The hot topic over the last year and half has been whether working from home is just as good, if not better than working from the office. While I am sure that many employees lean one way and their employers lean another, it might be a good time to examine the benefits and drawbacks to each.
Back in the 1930’s, famous economist, John Maynard predicted that his own grandchildren would only need to work fifteen hours a week based on technological advancement. His theory was that the average time to accomplish the same work could be done in a fraction of the time. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case. While technology has continued to improve over the years, the amount of time people put into work has only gone up. Maybe that’s why the movement to working remotely from home has become so popular and thanks to Covid, it has gotten the push it needed to be more acceptable.
Those that work from home all say the same thing…it allows for more flexibility. No more long commutes or time wasted in conference room meetings. People said that they felt much more productive working from home, compared to working in the office. But why is that? And is that really the case?
Working from the office promotes comradery. Face-to-face meetings with your colleges in person helps to understand better what is happening with those people, creates a more trusting environment and of course promotes teamwork. These are all things you would think any person would want from their job and working environment.
Instead, people today are perfectly fine if all they need to do is put on a decent shirt for a zoom meeting once in a while or have a conference call where they don’t even need to look at someone during the discussion. I get it, working in your pj’s is more comfortable and not shaving or doing your hair ads up to a ton of saved time. But I keep looking for the real reason as to why so many people are not just choosing to work from home but in many cases insisting on it. I keep coming back to the one word that I hear time and time again…FLEXIBILITY.
Professor of Sociology at Middlebury College, Jamie McCallum has been quoted saying, “We find ourselves working longer hours than ever, and our work is always expanding into every nook and cranny of our lives.” Even those that are working from home who appreciate the flexibility of their working environment, admit that sometimes they feel like they are putting in more time doing their work since they don’t have an official start and end time. I see people commenting about this on LinkedIn all the time. Removing the commute has just moved their day to starting before 7:00 am and finishing well after 6:00 pm.
In all the conversations I’ve heard and content I have read about the “working from home vs working form the office” debate, it’s clearly apparent that the real issue isn’t about where people are the most productive but rather how much time they spend working. A Gallup Poll found that the mean for hours worked by Americans was just over 44 hours per week and another poll showed that 39% of Americans work more than 50 hours a week. Studies have even shown that excessive work and stress levels can create real illness in people. Doctor Jay Winner, Director of the Stress Management Program for Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara CA and author of Take the Stress Out of Your Life says, “Stress doesn’t only make us feel awful emotionally, it can also exacerbate just about any health condition you can think of.” According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is connected to a number of leading causes of death including cancer, heart disease, lung issues, accidents, and suicide.
If that’s the case, it makes perfect sense why people want and need more flexibility in their work life. Maybe it’s a good thing to have time throughout the day to start and stop, as need be to handle other things happening in life which ultimately helps deal with and ease stress. But don’t be fooled by those in their “work from home” environments that tell you they started work at 7:00 am and finished up around 7:00 pm. Just because they start their day early and end their day late, doesn’t mean they have been working straight through. They’ve simply been utilizing their time in a different way, than the traditional office, 9 to 5er.
Perhaps what we as society really need to evaluate, isn’t where we should be working from but how and why these different environments make us productive. Working in the office absolutely has its benefits and so does working from home. Maybe the future of the working environment should consist of a little bit of both.
While most of the work being done for A3 Media happens together in one office, there are absolutely times when working from home may be needed for our team. Luckily, we work in a very flexible environment where everyone is equipped to do either option.Reading Time: 3 minutes
Several years ago, in the midst of parenting three active children and managing the crowded family calendar, I read a parenting blog that absolutely changed my entire mindset. The blog said to change your outlook, change “I have to” to “I get to.” For example, instead of saying “I have to take kid #1 to soccer practice” change it to “I get to take kid #1 to soccer practice and watch him do what he loves to do to improve his game.” Instead of saying, “I have to make cupcakes for kid #3’s class party”, say “I get to make cupcakes for kid #3 to bring into class to share with her classmates.”
WOW! Mind Blown!
Changing this one little word, “have” to “get,” changed my whole outlook. When I am feeling overwhelmed looking at the family calendar and getting a bit frazzled trying to figure out how I am going to manage all the running around, I try to make a conscious effort to change that word. Afterwards, everything just seems to fall into place. What once were chores, now are privileges. As my frame of mind changed, I felt lucky that I can do all those things for my kids.
Funny thing is, using this method also worked for household chores. For example, a positive reframe turned a feeling like I “had to” clean the house into the realization that I “get to” take an hour listen to a podcast while I mop the floors. And “having to go to the grocery store” changed to “getting an hour All-By–Myself, when I go to the grocery store.”
In these moments, a positive attitude can make all the difference. Research shows there are benefits to being optimistic, from better physical and mental health to longer more satisfying relationships. A small change in terminology can change your entire perspective and what you can accomplish.
