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VIEWPOINT: Businesses were unwilling to change but now they can see 20/20 in 2021

By Steve Roberts


Many business leaders say that change is a good thing, until it is hoisted upon them and they must decide to change or die.

I’m a little tired of hearing the term “new normal,” but the economy, the way we do business, and the way we will do life have changed forever; therefore, it might be time to break some long-established protocols and habits that will no longer enhance our organizations. 

It’s time for you to take the mask off the way you communicate, but please keep it on in the grocery store.

2020 was a year of change because it encouraged everyone to look at a mirror that reflected aging and dysfunctional business models. Multitudes of long-established organizations didn’t have the courage, education, skills, and leadership to redirect their ship until the winds of change blew hard from an unanticipated direction, and only then were forced to do so. The time to change or die had come, and sadly for some businesses, die they did. For several industries that change wasn’t possible, as they were prohibited from doing business by government restrictions attempting to control the virus, thus taking them out. Unfortunately, a number of small businesses said, “That’s it, we’re done,” and pulled the plug, cashing out on what they could. And for the organizations that made the critical operational changes, many of them will never go back to their former way of doing business. 

Remote workers are here to stay

Owners, leaders, and employees were pushed out of their comfort zones this past year and discovered that remote work could actually be as or more productive than clustered cubicles or an open work environment. 

I was not personally a fan of remote workers for our company, Zoey Advertising, pre-COVID because I felt it was more difficult to collaborate creatively. Brainstorming and creative problem solving is what advertising agencies do every single day; teammates throwing ideas around at each other waiting for that “Ah-ha” moment. Well, not only does that still happen, but it seems to happen more often when the team is all looking at each other straight into the eyes on the screen. Everyone is expected to come to the table with fresh ideas and solutions to the challenge at hand, and now they do.

Our daily 8 a.m. rendezvous actually happen on time with the whole team present, rather than some people stuck in traffic, a snowstorm, or dealing with another distraction.

So, my view of the effectiveness of remote work has changed over the past several months. Like most professional organizations, our employees track all of their time, and when all the data was in, this owner was totally wrong and found out we had become more efficient, and not less. 

I was incorrect about always needing to be in the same room when collaborating. Make no mistake, we will at times need to work on set producing videos for TV or the internet and be up close and personal on other projects. However, the everyday routine of having everyone in the same space at the same time is over. Remote workers are here to stay. So, if you are working in an office, expect to have more elbow room. 

Make your Zoom space amazing

Making the home workspace background presentable on your Zoom call takes precedence over making the bed or cleaning the kitchen for remote workers these days.

To offer a little tidbit of information, stand up when you are communicating. Use a stand-up desk or make one, it doesn’t matter, but please don’t make me stare up your nose. Public communicators stand up, don’t they? Also, don’t make the fatal flaw of sending over your Word document or presentation ahead of the meeting and to participants. Come on, you know we all read ahead. Reading is not presenting, you deserve more. 

• Light your space and prep your communication. 

I’m not saying you need to be someone you are not, but I am saying that a brightly lit, professional-sounding communication will connect better. Spend a few bucks and get a camera and a mic that are better than the norm.

• Don’t apologize for the sound, fix it. 

A high-quality headset with a microphone that is relatively inexpensive will allow you to communicate more professionally. You wouldn’t show up to an important presentation or meeting with muddy pants and a ripped shirt, so invest a few bucks and have the best sound on every call.

A recent survey of leaders found that even after the pandemic, 80 percent plan to allow employees to work remotely sometimes, and 47 percent are allowing working from home full-time. 

Businesses are coming to a consensus that remote work causes way fewer meetings after the meetings and dysfunctional drama. Time is our greatest resource and many organizations are finding measurably higher productivity and efficiency when it comes to our workers. 

What leaders once couldn’t control by rules and decrees has been accomplished by forcing independence and more efficient collaboration online. 

Zoom has become the Kleenex of facial tissues. We call online video meetings Zoom, even though dozens of other tools are used to accomplish the same thing (our company actually use Google Meet). I think it is entertaining and makes the online conferences more interesting and real when the cat jumps on the screen, the dog barks, or the roommate walks by or speaks out of turn. I think we all got to know each other a little better. So let’s keep Zooming.      

Steve Roberts is the owner of Zoey Advertising, a full-service advertising agency based in Syracuse. Contact him at (315) 471-7700 or email:

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