting room and individual remote associates or clients has become a priority. Several 2RM conference rooms are already fitted with cameras to allow video conferencing and there are plans to equip more. “I’m an advocate for digital technology and the way it brings people together,” said Hillary Ferry, digital marketing director. “Thanks to video conferencing technology, I feel more connected to many associates and clients than ever before.”

Thankful for our Associates

While there have been positives and negatives about working from home, our associates remain our number one focus. They continue to adapt to the changing environment and remain committed to our clients. Want to join our great team?