WFH Anniversary Reflection

March 5 was my pandemic WFH anniversary. :celebrate:

My community manager role was very much an in-person role before the pandemic. However, I learned more in this past year about managing community than I did when I was in-person. 

To reflect on this past year, I wanted to share my top five takeaways:

Remote Collaboration is Doable

My job is highly collaborative, and the team I work on sat near one another. We were frequently turning around to chat and work together. How were we ever going to manage this new work style?

I have seen many teams try different things to make this work, but I find the key to success is intentionality. 

When you are remote, you have to be intentional about how you are collaborating. I find myself asking: 

  • What times of day work best for the team to collaborate? 
  • Can this collaboration happen over slack, or is it better on a video meeting? 
  • How much time does everyone need “away” to get the deep work done? 
  • Are we over collaborating? 

Being more intentional about virtual collaborating and setting boundaries around it saves time and energy. It’s also produced better results in my experience. 

Virtual Communities Can Thrive

We had a real HQ bias in our community, and removing that barrier to entry by working from home, has been so healthy for our community. Our engagement shot through the roof in 2020 and continues to do so in 2021. One of our programs alone had a 565% increase in attendance, and our community’s contributions were up over 435% in 2020. 

As we move further into 2021, I continue to think about what a hybrid approach (in-person vs. virtual) will look like for our members. However, spoiler alert: it will heavily rely on virtual interactions. 

An Open Office was not this Community Manager’s Friend

As a community manager, I find an open office plan has been detrimental as I progress in my career. I have been working in different open offices for almost ten years now, and it was fine earlier in my career, but as my job became more complex, open space became an issue. 

People were continually stopping by my desk, ignoring my noise-canceling headphones. It was mainly community members wanting to pitch me ideas, talk shop, complain, and sometimes just wanting to BS. I loved those interactions, but it took over a lot of my working time. 

I got good at saying, “I can’t chat right now, can you slack me,” or “can you stop by in an hour?” But even having to stop and do that would sometimes throw me off my deep work. Now that I am home, I turn off my email, slack, and phone notifications and get that deep work done. And because of the lack of distraction, what I produce is better, and everyone in the community benefits.

Meeting Madness 

Meetings are everywhere I look on my calendar! I am not here to knock meetings, but scheduling meetings need to be intentional as collaboration, especially in a WFH environment and I wish more people adopted this attitude.

My style is to err on fewer meetings but make them impactful. The list below seems like 101 stuff, but I ask myself the following things before I set a meeting:

  • Can this meeting be a slack, email, or wiki page?
  • What do we need to accomplish? 
  • Who needs to attend to achieve the meeting’s goal? 
  • Who is leading the discussion?
  • Can this be less than 30-minutes (YES!)

My three golden rules of meetings are sending an agenda, ending on time, and end with clear action items or takeaways.

Virtual Presentations Need to be Better

I sit through a good deal of virtual presentations that could have been considered semi-acceptable in-person, but now that they are virtual, they stink. Why are virtual presentations more challenging to pull off? One of the reasons is: you have to be engaging enough to get people to pay attention to you when you are speaking through a screen.

But you know “who” does this well? Movies, TV, and other types of entertainment content. And what do all of those things have in common? Telling a story.

A presentation is nothing but a story. There is an art to crafting a good story, but I believe that you don’t need to be a storytelling expert to get this right when it comes to a virtual presentation. Structure your presentation correctly, don’t do wordy slides, throw some images in there, be energetic, and tell me a story. Please.

Happy anniversary to everyone celebrating. Working from home has its ups and downs, but I feel like this past year helped me become more efficient, focused, creative, and productive. All things that benefit the community I work with and my employer! 

Published by April Lee Uzarski

Pittsburgh-based lover of adventure, and anything fun.

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