By: Lauren Formato on April 6th, 2020

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How Freight Agents Can Stay Productive During COVID-19

Agency Ownership | Business Advice | Logistics | Best Practices

Many freight brokerages are currently facing new roadblocks while continuing to keep their business running during the COVID-19 pandemic. As an agent-based logistics company, Armstrong is no different, but we remain productive and running smoothly with all of our employees now working remotely.

Although many freight agents work from home offices, there are several others who are accustomed to working in office spaces outside of the home, and they have had to adapt quickly. Regardless of what camp you fall into, adjusting to working conditions during the pandemic certainly presents new challenges when it comes to productivity.

Tips to Remaining Productive

Here are some tips on how to adjust to the new working conditions while keeping morale and productivity high.

Schedule Virtual Meetings

Whether you’re new to working from home or not, it is important to connect with your colleagues and customers on a personal level, and not just through phone and email.

There are several great free video conference apps available. At Armstrong, we use Zoom for all internal and external meetings. If you are a broker who is used to working remotely and being on the phone, this could be a great new way to connect with your customers.

Here are few benefits of video conferencing:

  • It’s More Engaging than Audio Conferencing

Video conferencing is the next best thing to face-to-face meetings. You can make eye contact, read facial expressions and body language. In audio conferences, your participants may lose focus or work on other things because they feel removed from the rest of the group. Video really increases the level of engagement.

  • It Improves Communication

Experts say that we process visual information more quickly and accurately than text or audio. Therefore, when you hold a meeting via video conferencing, your team will retain more information than they would have, had it been an audio meeting.

  • It Fosters Team Morale

In times like this, it is easy for people to feel isolated. While you and your staff may be accustomed to working from home, others are still adjusting to this change. Being able to see your colleagues' faces helps build morale.

  • It Improves Productivity

Need a quick answer to a tricky question? Instead of sending an email to your colleague and hoping for an answer tomorrow, connect for a quick video conference conversation and use a screen-share function to move on with your project.

Consider Implementing Video into Your Sales Strategy

Using video in your daily communication personalizes the customer experience. When your customers and prospects can see your face and hear your voice, it helps to build trust and improve customer relationships.

Here are two ways you can use video in your strategy:
  • Instead of leaving a voicemail or plain text email, try sending a video message in your email instead. Vidyard, an online video hosting site for businesses, is a good option to explore because they offer a free trial to new users.
  • If your company has product/service videos already created (like we do at Armstrong), embedding them in your emails can make a big impact and help you to stand out from your competitors.

Set a Routine for Yourself

It is important to stick to your regular routine as much as possible, whether that includes an early morning workout or grabbing a cup of coffee. This will give you a sense of control and order in times where things are so uncertain.

Here are some ways you can set your routine:

  • Work in the Same Spot Every Day

When working from home, it is very important that you maintain a routine. If possible, set up your work space (in a quiet room or spare bedroom if possible), and work in that spot each day. If you are used to having multiple screens and phones when you are on the brokerage floor, replicate the same work environment at home.

  • Keep Your Regular Schedule

Create routines that will mimic your previous routines when you worked in the office. Wake up at the normal time you did when you had to get ready for work. If you went to the gym at 6 a.m., then try to continue the same routine. This will help keep a sense of “normalcy.”

  • Stick to a Quitting Time

A common mistake that one occurs while working from home, is to continue working beyond your required hours. Brokers regularly get calls from customers and carriers after hours, that won’t change just because you are in a home office. Do step away from the desk, transfer calls to your cell phone, etc. It’s important to make time for yourself, even though it may feel like the work never ends.

  • Take Regular Breaks

Creating boundaries can help you set your day up for success. Don't forget to take breaks and move around. Break up your day by taking a 3-5 minute walk or stepping away from your workstation, just as you would if you were in the office.

Set a Schedule For Your Kids/Family

For many freight agents and brokers, working remotely has been the norm for years. The added complication in the time of shelter in place orders is having a house full of people. In addition to your normal job, you need you to act as a homeschool teacher, line cook or referee to keep things running smoothly in your household.

It is important to get small children on a schedule, so that you can all remain productive. Schedule times for activities such as meals, study time, quiet time and play time so they know what is expected of them. It may make sense to get the schedule up on a bulletin board or white board so everyone is on the same page.

If your job allows, adjusting your work hours to fit the needs of your family may be helpful. For example, instead of working eight hours straight, break your day into two periods: four hours in the morning and another four hours in the early evening.

Schedule Virtual Lunches, Coffee or Happy Hour

As discussed with virtual meetings above, getting face-to-face interaction with your team helps to foster team building. Schedule regular non-working “meetings” such as lunch, coffee or happy hour, where the purpose is to just socialize and interact with your co-workers.

These virtual meetups can be great after hours with friends and family too! These can be helpful strategies to avoid feelings of isolation that many people are experiencing.

Take Breaks and Get Outside

Getting fresh air and exercise daily will boost your immune system and your mood. As long as you are following the recommended social distancing protocols, the outdoors is a safe place.

A daily walk, run or hike is recommended for physical and emotional health. Break up the day and spend your lunch hour outdoors!

Working From Home Has Benefits

According to a study conducted by Stanford University, working remotely does have a number of benefits:

“We found a highly significant 13% increase in employee performance from WFH, of which about 9% was from employees working more minutes of their shift period (fewer breaks and sick days) and about 4% from higher performance per minute.

We found no negative spillovers onto workers who stayed in the office. Home workers also reported substantially higher work satisfaction and psychological attitude scores, and their job attrition rates fell by over 50%.

Furthermore, when the experiment ended and workers were allowed to choose whether to work at home or in the office, selection effects almost doubled the gains in performance.”

This is Only Temporary

While this challenging time may seem like it will never end, it is only temporary. Using these tips can help to keep your business running smoothly until things go back to normal. The goal is to be able to transition back to your normal working routine seamlessly when the time comes.

At Armstrong, we prefer our corporate employees to be in the office for meetings and personal engagement, however, our agent network has been used to working remotely for years. This quick transition to remote work was unexpected, but the corporate team has adapted successfully.

If you are having issues, contact your company’s HR department or your EAP for advice. For more information and updates about Armstrong and how we are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, please sign up for our blog.