Category: Office Culture

Marketing

How COVID-19 Changed the Way We Think About Office…

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we think about a lot of things.

From the size of our weddings and special events to the comfort level of our pajamas and stay-at-home clothes, we’ve reconsidered the size, shape, and necessity of many, many elements in our lives.

Work is one of these elements, if not the main one. We’ve asked ourselves (and our employers) questions like:

  • “Can I get as much done at home as I would in the office?”
  • “How do I stay connected to my team if we’re all remote?”, and
  • “Is it really necessary to have as many meetings as I did before?”

While we’ve all found different answers to these questions, one thing is consistent: COVID-19 has forced us to learn how to stay connected, motivated, and productive in new ways.

Canva + HubSpot Marketing Survey

In October, we teamed up with Canva to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected marketing leaders, their resources, and their teams. We surveyed 502 marketing leaders (mostly senior-level marketing managers, directors, VPs, and CMOs) from across the United States and asked them how COVID-19 has affected their teams, processes, and priorities.

The results are in, and our findings are pointing towards a new way of thinking about work — especially the tools and technologies we use to get stuff done.

Download the research here, and keep reading to unpack some of our most important findings.

How COVID-19 Changed the Way We Think and Use Office Technology

It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has massively impacted where we now work. Out of 500+ marketing leaders, 73% reported that they’ve been working remotely for over three months.

This will likely be the “new normal” for some. A recent Gartner poll revealed that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19, versus 30% doing so before the pandemic.

But COVID-19 hasn’t just affected where we work — it has also changed how we work. Many of the respondents reported new challenges in their day-to-day projects and processes:

    • Decision-making: Over 50% agreed that their team’s ability to make decisions has been negatively impacted.
  • Planning: 72% agreed that their planning process has been more difficult, and over 70% have seen their planning framework dramatically change with the impact of COVID.
  • Feedback: Over 70% agreed that it’s become more difficult to give and receive effective feedback while working remotely.
  • Productivity: Over 66% agreed that their team’s productivity has dropped, and nearly 50% said they’ve struggled to motivate their teams.

If you resonate with these findings, you’re not alone. It’s clear the COVID-19 has been tough all around, regardless of your team size or industry. Let’s unpack some more detailed trends — and potentially permanent changes — we’re seeing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some organizations are outsourcing more marketing projects.

Gartner found that the COVID-19 pandemic has led 32% of organizations to replace full-time employees with contingent workers and contractors.

We see some of this reflected in our survey respondents’ post-pandemic resource planning:

Resource Pre-Pandemic Post-Pandemic
Growth marketing Majority in-house (64%) Shift to more in-house (68%)
Design Majority outsourced (48%) Small shift to even more outsourced
Content marketing Majority in-house (48%) Evened out
Web development Majority outsourced (50%) Shift to more in-house
Social media marketing Majority in-house (50%) Shift to more outsourced
Media buying Majority in-house (51%) No change
Affiliate marketing Majority in-house (55%) Shift to more in-house (58%)
SEO Majority in-house (55%) Shift to more outsourced
PR Majority in-house (55%) No change

Why might this be? For one, outsourcing is a common cost-saving measure. It can also help meet demand.

50% of respondents reported that it’s been more difficult for their teams to come up with creative content — perhaps outsourcing projects like content marketing and design has helped teams maintain their production cadence during times of stress and burnout (which we’ll explain below).

However, hiring contractors and external agency services requires increased communication and collaboration.

Gone are the days when we could walk across the hall for a chat at a coworker’s desk or host in-person meetings with agencies. During the pandemic, we’ve learned to replace these conversations with quick messages or video calls — most likely using a tool like Slack or Zoom.

Our respondents would agree. 75% reported that instant messaging platforms like Slack were “good” and “exceptional” at supporting collaboration. 72% rated the same for the level of usability for these tools.

If companies and teams weren’t using an instant messaging platform before the pandemic, it’s highly likely that they are now. The need for a tool like this also arises when outsourcing projects. It’s more important than ever to stay aligned — especially when working with third-party contractors.

For those keeping marketing in-house, new tools are needed.

You’ll see in the table above that many of our survey respondents still reported keeping or shifting many resources in-house. This could also be in an effort to save money and meet demand — by using new tools and technologies to compensate for a lack of labor.

For example, 44% of respondents reported that their need for new visual assets and graphic design has increased since the start of the pandemic. 39% reported the demand has mostly stayed the same.

