Remote work can boost profitability, along with employee productivity and retention, but transitioning to it suddenly has challenged leaders in the pet food and agrifood industries, along with many others. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Greg Watt, president and CEO of WATT Global Media, shared insights into heading a global team working everywhere from bedrooms to boardrooms. WATT Global Media, parent company of Petfood Industry, transitioned to a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE), a management strategy developed by the founders of CultureRx. In a ROWE, employees’ results matter more than the amount of time spent working. Employees work mostly on computers and telephones with no restrictions on where or when. After eight years leading a team spread from China to Puerto Rico to Kentucky, Watt has advice for business leaders who suddenly find themselves telecommuting. Although WATT Global Media has done business for more than a century, the company evolved into a digitally connected news media and industry event enterprise.

Watch the video below to learn Watt’s answers to these questions:

  • How have remote work options helped WATT Global Media adapt to crises, including the pandemic?
  • What inspired you to make the change to telecommuting and remote work?
  • Could you share your top advice for business leaders suddenly working from home?

Question: What has most surprised you about the transition to remote work, compared to the company’s 92 years without it?

“There's a lot of things that are rolled up into what's been a very pleasant surprise and experience, and one we're going to continue to facilitate…," Watt said. “The most pleasant surprise has been our overall financial performance results. We could consistently see that performance results went up significantly, because of our higher retention rate. Our ability to recruit top talent went up significantly, measurably. All that is rolled into much stronger overall year-over-year results than what we had previously under a traditional environment.

“Beyond that, ROWE boosted our ability to react and to be able to pivot and redirect resources. This is a perfect example of what we're going through now. We've been able to quickly move over to areas of opportunity, and deploy and redirect resources about COVID-19. We’ve been able to pivot our events, and we'll continue to have those events still going forward.

Question: A lot of people are now suddenly unable to just pop over to a co-worker’s office. With employees and contractors scattered around the planet, what have you learned about leading a team that can't physically interact?

"The technology tools have enabled that. We utilize Skype all the time and GoToMeeting, more recently, Zoom," Watt said. "For our interactions. For collaboration, which is still vital, we use Trello to do our project management and to have accessibility there. We're constantly having meetings. There’re more scheduled than in the previous world, where meetings may be more sporadic and unplanned. By doing planned meetings, there's fewer interruptions in the overall workday and ultimately productivity goes up.

“That's something I've also been hearing of late. People have found that by virtue of what they've been thrust into, they've actually overall been more productive. Versus being in the office, where there is a tremendous amount of interruption that just takes place. One of the really important pieces of what we've implemented, that is key in terms of communication, but also fun, is our internal intranet. We use Yammer, for the ability to share business ideas, learnings and personal updates keeps us all together.