Whether you’re a solo agent or brokerage owner, you’re probably wondering how to stay productive during the coronavirus outbreak.
At Follow Up Boss, we’re a remote first company. We’ve been working in a distributed team structure since 2011, so we know a thing or two about how to support your team and customers—even when you can’t see them face-to-face.
As a team who’s been living remote work practices for years, we wanted to share our tried-and-tested tips and resources that have proven genuinely useful to our team.
Top 7 Resources for Remote Work
- The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication - A roundup of the core communication principles that guide the fully remote team at Basecamp.
- Zapier's guide to working remotely - Tools and tips for managers and employees, this guide also includes a video webinar on how to transition to remote work in a hurry.
- 5 Best Practices For Managing Remote Teams from We Work Remotely - General rules for productive routines and communication etiquette in a remote work setup.
- The Best Advice For Remote Work Success From 10 Global Teams [Free Guide] from Trello - This big-picture rounds up deep-dive insights from some of the world’s most influential remote companies like Evernote, Buffer, Atlassian and more.
- Slack on Slack: Adapting the way we work when offices need to close - The latest thinking on how to cope with the COVID-19 crisis from the team that brought us the ultimate remote work tool. Tips include setting up an announcements channel to help keep everyone in the loop on the latest coronavirus updates.
- An introduction to remote work from a remote company - An up-close-and-personal look at how the fully remote team at Hotjar runs their business. Tips include weekly virtual ‘bonfire’ meetings and document processes publicly.
- The Ultimate Guide to Remote Work According to Stats, Studies and What Works in Real Estate - We created this guide last year to introduce agents to the benefits and common pitfalls of remote work, it’s packed with practical real estate specific insights.
Remote Work Pro Tips Straight from the Follow Up Boss Team
Dress to impress or embrace #sweatslife? Slack or Zoom? There's no one way to work remotely.
It all depends on your goals and culture. We've been remote for over four years and thought we'd share some of our favorite tips that have inspired the remote culture at Follow Up Boss.
We hope this helps you find a few shortcuts to stay productive while you're out of the office, and maybe even helps you understand what the person on the other side of that video conference might be thinking!
Create a Dedicated Work Space
It's important for me to have a dedicated workspace. I have a desk and monitor for my set up, but for those who are transitioning this could be more of a challenge. I would encourage you to experiment with finding a productive space and leaving it at the end of the day. For example: my neighbor (transitioning to working remotely) unplugs and puts her extra monitor away at the end of the day which helps add some boundaries for the work/life balance.
— Caroline Becherer, Product Support Expert
Set a Hard Start Time
Try to have a normal start to your day. Don't just roll out of bed and work.
— Danielle Lloyd, Product Support Expert
Set a Hard Stop Time
Being able to spend time with my family little bits here and there throughout the day is important, so I usually end up taking 2 hours during the day for lunch and other things. I have a hard stop at 5pm. That's when I do dinner, chores, spend time with the family, run errands, etc... After I put my daughter to bed and spend time with my wife, I will generally hop back online and work for another hour or so (depending on how much fun I'm having with the work at that time).
— Steven Wade, Full Stack Engineer
Don’t Give Up on Routine
A good routine is important. Water, breakfast, stretching, supplements, shower and fresh change of clothes, coffee, etc. Taking at least 1 walk every day for 10 minutes or so is also important to me.
— Erik Wantland, Head of Customer Experience
Set small goals and reward yourself for each goal e.g., If I complete 3 sales calls, I get to watch one YouTube video. However, you have to be disciplined in this approach—one video can quickly become 4 or 5. Also, print your schedule and put it somewhere everyone can see. Working remotely is not only a mindset adjustment for you, but for everyone around you. When I first started remote work, I used to stick my daily schedule on my office door. This way the rest of the house knew when I was unavailable.
— Saf Suleman, Senior Full Stack Engineer
Block All Distractions (Including Housework)
Chrome extensions like FlowTime (time blocking), Blocksite (website blocking), and Pocket (website/article saver-for-later-er) do wonders for productivity and avoiding distractions… I occasionally find myself getting up mindlessly, which can easily spiral into loading the dishwasher or other housework that can (and should) be done later. If that tends to bother you, try to get on top of things the night before so that during the day you're maintaining, not fixing.
— Olivia Shanley, Full Stack Engineer
Take breaks! When working remotely, sometimes I've ended up sitting in a chair locked inside for a while, so it's important to get up and walk a little every hour (thanks FitBit for reminding me!), and maybe take a 10-15 minute break every 2-3 hours. And, get outside!
— Melissa Kayle, Product Support Expert
DIY Your Own Standing Desk
I have a standup/sit down desk and my productivity/spirit always increases when it is up. Someone new to working at home obviously won't have this type of desk ready to go. I talked to my brother who is now working from home and he grabbed a box, put it on the kitchen table and set his laptop on it. Stands all day. He loves it!
— Lyndon Bystrom, Customer Success
Separate Work Time from Family Time
My husband also works remotely when he's not on a project site and I think a lot of folks might find themselves working remotely with a loved one during this pandemic. We have found it's best to have work spaces separate from one another. We take breaks and lunch together, but I don't need to hear him breathe 24/7!
— Camiel Lawler, Product Support Expert
Know Where to Find Inspiration When You Need It
Have some go-to podcasts, books, music, etc., if you find yourself struggling with motivation, ideas, creativity, productivity. We all get stuck sometimes. Prep for that
— Meghan Porter, Customer Success Team Lead
Tips for Selling Homes Remotely
Personalize your follow ups - At this point, any company or agent who turns a blind eye to what’s happening will come across as tone deaf, or even negligent. Make sure you acknowledge the challenges of shopping for real estate in the current climate and use a supportive tone and message in all your follow ups.