Regardless, this is a vast majority of marketers who need to maintain or boost their graphic design production — in the middle of a pandemic, no less. A similar number of respondents (38%) reported that their graphic design software did a “neutral,” “poor,” or “terrible” job of supporting collaboration within their team.

This presents a unique opportunity to use office technology and tools like Canva — to support increased customer demand while saving costs and supporting remote collaboration.

Another set of respondents (50%) reported seeing traffic to their website increase and the need for regular updates also increase. Our study also revealed that 16% of marketers find the usability and collaboration of their website content management system (CMS) either “neutral,” “poor,” or “terrible.”

For those keeping website management in-house, incorporating a tool like HubSpot CMS can vastly improve your team’s remote collaboration and productivity — all while meeting the increased demand from your customers (which is a good thing!).

Organizations are using technology to monitor and support employees.

We’ve confirmed so far that marketing teams have been pressed for productivity and collaboration while being asked to create more creative content to meet customer needs, employer demand — all in an ever-changing, pandemic-soaked market.

While office technology has never been more critical, neither has recognizing and acknowledging the barriers COVID-19 has created, such as an increased team workload and employee burnout (17%).

hubspot canva marketing study statistics

This rise in employee burnout has led to more discussion around the responsibility of employers to their staff. A Deloitte study found that, as the “pandemic has put more hours into the working day,” organizations should do more than just foster open dialogue and open practices around well-being. Gartner agrees — they theorize that COVID-19 has expanded employee expectations of their employer as a “social safety net.”

Technology has come in handy for non-work related needs, too. Zoom has equipped teams to host online happy hours, virtual holiday parties, and even team-building activities. Companies are also sponsoring free telehealth and virtual therapy sessions.

Gartner also found that, in a less digital sense, employers are also offering “support includ[ing] enhanced sick leave, financial assistance, adjusted hours of operation and child care provisions.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how employers use office technology to understand not only the employee experience but also remote employee performance. A Gartner study found that 16% of employers are using tools to monitor employees through virtual clocking in and out, tracking work computer usage, and observing employee emails or internal communications.

This trend started well before the pandemic, but it will continue to grow in popularity as more folks opt to permanently work remotely.

Over to You

As large and difficult as these COVID-19 shifts have been, for the time being, they are here to stay.

Listen to these emerging trends and invest in new processes, tools, and technology in 2021. Doing so will help you combat these challenges and better motivate, monitor, and equip your remote teams. Remember, it’s your responsibility to help them be productive at home, stay connected to their teams, and make room for how the pandemic is affecting their personal lives, too.

Marketing

How to Host a Virtual Holiday Party & Bond…

Throughout my career, I’ve worked at a company that was fully remote, a company that was partially remote, and several fully in-person organizations.

Each company approached holiday parties differently. In fact, most of the remote organizations didn’t even offer team bonding activities.

While we’ve all probably participated in various holiday parties and team bonding events, those might not have been virtual.

Hosting a virtual team bonding or holiday party can seem daunting. How can you plan activities online? What logistics are involved?

If you’re planning a virtual holiday party this year, don’t stress.

Let’s review some tips from HubSpot’s remote workforce on how to host a virtual holiday party.

1. Use a spreadsheet to organize your activities.

Planning a virtual holiday party requires plenty of logistics. That’s why you should use a spreadsheet to stay organized.

Kara Korosec, a remote senior customer success manager at HubSpot, says, “I used to coordinate Secret Santa at my last company, a 100% remote company. I set up a spreadsheet where everyone listed some of their interests, then we used a random generator to assign secret Santas. Everyone had a budget of $50 and used the spreadsheet as inspiration for what to get. After the gifts were mailed, we had a Zoom where we shared our gifts and guessed who our secret Santa was.”

Regardless of the activity you’re doing, it’s important to stay organized so it’s clear who’s running the activities and when the deadlines are.

2. Make it interactive.

Virtual events might automatically feel “hands-off.” However, these events can still be interactive. In Korosec’s secret Santa example, they opened the gifts on a live Zoom call.

The goal here is to be creative.

Eimear Marrinan, a director of culture at HubSpot, says, “There are a ton of amazing remote vendors and minority-owned businesses that we partner with in the Culture Team. They are doing amazing work. If your budget allows for it, consider outsourcing to the experts. A few brilliant events I have seen: Ski Chalet Experience, Walkthrough Christmas Markets, Cocktails in a Winter Wonderland!”

