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Episode 42: Remote Life and Healthy Spaces


Introduction: Discover how you can 'green' your life by building a knowledge base of current sustainable and eco-savvy trends. This series will delve into hot topics, current standards and practices, ways to design better spaces, and specified materials that benefit not only us as consumers, but the world as a whole. Member of CaraGreen, Is sustainable materials distributors, and other industry leaders weigh in throughout the series. This is Build Green Live Green.

Jessica: Hi this is Jessica with Bill Green Live Green and today we are talking to one of our Caragreen employees, Rob Hacker, are you with us Rob?

Rob: Hi everyone,

Jessica: So, Rob is one of our sales managers and like most of the world today including myself, Rob is working remotely from his home in D.C. One of the things I want to talk about Rob is to have a kind of casual but Boss employee conversation about working remotely and just to kind of set the stage a little bit. Hiring remote employees, salespeople specifically for me has always been a challenge because they do work from home. A lot of the time and they should be on the road, a lot of the time but some of that time is at home, and I've always question just how effective and committed are you to that time at home and learning to be an effective remote employee. I think any manager's concern is always around: if that person able to manage their time effectively. So it's not a conversation we ever had before because you were remote, you had to be, but I wanted to kind of get your thoughts on, Covid-19 has impacted all of us, it relegated most of us to our homes, so if you could just talk a little bit about your situation as a salesperson before Covid-19 and how that change for you today and then I talked a little bit about the same for me.

Rob: Yes of course, so, really what's been changing for me as a salesperson is going out in the field half the time to be more transitioning to  full time at the home role and it is a little difficult to structure time throughout the day  especially when I have roommates around, three of them and we all working from home, so people are popping in and out of every room and we see each other a lot so it's quite a transition the way it was before where is either out in the field or just you know,

Jessica: Living your life outside of your apartment,

Rob: Right, and it's just a lot different from being home all the time time. My personal life and work-life become one right now and the way I've gone about structuring this is just trying to be disciplined with myself and planning out these days when its time for my personal life and when its time for my work life and they merge into each other but it's all about for me, keeping that somewhat separate even though I'm in the same location.

Jessica: I'm sure you know what I'm alluding to as well before when I was talking about before you were are home it's hard to necessarily be 100% committed to your job, now where you've got people wondering if my job is on the line. Am I going to have a job? Do you feel salespeople specifically who cant go out and be on the road or trying to find a way to demonstrate their productivity because its a scary time right now, unemployment rates are very high? How as a salesperson, do you feel like, you are going to convince me, your manager that you are working effectively.

Rob: Yeah I think its really an important time right now to show my value as an employee more than just financial terms because as sales starting to slow down we start to see this pandemic impact our financial situation. It's important to show what other projects I could take on to make our company work more efficiently or for us to come out of this better than the way we came into this pandemic situations, so what I've been trying to do is take on some side projects that are just things that I've just always wanted to get to but never really had the time to and now I just have a little bit of extra time and it been good for me to take a step back and look at how I've been doing my job, how I can make it a little bit easier on my self, make myself more productive and make our system a little bit more efficient overall as well. And I think its important for all salespeople on our team to demonstrate this, your value as an employee, especially in a time like this when things are uncertain and you don't know how much returns you are bringing the company. so definitely is on my mind a lot and just trying to find different things to better myself as a professional and also as an employee for CaraGreen overall.

Jessica: Oh, yes and I can tell you that I do appreciate those things, having to send everyone remote means the phones go overwhelmed and you've been great about helping me takes some of those incoming phone calls because they certainly haven't stopped and I do appreciate your help with that. I also think it's an important time for businesses right now as we do with the quarantine, quarantine comeback. We created a little plan where everyone picks some of these projects like you were talking about and their focus on basically spring cleaning is what I like to think of it as, so you take your world if it's your opportunity pipeline is your client relationships, is it your designer relationships, but you curate, cultivate, clean up all those relationships, clean up the sales force database, go in, lets come out of this, ready to go, right? 

So we come up with the CQC we are calling it like I said it’s spring cleaning for your company and in think that this is an opportunity to step back, give people these assignments things that are going to make them more efficient. Maybe it's cleaning up some fields in sales forces, I mean getting rid of some duplicates opportunities, getting rid of duplicates accounts, really doing researching your pipelines to make sure that close dates are accurate. A lot of close dates are going to get pushed out, now is the time to proactively manage that, so I appreciate the sales team, you know taking on some of those projects and also just backfilling in other functions where there is a need right now. 

One of the things I think we have the biggest need in is, marketing presents offset what we can't do in person, so that kind of the manager perspective on, what you were saying about taking side those projects.

To talk about other things, in the building material space, you walk into Perkins & Will and you present Paper stone, Ice stone,  Durat, Lapitec, Kirei, and all these great products. What is that new presentation going to look like? Do you think it's going to be virtual, mostly virtual, do think there is going to be some combination here of virtual and in-person? Do you think the in-person is going to come back fully? You know, it’s just going to take some time, In your mind as a salesperson and what are the various scenarios and what are the things you are going to have to adapt if virtual becomes the new reality?