WORDS HAVE POWER.
I wondered, this terminology shift worked so well in my personal life, what would it do to my professional life? So, I figured I would start practicing this at work. And I do mean practice. It’s easy to revert to old habits and list “to do” items as chores. It takes practice to retrain your brain, as an old coach said to me, “practice makes permanent.” I needed to practice reframing my tasks, “I have to pull this report” to “I get to review this report with our client so they can make better decisions and grow their business.” Training co-workers on a new topic or software isn’t a chore anymore, it’s an opportunity to strengthen our business. Having to write another blog becomes a chance to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself.
Maybe this self-talk sounds a little corny. “Like anything else, [having a positive mindset] is essentially a skill,” said psychologist Dr. Tim Sharp, a leader in the field of positive psychology and the founder and chief happiness officer of The Happiness Institute. He says, “And, like any skill, the more you practice, the better you get. So, make an effort to practice [being positive] as often as you can.”
I’m not saying we all have to be like Ted Lasso with endless positivity. Some days it will be hard. But if you practice looking for the positives and reframe you mind, it will become habit and you will be happier because of it.
We can choose our attitude and our actions. We can choose how we view our life and work. We can choose privileges over chores. It’s not about what we have to do. It’s about what we get to do.
What do you GET to do today?
Changing software that your company has been using for years can be exhausting and intimidating, but change is inevitable in business, unless you want to be out of business. It can take weeks or even months to make the change and for everyone to learn and understand how to use it. The time investment can be staggering for the employer. I am saying this, and I’m the employee!
As the employee, should I not consider the cost of what it takes to do my job if something comes along that is equal to or better than something we currently have in place? Being open to change requires a certain mindset that I don’t often see.
We had a software system that works, already in place and it was adequate at best. It doesn’t do everything we would like it to do, and it comes with many headaches. We have learned to work around its shortcomings in our office and at times spend hours on the phone with tech support only to find out that the system can’t perform the way we want it to do.
In all honesty, the way we do things here in our office is not the norm. We spend more time on every aspect of our buys from the actual research prior to our campaigns to the maintenance during the campaigns. And don’t get me started on reconciliation of our clients’ buys and money. The details of these aspects we take benefits our clients. I haven’t seen a software program yet that has been able to check all of our boxes and not break the bank.
My employer recently asked me to do some research on a software program that is has become more popular in our industry over the last couple of years, that could possibly replace our existing system. One of the most important things we needed to keep in mind was our clients and we first had to ask ourselves, will our clients benefit from this change, or will this change make delivering information back to our clients become an issue?
After we had determined that the system could deliver what we needed for our clients it then became a process for each one of us to test this new system to make sure it would work for our individual duties. Most of us use the software slightly differently. It was during the information gathering and research on this new software that I saw anxiety, among its users. Change is hard especially when it’s something you have been doing for decades.
I was fortunate enough to have owned my own business prior to coming here to A3 Media. It was during this time that I was forced to look at things differently being the employer. As an employee you typically are not thinking of what it takes to keep a business running and the day-to-day operational expense and hassle. It’s important that the employees keep an open mind especially when it comes to vetting new companies and the employer to understand the tools their staff needs to effectively do their jobs. There are always two sides, and it really does have to work for both parties for success.
The amount of research on this new system and time spent was truly staggering. As I mentioned earlier there is a large investment associated with this entire process and this time from the employees is paid for by their employer. This investment should be treated with the same care we as employees would give to researching a college for our children.
For things to work, doesn’t mean it has to work equally as well for everyone, but it needs to work for everyone. Just because an employee doesn’t want to make the shift, if their employer is willing to invest the money into the new software and training necessary, employees need to embrace the changes. While everyone should have their input in the end a business can’t win staffed by a group of naysayers.
Business can’t afford to stay in one place and be complacent. Everyone can benefit when there is a fair and open-minded assessment. Sometimes you need to be willing to move out of your comfort zone with an open mind and no preconceived notions.
Because business cannot grow stagnant and still compete and at the end of the day, business employs us all!Reading Time: 3 minutes
Imagine working in a company with over 300 employees and 15 different departments whose only way of communicating is through email. Imagine if one important email was accidently deleted which led to multiple departments having to redo hours of work. These types of situations happen quite often in many companies that lack project management systems. With so many to choose from, what are the 3 best project management systems to use?
First, there is Trello. “Trello is the easy, free, flexible, and visual way to manage your projects and organize anything, trusted by millions of people from all over the world.”
