A few weeks back, we wrote about the struggles of running a remote marketing team. Most of them are not specific to marketing teams – loss of trust, slower decision-making, and fewer knowledge-sharing opportunities affect remote organizations in all departments.
Yet, in marketing, the pains of not being able to catch up with other departments, like product and sales, no influx of new ideas, and the loss of lucrative opportunities due to long back-and-forth discussions hit especially hard.
Of course, remote work has undeniable benefits. If we are losing time by scheduling Zoom calls, we can get it back by not having to commute. While team leaders struggle to retain employees, at least, they have a better time hiring now that global talent pools are accessible.
Still, we believe that remote marketing operations can improve and become better. Exactly because remote work is becoming the work style of the future, leaders cannot accept it the way it is – flawed and counterproductive at times – but have to keep improving it to make sure it can, over time, fully replace or be equal to physical offices.
Historically, there’s been one most effective solutions to the challenges remote marketing team leaders have faced – technology. In 2010, a remote team leader would have to rely on phone and email – now we have faster collaboration and video conferencing platforms.
Change tracking was a nightmare ten years ago – content writers had to share multiple drafts with their editors (using a ton of creative energy trying to name these versions) and important edits could easily fall through the cracks.
Now, teams collaborate across every stage of content creation cycles – they use Miro to brainstorm ideas, Google Docs to collaboratively edit content, and Figma to share feedback on design.
The systems we put in place proved to be reliable and time-saving, making remote work equal to going to the office in all aspects but one – communication. On the one hand, the collaboration tools market is busier than ever: it’s worth over $19.2 billion and is expanding at a 13.2% compound annual growth rate.
How come we are still so bad at bringing people together, the operations are so siloed, and people barely know their teammates, let alone colleagues from other departments? It is likely because leaders have been looking in the wrong direction. They focused on working faster, organizing their projects, and getting more things done.
After a while, we realized that there are subtler, less quantifiable components of organizational success. For example, aside from the time people spent working on their tasks at their desks, in an office, they would catch up with colleagues, share ideas, or mull over concerns.
A blog on The Atlantic calls these barely quantifiable interactions “soft work”. Derek Thomson, the writer of the article, defines these interactions as “the things I’m not paid to do when I’m at the office and evaluated annually for”. And yet, they are useful – because they keep us involved in projects, absent-mindedly thinking about campaigns, analytics, or social media engagement. Over time, this absent-minded thinking compounds and bursts in “lightbulb moments” that give the answers to difficult questions.
This is not the case for remote work. There, hard work is typically the only work people are doing – once they are done with the task for the day, it’s “out of sight, out of mind”. The ardent opponents of the office would say “But don’t people procrastinate in the office as well? Who works full 9-to-5 days?”. They are right – no one.
Yet, when you procrastinate in the office, work is still someone in the back of your mind because it is all around you, with people talking and keyboard keys clicking. If you slack off on a remote position, a new episode of a Netflix show or a YouTube video will take up your undivided attention and work has no room to squeeze in.
All of that is to say that, while making people come to the office in 2022 is passé, it’s reasonable to want your team to share a common space to strengthen the presence of work in our lives. It can be a co-working but, as we realized during the pandemic – the shared spaces can also be virtual.
Virtual office: our approach to running an effective remote marketing team
Two years ago, we released oVice: a virtual office space designed to bring people, who could no longer work side-by-side in lockdown, together. The platform’s initial target audience was office team leaders who missed the comfort of sharing the same room with their teams. In oVice, we argued, you have the next best thing – an online space where you can see everyone and ask people questions by walking up to them.
Sending countless DMs and jumping through hoops to schedule a video call is nothing like real life but oVice is a lot like working at an office: you can have desk buddies, ask people questions by walking up to them, and see people working, moving around, or interacting.
During the pandemic, the platform gave people hope that they can keep their culture intact until they are back in the office.
Eventually, it started catching the eye of fully remote marketing teams who never had an office and never wanted one but still felt restricted by video calls that happened in rectangular boxes or text communication that didn’t help people to get to know each other.
We had a lot of interest from HRs who noticed that remote employees don’t identify with their companies and have little desire to interact with the rest of the organization. Operation managers were curious to see how oVice helps teams make faster decisions and break silos. Marketing teams also jumped on the bandwagon – to them, a platform like oVice gave an opportunity to align with product and sales, brainstorm ideas, or instantly get feedback on ad copy or banner design.
10 virtual office features that help successfully manage remote marketing teams
Different departments use virtual offices in various ways. To help marketers make the most of these platforms, we put together a list of features our marketing team swears by. You can give all of these a try in oVice by visiting our tour space.
#1. Customizable layouts
Lack of structure is one of the biggest challenges of remote work. Most successful collaboration tools that are on the market today tried to solve it in one way or another but most don’t do a great job at helping people understand which department a teammate belongs to.
In oVice, we solve this problem by allowing remote marketing team leaders to divide their spaces into areas. In a marketing space, you can have an area for the content team, social media managers, performance marketers, and so on. This way, new hires instantly know who they should come to with specific questions and it’s easy to align processes in the marketing team.
#2. Instant audio chats
One of the few benefits of the office is being able to get an answer to your question when you need it. In remote teams, it’s lost – when something is on your mind, you have to write someone a text or an email, possibly wait until you see the rest of the remote marketing team on a video call. Predictably, such a clunky process is full of bottlenecks. That’s where oVice comes in.
In a virtual office, when something is on your mind, you walk up to your manager or the teammate who, in your opinion, has the answer, unmute your microphone, and ask your question directly. Your colleague instantly hears you, gives you the answer you need, and the problem is solved. In a traditional remote workplace, getting updates often takes hours. In oVice, it’s a matter of seconds.
