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May 22nd, 2020     5 MIN READ

The Secret to Successfully Managing Professional Relationships Remotely, by Silvano Joly

During confinement, many companies around the globe discovered that — with the right technologies — their teams could effectively work from home! 

The convenience and comfort of #WFH life have undeniable benefits for both business owners and employees, which is why many are permanently adopting remote work as we head into the next “new normal”

However, managing professional relationships while working remotely, especially with travel bans still in place, can be a real challenge.  

That’s why Silvano Joly, Sales Country Manager of Italy and seasoned work-from-home professional, is shedding light on the key to successfully managing relationships with suppliers, customers, project partners, and others while working remotely. 

Read on to learn his insightful advice, and how striking the right balance between the use of technology and “distant socializing” is crucial. 

Let’s call it “distant socializing”

We’ve all heard the term “social distancing” thousands of times lately, and thankfully it’s been instrumental in slowing down COVID-19! But, psychologist Jamil Zaki recently introduced a new term that I believe we should all be using more, it’s called “distant socializing”. 

Even though lockdown has forced us apart, in some ways it’s brought us even closer together. Technologies allow us to video chat with our grandparents, hold virtual dinner parties with loved ones, and reconnect with long lost friends. We have found ways to continue socializing from afar or “distant socializing”. 

This concept is just as important in our work lives as well. A “distant socializing” mindset is one of the keys to effectively managing professional relationships while working remotely. 

Distant socializing, especially crucial for new relationships

Everything changed early this year when the lockdowns started happening around the globe. At Centric Software, particularly in Italy, we quickly adapted to the situation. Our team was already used to working from home, or “smart-working” as we say. However, we needed to reinforce certain activities that we previously managed with our customers face-to-face. Technology, of course, played a huge role in streamlining processes for everyone, but “distant socializing” has also been key, particularly when initiating new relationships. 

We were able to carry out a remote software implementation for one of our treasured customers, a long-established Italian luxury brand. Thanks to our expert team and innovative digital solutions, 250 users went live with Centric PLM during the lockdown in Italy. We provided endless hours of online training and many video tutorials to make this possible. 

And, what does this have to do with distant socializing? 

Well, when you’re not able to meet in person, new situations can be even more stressful, especially for the less digitally-savvy.  Giving space and time for socializing during digital interactions is a must! In our case, it was especially helpful when meeting new users during our remote implementations

A few distant socializing tips

When managing professional relationships remotely, it’s important to remember a few golden rules of “video-netiquette” (a.k.a video conferencing etiquette), which are especially crucial in high-pressure situations! 

1. Use video when possible. As humans, most of our communication is non-verbal. If your audience cannot see you during a conference call, you will not be able to convey ideas with sufficient clarity.

2. Adopt the same etiquette as you would in a physical meeting. For example, do a round of presentations so everyone gets to know each other. When you show up to a meeting and dive straight into the main topic, it reduces the participants’ involvement and interaction during the session.

3. Prepare and share an agenda. All participants need to know the topics and the schedule of the meeting so that everyone can be prepared to speak.

4. Set the rules of the meeting. Communicating in video conferences can get messy, so make sure to set the rules so everyone knows how and when to interact during the meeting: when to ask for the floor, send chat messages, ask questions, etc.

5. Provide breaks, even short breaks for casual conversations about the news, sports, holidays, etc. This move will make meetings much more friendly.

6. Follow up with a survey. Surveys are an excellent tool to involve participants and give them the opportunity to share their opinions. That way you can analyze the progress of the meeting and improve future ones. 

Managing Suppliers Remotely 

While a distant socializing mindset is vital, having the right technologies to enable your day-to-day work activities is absolutely crucial, especially when managing suppliers. 

Zoom calls and direct messaging have replaced traditional office communication and meetings for millions of professionals.  But, these solutions simply don’t suffice for teams involved in product development, buying or merchandising. 

How can you review samples when you can’t travel? How can you approve quotes while having full visibility on final product margins? How can you make fast (and better) sourcing decisions while working remotely? 

At Centric, we rapidly responded to these needs so that teams can seamlessly manage processes with suppliers. We recently launched our series of 3 Digital Quick-collaboration Boards, which are implementable in weeks, as opposed to months. 

There are also other technologies like 3D, AI, cloud solutions, PLM, and mobile apps which are big game-changers for businesses in fashion, luxury, consumer goods, and retail.  And, they will continue to be just as essential as we venture into the next “new normal”. 

Striking the right balance in post-pandemic times

From the privilege that it once was, “smart-working” has become an expected way of working for millions of professionals around the globe. As we begin to discover the next “new normal”, we must not only be productive but also continue to grow professionally and personally. We need to remember to not only take care of our physical well-being but also preserve our mental health. So, don’t forget to practice “distant socializing,” especially if you’re one of the millions of workers who will be permanently adopting a work-from-home life post-pandemic. 

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