Trello has a basic plan and a premium plan in which you can pay for, but since they have so many features in their free plan, a lot of companies can freely use Trello’s services to organize their team projects at no cost. Trello also allows your company to have unlimited amounts of people make an account to manage one project. This means a team of 100 people, could all have their own login account and be segments into smaller teams to create and execute different project flows through Trello. Since Trello has an application for Android and Apple, project management can be controlled from access of your phone anywhere. Project Boards are the base features which Trello offers. The great advantage of these boards is that the team lead can create unlimited boards and create a private board for themselves. These boards include features like To-do List where you can check items off, set deadlines, add documents, assign names to projects, and get notifications once a project is complete via email. Trello’s private and public board feature makes it so the user can interact on a public team board while they also have their personal projects on their private board. Even though Trello has a ton of features on the front-end, Trello’s third-party company named, “Power-Ups,” provide dozens of plugins that add even more desired features to your project board. The list of features Trello has to offer is extensive, but with their being so many options out there, it really all comes down to opinion and preference.
Next on my list, is Wrike. Wrike is a digital work management tool that lets users track and coordinate projects, combining a simple user experience and interface with enough depth for power users. Unlike Trello, Wrike has a time tracking feature where users can keep up and get data collected for time spent on a project. Another great feature this software has is the reporting tool. This tool allows businesses to receive information about important projects from multiple teams. Budgeting and cost can be very important to most businesses, so Wrike’s budget feature was created to help companies track cost and send out alerts while comparing and collecting data.
Last on the list is Monday. This project management system allows companies to create and manage their own applications and work management. This software allows you to create team projects by organizing everything in a grid style layout. With many color- coded choices, you can create an interactive To-do list and mark task complete when finished. Monday even has an alert function, that will notify you even when not using the software. When managing a team, Monday makes it easy for the manager to watch and control their team’s workload and rearrange as needed.
Monday has a lot of the same features Trello has but its free version is only a 14-day trial period and then you must pay for the software.
Constantly working on multiple client projects, we at A3 Media organize different projects through the Trello Project Management system. Each project has its own Trello board, and each team first lays out the project and adds each team member to the specialized project on the board. Since Trello has an alert feature which notifies when a job has been completed and ready for the next department, all communication is simply done through Trello. At A3 Media, we strive to make sure each job is done correctly by making sure each internal process is organized and creates a high-quality product for each of our clients.
Digital Media & Graphic Designer
Part II: Tracking Rotation
Previously, I discussed the importance of checking pacing, a.k.a daily impression delivery (see blog post here), as part of the overall post buy monitoring process. Another part of this process that should not be ignored is trafficking instruction confirmation and creative rotation verification.
The creative and media teams often join forces to craft a complete strategy that delivers multiple creative assets to the maximum benefit for the client. Trafficking is the execution of the planned creative spots and often involves rotating said spots. Basically, rotation is determining the mix of multiple creative assets across an advertising medium. Sometimes rotation is simply spreading multiple creative spots out evenly. For example, spot A and spot B run evenly 50/50 throughout the entire flight or campaign. Other times, rotation is a more complex plan, involving many different creative assets, with different delivery goals and/or over different flight dates. For example, spot A and spot B run 60/40 for the first 3 weeks, then spot B and spot C run 40/60 for the next 6 weeks. As an agency, we never want to be in a position where the vendor does not execute our plan correctly.
Communicating the trafficking instructions to each vendor is key. One of the first steps we do on every buy is to have a conversation with our AE to ensure that all creative assets were received, and traffic instructions are understood. Nothing is left to assumption and a simple email and/or phone call often ‘sets the campaign off on the right path’ and avoids much turmoil later.
Once the campaign begins, it is important to check that the proper creative rotation is executed. Monitoring should begin as soon as possible to make sure spot(s) are delivered as instructed and, if required, any necessary changes are promptly made. From there weekly checking may be necessary to ensure the instructions are being followed or corrective action occurs. Also, anytime the trafficking instructions change, a follow-up conversation with the AE and resumption of the monitoring process like it is a new buy is necessary.
So how is rotation checked? Sometimes, the creative rotation information is available from your vendor’s dashboard, but often, data this granular is not readily available. Do not be reluctant to ask your vendor to provide more information! On numerous occasions, I’ve noticed that even though everything looks good on the surface (i.e., pacing and impressions are good), when you dig deeper you find that your creative rotations are “off”. This is especially true when the campaign is targeting multiple DMAs. The rotation might be fine in one DMA but completely wrong in another. That is why it is important to sift through the data and examine it from various angles. It is often in this process that we find that human error is responsible for the error in rotation instructions. Had we not monitored this information from the beginning, we may never uncover that the trafficking instructions were not followed.
If you determine that the trafficking instructions were not followed and rotation is not as it should be, a conversation with the vendor is required. A new rotation plan, which sometimes may include makegoods from the vendor, needs to be developed and implement to ensure the initial plan is completed as designed.
Effectively monitoring rotation is one way to ensure that the planned buy is executed as designed. Without regular observation, taking corrective action is impossible and the monetary investment as well as the time planning and strategizing for a successful campaign is wasted. At A3 Media we believe a well-thought-out buy deserves effective post-buy monitoring to ensure the buy runs as designed which is why we investigate delivery reports with a fine tooth comb.