Leverage the phone - If there was ever a time to hit the phone, it’s now. Buyers still want to buy, sellers still want to sell—they just don’t want to have to meet you face-to-face to do it. So send your listing packages via email and be prepared to follow up consistently by phone, text message and email.
Embrace virtual tours - 3D tours have been on every agent’s ‘nice-to-have’ list for a while, but now they’re a bona fide must. Initial investment can be expensive but this may be one of the most important tools to keep your pipeline moving throughout the coronavirus crisis. If the costs are too prohibitive, video walkthroughs using your smart phone are another great way to show properties without having to meet in-person.
How to Keep Your Team Motivated and Productive
Host regular meetings - Make your weekly standups virtual with remote-friendly project management and video tools (we’ve added a list of our favorites below). Give your agents an opportunity to voice their concerns and work together to troubleshoot issues as they arise.
Restrict distractions - In the words of Grant Clayton of 1% Listings, "The hardest part is that you are your own boss, you can do whatever you want. The challenge is to manage your free time because nobody's going to tell you to go to work in the morning.”
Remote work requires self-discipline. And, if Netflix wasn’t enough, the global health crisis is creating a work-from-home environment rife with distraction. Taking a page from Slack’s playbook, setting up an Announcements channel can help prevent your team members from constantly clicking in and out of the latest headlines so they can stay focused on the task at hand.
Balance high-intensity and low-intensity tasks - Grant keeps his team proactive by setting them up with natural, relevant follow up tasks and scripts so that “they’re not having to deal with non-stop rejection”. Think about the activities that are the most mentally or emotionally draining for your agents (like cold calling) and consider what other options you can offer to help their days spent working from home feel a little easier.
If you’re a Follow Up Boss user, you can customize nurture sequences and Action Plans to let your prospects and customers know how you’ll help them through this crisis and open the door to authentic touchpoints for the foreseeable future.
Use this as an opportunity to get ahead of the curve - In the words of Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman, “The coronavirus has just made the future we’ve been preparing for come sooner.”
There’s no time like the present to try the new, tech-driven ideas you’ve been putting on the backburner. The investments and business transformations you make now may be the very things that put you ahead of the competition once we’re past this thing.
Tools to Help Your Team Transition to a Remote Setup
- Slack - The free version gives you 10k searchable messages, 10 apps and integrations, 1-to-1 video calls. For $8 per month per user you can get unlimited messages and for $15 per month you can get 99.99% guaranteed uptime SLA for your team.
- Asana - Paid plans start at $15 per user per month for access to their standard project management tools, forms and integrations. They also have a dedicated real estate forum where users can share best practices.
- Trello - Get unlimited boards and cards for free. For attachments over 250MB per file, customization features and automations (aka ‘power ups’), paid plans start at $9.99 per user per month. Trello is offering live training and remote work chats using the #EmbraceRemoteChat hashtag on Twitter.
- Basecamp - One of the greatest things about Basecamp is the pricing model: you get access to all features plus unlimited projects and users (no per user fees) for a flat rate of $99 per month.
- Workplace from Facebook - The free plan gives you up to 50 groups, 20 people per video call and 5GB of storage per user. For $4 per user per month you can get unlimited groups, 50 people per video call and 1TB of storage per user.
- Zoom - The free plan lets you host up to 100 participants, unlimited 1:1s and for $14.99 per host per month you can exceed the 40 minute limit and get up to 1GB of MP4 or M4A cloud recording. They also have a dedicated resources center for coping with the COVID-19 crisis including daily demos and video tutorials.
- Skype - Skype-to-Skype calls are completely free. For other calls, users can opt to use the pay-as-you-go option (Skype Credit) or start a subscription for under $5 per month, depending on your needs.
- BombBomb - Plans start at $29.99 per user after a 14-day free trial. The Real Estate and Mortgage Exclusive plan costs $2,000 billed annually and includes access to Prompt, an automated system that tells agents what to say and when to say it plus 6-weeks of personal, 1-on-1 training.
- DocuSign - Real estate start plans are $10 per month and there’s a special offer for NAR members where you can get additional integration and customizable branding features for $20 per month.
- HelloSign - Free for up to 3 signatures per month but if you want additional branding and security features the unlimited plan is $40 per month.
- Matterport - Right now they’re offering $400 off the Matterport Pro2 3D camera with promo code GetPro2. No limitations on quantity.
- VPiX - No special offers that we can see at time of writing but the team at VPiX is offering workshops and even sharing a publicly available coronavirus map to track active and recovered cases as the pandemic evolves.
- Realty Tours - This is probably the most affordable option at $19.95/Tour or $49.95/Month for unlimited live tours. Tours can be viewed on smart-phones, tablets, ipads, laptops, desktops, etc. by Android, IOS, and Microsoft.
- Bannersnack - An accessible collaborative graphic design platform that allows you to create, store, and share all of your marketing visuals online in one place. You can start your designs from scratch or choose from their many professional real estate banner templates.
If you’re already a Follow Up Boss user you can access our full list of the remote-friendly integrations here.
How can we help?
At Follow Up Boss, we know it’s our job to help you succeed come what may. We’re taking action to help our customers get their businesses ready for the day COVID-19 is behind us.
There’s quite a bit of change to keep up with, and while we don’t know exactly what tomorrow will bring, you can expect to see the same level of care, attention and service you’re used to getting from us.
The COVID-19 outbreak could change the real estate landscape for the foreseeable future, and both buyers and sellers are going to need help navigating. We’ll continue to share resources and expert advice for helping your customers and positioning your business for success as life returns to normal.
Until then, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need any help. We’re in this together.