#3. Embedded content
Sharing resources is another persistent problem of remote work. There are ways to solve it – digital asset management space exploded during the pandemic – but accessing and navigating this file libraries is tedious, not to mention they have a limited toolset for real-time collaboration.
In oVice, you can share content with your team and access it whenever you need. It can be the latest report, an onboarding checklist, content writing guidelines, or a social media calendar. Add an “Embedded content” object to your space to have instant access to the assets that are critical to your team.
#4. Simultaneous screensharing
Standard remote meetings are highly structured and agenda-heavy. Ideally, you are supposed to know what you will be discussing before you start the call. You should be clear on the number of participants and the topics to go over to make sure the meeting is not too dragged on or chaotic.
That’s fine and well, except such a structured approach sits poorly with marketing and creativity in general. Proper brainstorming sessions the way office teams know them are multi-directional and dynamic – more people can share ideas at the same time, and the number of participants is fluid (someone can always jump into the discussion).
One of the way oVice is breathing life back into brainstorming sessions is through simultaneous screensharing. We think it’s incredibly boring to have ideas presented and displayed one screenshare at a time – by the time the last speaker is done, no one remembers the first idea of the day.
With oVice, people can share their screens at the same time and place them side-by-side to compare ideas. It makes brainstorming a lot more dynamic and saves a ton of friction. There’s none of that “Can I see that idea again?” and things are right before everyone’s eyes.
#5. Multiple floors
Having a section-based virtual office space is already better than having to look at a long list of names in a collaboration platform. But, when working with large teams, we quickly realized that, if everyone loves the space and is eager to come in, it will get too crowded.
For example, one of our clients did not expect 1,800 people to consistently come to the virtual office – when they did, the situation quickly got out of hand.
Luckily, we have a workaround for that – you can create multi-floor spaces for different departments or people working in different countries. This way, you are not in each other’s way – each team is comfortable in a dedicated space – but you are not separated either – if you need to talk to your colleague from Japan – you can find them on a dedicated floor.
#6. Meeting rooms
It’s in the name – virtual offices are still “offices”, and most offices have meeting rooms. The reason for that is simple – you are comfortable having some discussions on the open space but others call for privacy. For a teammate performance review, budget planning meeting, or sharing latest reports, you might want to lock the door and make sure no outsiders are in on what’s happening.
In oVice, you can separate all discussions into two types – the open ones that everyone on the team can join or listen to and the private ones that happened behind closed doors. For the latter, we have private meeting rooms that can be locked in one click.
#7. Google Calendar and Microsoft Teams calendar integrations
Another pain remote teams face endlessly is not knowing when is the right time to talk to someone. When you’re worlds apart with the rest of the team, it’s hard to know when you are pulling someone out of a meeting. That creates a continuous anxiety: I want to ask a question, but is now a good time?
The key way to solve this in a virtual office is to have all meetings in the open space or the meeting rooms. That’s what we recommend but, for marketing, it’s not always possible. Marketers often need to have meetings with people outside the organization – freelancers, agencies, press, customers, etc. Not all of them can be comfortable coming to the virtual office – for some, Google Meet, Zoom, or Teams is still an easier option.
The good news is you can still let your colleagues know you are in the meeting – because virtual office spaces like oVice are integrated with Google and Microsoft Teams calendar. Whenever you have a meeting you put on a Google Calendar, there will be a meeting icon next to your avatar and your colleagues won’t bother you.
#8. Animated reactions
There’s one more element of office work that’s often in short supply in remote workplaces – fun. Of course, one can think, what’s fun about people talking over each other, poorly adjusted thermostats, and having to spend hours in traffic to get to and from work?
Yet, office-based social interactions are quite fun, and, according to Microsoft, they are the key reason people are still going to offices.
We believe that remote work can be playful while staying productive. One of the ways to do it is by replacing monotonous confirmation messages like “Done”, “Noted”, “Good job” with engaging animated reactions – a drumroll, applause, and others.
It’s a simple fix but it works – we noticed that finishing a scrum with a round of applause helps express appreciation and throwing in a drumroll when someone is about to present an idea creates just the right suspense. Even a hand waving “Hi” is an effortless but heartwarming way to show someone you noticed them.
#9. Bulletin boards
Marketing runs on situational awareness. High-performance teams heavily rely on quickly sharing updates and keeping everyone in the loop on how campaigns perform, what projects are in progress, and what has been done over the past week, month, or quarter.
In remote teams, keeping tabs on marketing activities got a lot harder. It used to be almost unconscious – a constant stream of updates was all around the office – but turned into a conscious act of update extortion out of your colleagues under the name of “Wanna catch up?”.
With oVice, you can get the ease of updating your marketing team back by creating bulletin boards and putting them around the office. On some, you can show the team’s schedule, on others – ongoing projects, yet on others – milestones to celebrate. In a quick glance, everyone in the department will know what is going on in the team.
#10. Any feature you want
There are a lot of helpful oVice features we haven’t mentioned yet: chat for a quick synchronous updates, icons that can show a teammate’s status, and granular security permissions that help marketing team managers stick to the rule of least privilege.
These are all helpful and important, but it’s also important to emphasize that the platform is constantly evolving and listening to its customers or free trial users. We are always working on new features (a few highly requested updates are under the hood as we speak).
If you want to suggest a feature, come to the tour space, look at the platform with a critical eye, and share your feedback. If, after talking to our customer support team and exploring the tour space, you’ll realize it’s exactly what your marketing team needs, create your space in a free trial.