Rob: I've been thinking about this one a lot since lately and as we been pushing for all these virtual courses and presentation since lately, its seems some success but it was not the same as being able to hold those materials and talked about these stories in persons so, I've been thinking about how to translate that into a virtually presents because I'm not honestly sure that we are going to have these same form of presentation available. Offices might start restricting those in-person presentation just as the response to the pandemic and preventing things like this from happening in the future so, I've been trying to think virtual presents maybe the way of the future for A&D wraps and how can we make that still tangible and how can we have those feelings that we have with those in-person presentations as well so I think what we've been doing and its so far been pretty successful is just being there for those architects and designers, telling them that you can send them samples to their house, to their remote location and being able to walk through the products through virtual presentation while they are holding on to those samples so, I think there is a lot of ways for us to get around those  in-persons presentations but its going to be tough to replicate that same experience that we’ve had in the past and its definitely going to take some creative solutions and we've been really thinking a lot about this and I think we've been doing a pretty great job at this so far but its been tough to engage architect and designers because its such a different round for them right now, they so use to having these in-person presentation and this is just not possible right now so, it is taking time for people to adjust and hoping people get more use to it and we can start to brainstorm ways with our A& D communities and each territories to come up with some more solutions for this lack of in-persons contact.

Jessica: Yeah and I think it’s interesting too because CaraGreen having this whole portfolio of healthy building materials. When we do a presentation, we do have a lot of material that we bring in. so one idea that we had, as you were talking about on the call, is once this firm gets back to work and maybe they do limit the outside Reps coming in if you are doing the Zoom meeting or something like that, I don't see any reason why we couldn't send a package with a prepaid shipping label so that they could have the package, open it look at the samples during the presentations and then return what they don't want back to us if we gave them. That's just one idea, once these firms do get back to these in-persons things. 

Also, I think that it's going to be interesting, some of these web-based platforms where you can see the people like zoom, which may be just as acceptable as the in-person meeting. It uses to not be acceptable; I think they just expected you to be there. I think if we were smart about how we will get samples to and from the location, a lot of the firms might be happy to have you do it virtually as well.

Rob: Yes and I think that's almost a way we've been able to set ourselves apart recently because we always focus on our material as been healthy but now is not the time where we want to push on that so much because it's a sensitive topic to discuss so we've decided to show ourselves as more of a supportive business, we are here to support our architects and designers and moving into this new period when new restrictions. Its different types of marketing that need to be created and just be as personal as possible as been helpful for me, showing my face on those zoom calls is very helpful, just to put a face to the voice because you are not in person with them but I think we will see some different transition happening over the next few months.


Jessica: I can say personally from my standpoint you are a single guy in a single apartment with a bunch of roommates and I'm a mom with three kids and a teenager, a niece, and a dad who are with me right now. So a lot is going on in trying to stay focus and making sure that you are getting everything done and also not neglecting your kids trying to do remote learning and they got questions and you are trying to get them connecting to a computer and all those things. A lot of it can be a big distraction but what it got me to do is to look around at the space I'm in and the comfort of my working conditions and think, wait a minute, if I'm going to be home, and I'm going to be working from home for a longer period, how do I need to set up this space for me to be more sufficient? Do I need to get my kids a desk inn three different rooms? Do I have to make sure my dad has a place to work at his computer? To think about how things are laid out I have a lot more stuff sitting around that I need to store, is not everything goes into my briefcase or my backpack and I bring it into the office, so I think the kind of eco-system that we are in right now for work from home is going to start to get a lot more efficient because it has become a longer-term thing so, are you saying that your home as well?

Rob: Yeah, totally we've reorganized the whole bottom floor of our house, the sunroom used to be our hang out space but now we made it into more of a coworking space so four of us were working from home, couple of us might be sitting there and do some work and I have a desk in my room as well but its a lot harder to concentrate in my dad room so I like to have that separation for my work life and we've done some rearranging just decorating the space differently, getting police with more sunlight. Well, decorations is a little bit more exciting because we never really had to spend so much time inside our house so it was kind of an afterthought,  and now we at this point where all of our time is here and we need to do some cleanings, some rearanging, just to make this a healthier space for our mental health and keep us sane and have a nice place where we can relax and kind of think about other things and some of the tougher things that are happening right now and have spaces where we can really focus on our jobs because it is tough, having all these people around, having alot of video conferences, lots of Slack messages, lots of emails from your co workers because contacting each other is just a little tougher now too, you have a lot of client reaching out as well so its really necessary for me and i know my roommate really well cause we talked about it a lot to have a space where we can focus on all of this stuff and really start to find this separation of work and personal life within our own spaces.

Jessica: I'm going to stop you there because you've just started to talk about in Segway to what's going to be in our next podcast episode which is kind of designing for that healthier space and working from home and what changes can and should be made to make that space more comfortable. So we’ll be getting into that but I kind of want to close this for saying that I firmly believe that my skepticism around working from home for salespeople in the past has completely been flipped out its head from this pandemic. I think that, as you just describe, people are finding ways to be more efficient. There is nowhere else to go, and you are communicating more and I've been on the phone with you more in the past week and have for all of the years so far, but we are just communicating more. We are communicating more and finding more efficient ways to communicate. You mentioned slack, we are communicating in Slack. we are trying to regulate email to more documented, external things and have all of our kind of chit chat communication be done through Slack so there are not all these emails going back and forth and we are getting better and I think that's part of the CaraGreen mulchers, create better so,  we always say don't see it as adversity see it as an opportunity. And I think that's really what is happening here and it goes nicely with the CaraGreen types of creating better. So I think we all taking this opportunity to create a better version of our work from home selves. So, with that, I want to thank you, Rob, for joining tonight.

Rob: Of course, happy to be here.

Jessica: And this is Build Green Live Green.

For a written manuscript with this episode as well as supporting resources. Visit our website at www.caregreen.com/podcast. Want to know more about a specific industry-related topic? Shoot us an email at social@caragreen.com

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