There are several online games and activities you can use for your virtual holiday party. Below are some of our favorite interactive remote activities:

  • Virtual MasterChef: Ask one person to host and send out a list of ingredients (or modified ingredients for dietary restrictions) and supplies. On the cooking night, have everyone dial into the Zoom to cook the same meal together as the host walks them through the recipe. Once the recipe is ready, sit down and have a virtual dinner together!
  • Jack Box Games
  • Airbnb Experiences
  • Patchwork Adventures
  • Pinturillo
  • Virtual Tea & Coffee Tasting
  • Virtual Floral Arrangement Class with Alice’s Table: They deliver farm-fresh flowers to your door.
  • Travel to Paris and tour the Musée d’Orsay or pop over to London and tour The British Museum
  • Goat 2 Meeting: Virtual Farm Tours & Animal Cameos in Zoom Meetings
  • Two Bit Circus
  • Splash
  • ON24

3. Incorporate food.

When you have an event in person, usually the meal is provided. With remote holiday parties, don’t forget about this element.

Emily Tong-Sanchez, a remote revenue operations specialist at HubSpot, says, “Let people comp their meal!”

This gives people a reason to celebrate and enjoy the party.

Marrinan adds, “Ask questions if you’re incorporating food. Are there allergies or preferences? If you’re arranging a cocktail hour, does everyone drink alcohol? This is all about being inclusive in how you’re arranging your event.”

If you’re sending food, it’s important to be aware of any restrictions so your event is inclusive of all participants.

4. Encourage people to dress up.

Holiday parties are usually fun events where everyone can dress up and celebrate. Being remote shouldn’t change this.

Tong-Sanchez says, “Encourage people to dress up. We like having a reason to put on fancy clothes!”

5. Always lead with an inclusive mindset.

A major obstacle with remote meetings is that it’s hard to feel included.

Marrinan remarks, “We are working in a distributed and remote world right now, so when thinking through a holiday event for you and your team think big & think global. Will the timezone work for all on your team? Do ‘The Holidays’ resonate across the globe? Make sure you plan something fun, and inclusive that everyone can get involved in!”

6. Plan in advance.

If you’re planning a virtual holiday party, it’s important to plan in advance.

Marrinan says, “The end of the year is busy. Really busy! Give people advanced notice and book time in advance. A lot of people are juggling right now, so being protective of time is important! Similarly, be mindful of caregivers on your team, or anyone that may have blocked time in their day.”

7. Send something physical.

Just because your event is remote, doesn’t mean you can’t include a physical element in your virtual holiday party.

“Can you send something out to the team in advance to spur some excitement? This doesn’t have to be a physical gift — maybe it is a handwritten card or a note of gratitude,” Marrinan remarks. “A holiday event doesn’t have to be a big, big thing. Sometimes it’s the simple acts of kindness that go a long way for people.”

8. Pick a goal.

When you’re planning your holiday party, it’s important to decide what your goal is. For example, it’s hard to play a game while also getting to know each other.

Caroline Merewether, a strategy and operations manager at HubSpot, says, “The biggest takeaway is to figure out if it’s more about deepening relationships or playing a game.”

One of Merewether’s favorite events her team put on was an Airbnb experience which was a virtual escape room.

“That was fun to do something different and it was a fun mental shift. But it wasn’t great for getting to know people because we were trying to solve for clues. For our next party, we wanted to drive conversation between us,” she adds.

For her team’s next virtual holiday party, they’re going to send international candies that will be a great conversation starter for breakout rooms. Then, they’re going to do a costume contest and online trivia.

Jeff Boulter, an engineering lead at HubSpot, decided to combine the interactive activity with a way of getting to know each other via an interactive trivia game.

To start, Boulter sent out a Google Form with a mixture of icebreaker questions. A few examples included:

  • What was your first online handle or email address?
  • What course did you do the worst at college?
  • What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
  • What’s your least favorite song?
  • What’s your favorite conspiracy theory?
  • What’s an unusual skill you have?
  • Star Wars or Star Trek?
  • Yanni or Laurel?
  • If you could commit any crime and get away with it, what would it be?
  • What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received?
  • Who would get eaten first if we all got stuck in the 1C elevator?

Then, they used a free online trivia site called MyQuiz. Here, the answers were either picking one person from their squad (who’s least favorite song is “It’s a Small World”, for example) or picking the correct answer amongst 3 other made-up answers. They ended up with 54 questions. See the picture below for what this looked like.

Ultimately, planning a virtual holiday party takes some planning. But with a little research, you could end up with a fun, interactive game.

As a remote leader, your holiday party can be just as fun and interactive as an in-person event. To learn more, consider taking HubSpot’s Remote Leadership Training.

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