Yanni Hufnagel Knows Communication is Key With Remote Workers

There’s nothing new about working remotely, but a shift to an entirely remote workforce for an unforeseen period of time in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing businesses to implement

new strategies to ensure that communication remains smooth and workflow seamless during these uncertain times. Yanni Hufnagel, Founder and CEO of beverage startup Lemon Perfect is committed to maintaining a connection with his employees during the challenging days and months ahead – and using a number of digital tools to keep projects moving forward and responses timely. At times like these, Hufnagel advises, communication is key. 

Regularly scheduled meetings, preferably by video conference, provide needed structure to the workweek for remote employees and present opportunities for employees to receive quick responses to issues that may be arising, as well as a needed dose of face time. Due to pervasive high anxiety levels and various stressors impacting workers at this moment, it’s ideal, Yanni Hufnagel has found, to begin these meetings with a less structured moment of check-in, where employees can share how they are feeling. That ability to just connect and engage in casual discussion before launching into the meeting’s agenda can help employees feel connected and valued and provide that necessary human interaction that’s in short supply with mandated stay-at-home orders.

And there are other digital tools that are particularly useful right now for discrete groups within a company working on team projects remotely – like Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Asana. Whichever platform is deemed the best fit for a particular company, Yanni Hufnagel recommends that there be ample opportunity for employees to learn how to use it. Companies can share available online tutorials and institute trial runs where employees can work out any issues with a platform and ask questions. If one worker is well-versed in a project management platform, consider designating him or her the point person. A platform is only as useful as the buy-in of the participants, Hufnagel notes. Providing ample opportunities for employees to learn the ropes will pave the way for successful adoption.

Remember that nuance can be easily lost in typed communications, whether that’s on Slack, or via email or text. In other words, communications can unintentionally come across as blunt or stern without the benefit of eye contact and body language cues. That means managers have to double down on enthusiasm and positivity in their communications to remote employees, advises Yanni Hufnagel.

Yanni Hufnagel Lemon Perfect

Hufnagel founded Lemon Perfect as a healthy alternative to existing high-sugar, high-calorie sports drinks with their added artificial colors and flavors. He wanted increasingly health-conscious consumers to have more beverage options and noted that many were beginning to drink lemon water, and loved the taste and benefits, but not the inconvenience. The beverage he created – Lemon Perfect – is a USDA-certified organic lemon drink from lemons hand-picked in Southern California and cold-pressed using high-pressure processing instead of heat to maintain the lemons’ many nutritional health benefits. Available in four fun flavors – Just Lemon, Blueberry Acai, Dragon Fruit Mango, and Peach Raspberry – the drinks replace lost electrolytes and provide needed hydration with only the best ingredients. And Lemon Perfect meets other strict certification standards as well—it is certified vegan, gluten-free, and non-GMO Project verified. The company is also a member of 1% for the Planet, contributing at least 1% of annual sales to environmental causes.

Prior to founding his company, Hufnagel was a former basketball player and university-level basketball coach at schools like the University of Nevada Reno, University of California Berkeley, Vanderbilt University, and Harvard University. He brings high enthusiasm and positivity to his role leading his company and takes every opportunity to inspire his employees and recommit them to the company’s mission: “Democratize drinkable wellness.”

With a remote workforce, particularly in a time of such heightened anxiety and uncertainty, it’s important to find those opportunities to reconnect employees with the greater mission, Hufnagel says. This is a time where consistent, positive internal messaging is just as critical as the messaging going out to consumers via online ads and social media posts. Lemon Perfect is a beverage company, but it is also a wellness company, dedicated to health and the environment. Hufnagel is using this moment to remind employees of the importance of their larger mission – to provide healthy alternatives to sugary sodas, sports drinks, and juices, and reaffirm the importance of healthy living as people are self-isolating and looking for new ways to maintain their commitments to healthy eating and drinking.  

Of course, remote work still requires accountability. The best way to help remote employees stay on task is to set reasonable expectations, work with them individually to make sure they understand what is expected, and to provide opportunities for regular check-ins to ensure that everyone is managing well and meeting small goals. Daily check-ins can be incredibly effective, Hufnagel notes. Even just a 15-minute morning check-in to run through upcoming deliverables and gauge how employees are doing can provide a steady compass to guide the company forward through uncertain times.

And focusing on those deliverables, as opposed to more rigid schedules, is essential. Beyond the scheduled check-ins and virtual meetings, employees need a great deal of flexibility right now. Many are managing to work from home with children and need to work at odd hours and in shorter bursts to get their work accomplished. It’s important that CEOs and managers lead with compassion.

Yanni Hufnagel makes sure that his employees know they are valued and he has built a workplace that prioritizes openness and transparency. Bringing a perspective honed from his years coaching basketball teams, Hufnagel wants his employees, even if they are working remotely, to feel that they are a valued member of the Lemon Perfect team, and to know that the job of getting through the challenging months ahead will be a shared effort.

About Lemon Perfect
Lemon Perfect is a naturally refreshing, zero sugar cold-pressed lemon water with antioxidants and electrolytes. Certified organic and full of flavor, Lemon Perfect is widely considered by industry insiders to be one of the most scalable, exciting and innovative emerging beverage concepts in the marketplace.

About Yanni Hufnagel

Yanni Hufnagel
Yanni Hufnagel

Yanni Hufnagel is the Founder & CEO of Lemon Perfect, a naturally refreshing, zero sugar cold-pressed lemon water with essential antioxidants and hydrating electrolytes. Certified organic and full of flavor, Lemon Perfect – named “Best New Product” at BevNET’s Best of 2019 Awards – is widely considered by industry insiders to be one of the most scalable, exciting and innovative emerging beverage concepts in the marketplace.

Founded in 2017 and backed by an extraordinary team of investors, the company’s mission is to democratize drinkable wellness by making Lemon Perfect accessible for anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Before starting Lemon Perfect, Hufnagel served as an assistant men’s college basketball coach, with stops at Nevada, California, Vanderbilt, Harvard, and Oklahoma. Hufnagel earned the reputation as one of the most dogged recruiters in America, consistently lauded for signing nationally-ranked recruiting classes. In Hufnagel’s 10 years coaching college basketball, his teams reached the NCAA Tournament six times.

Connect with Yanni Hufnagel: Crunchbase | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Angel.co | Instagram