From shopping centre pop-ups to event installations, Melbourne-based company Red Exhibitions & Displays creates custom-built brand activations that pop. Until recent times, co-founder Skye Whitmore didn’t think getting the job done with a remote workforce would be possible.
“We work outside, in the cold, in the heat, overnight in shopping centres, in exhibition halls. It varies greatly,” Skye tells Kochie’s Business Builders. “It’s always interesting, often challenging and never boring.”
When you’re working together on a project, collaboration can be difficult even when you’re side-by-side with your colleagues, let alone across states. Add in a completely new and unknown working environment plus an extremely tight deadline and the stress levels mount.
But the team at Red Exhibitions & Displays, which specialises in visual merchandising, exhibitions and events, is used to dealing with tricky situations at any hour of the day or night. While their North Melbourne headquarters include an inhouse design studio, an industrial print shop, painting booths, cabinetry workshop and transportation, they’ve still had to transition to more hybrid ways of working.
“For us, hybrid work was always a dirty word, but the last two years have taught us differently,” she says. “Historically we’ve always needed to be in the one place. But using things like Microsoft Teams, we’ve been able to be in different places and execute our events regardless of where we are. People can be in different places, in different states, while we’re doing installs and we can all be connected.”
Lessons from transitioning to a remote workforce
With her remote workforce active on projects across Australia, Skye says there have been some adjustments needed.
“I think the biggest adjustment we’ve had to make is with ourselves. We lost the ability to walk past someone and catch up quickly so we really had to improve our communication with each other via electronic means. We very much relied on in-person information sharing, which we’ve had to ‘unlearn’ and adapt to the changes of the past two years.”
Fortunately, technology like Microsoft Teams makes real-time sharing easy, even when you’re working remotely. The chat window encourages collaborative conversations, allowing colleagues to check-in, seek a quick opinion, jump on problems, or share their screens or files.
“While onsite and across projects we send pictures of what each team is working on to keep everyone connected,” says Skye.
Of course, chat is also great for uploading a cheeky meme or two – never underestimate the team-bonding power of a meme.
When the remote workforce at Red Exhibitions & Displays needs a quick opinion on an installation, they also snap a photo and send it back to the office via email. The whole team uses Windows 11 devices powered by the Intel vPro platform, for consistency and efficiency.
“We work to really tight timelines and often need to solve problems really quickly, across a number of different sites,” says Skye. “So being able to share documents on a Windows 11 device, and send it back to the office to get an answer really quickly, helps.”
Considering both tech-savvy and the tech-learners
There’s no doubt that getting everyone up to speed on technology will have a big impact on your remote workforce capabilities. Skye says it’s been crucial to make collaboration processes as easy as possible, no matter how tech-confident each member of the team is.
“I’ve learned how important it is to have really easy-to-use technology because we don’t have an IT department,” says Skye. “So having something that all of the staff can access easily and adapt really quickly to has been really important.”
One half of the equation is using up-to-date technology. For example, Windows 11 modern devices allow you to make a custom desktop for different projects so you can switch between them quickly.
Another good tip is to set an expectation that team members will assist each other from the beginning. This ensures the team feels more comfortable asking for help with new systems. It also makes their transition to remote working a more seamless experience.
“Traditionally, our processes are old school and trying to get staff up to speed with new technology has been a challenge,” Skye says. “But we have a number of younger staff that are tech savvy [who] are leading the charge and introducing new technology and helping the others along the way.”
This is effectively the ‘buddy system’ approach. You can ask your team to identify whether they consider themselves tech-savvy or tech-learning and pair them up accordingly.
If you don’t have enough tech-savvy people available, you could instead create a Microsoft Teams channel to connect them with the team. Tech-learners can post their questions in the public chat or privately to get help from the “super-users”. Super-users are generally only too happy to help tech-learners as it helps increase overall project productivity.
The proof is in the results
Since shifting to a more permanently remote workforce, the Red Exhibitions & Displays team have been able to take on big projects with incredibly tight deadlines and they’ve delivered time after time.
“We recently did the premium dining space at the Australian Open tennis. We normally have nine months to do it, but we did it in two months,” Skye shares. “It was the biggest one that we’ve undertaken. I didn’t think we were actually going to finish it, but we did. It looked incredible.”
This speaks to the advice Skye’s father and Red Exhibitions co-founder, Peter Whitmore, gave her early on in the business: say yes and work out how you’re going to solve the problem later.
“It happens a lot, particularly in our industry because we’ll get asked often if we can do something really quickly that potentially someone else can’t do, but you just say yes and work it out,” Skye says. “I’m confident to say yes to a client request because of the resources, people and tech that we have available to us these days.”
For more, visit redexhibitions.com.au.
Want to know about the latest collaboration, productivity and security tools to empower your business? Discover the benefits of Windows 11 modern devices powered by the Intel vPro platform for your business here.
This article is brought to you by Kochie’s Business Builders in partnership with Microsoft.