With the relaxation of lockdown measures and the prospect that I might be able to see my colleagues again in the flesh at some point in the not too distant future (exciting!) I’m reflecting on an unbelievable, (dare I say it) unprecedented few weeks. I joined the agency mid-November 2019, back in those heady days when global pandemics hadn’t been a thing for at least a century. It felt very surreal gathering our belongings and heading out of the office in March, saying to colleagues ‘so.. see you.. soon… or not?! Who knows!’ And here we are, end of July, still working from home having been plunged into 100% remote working overnight. I thought this would be a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned, as well as what the experience has reconfirmed for me.
We are highly adaptable
At the beginning of March we were an agency with a buzzy open plan Kings Cross office that always felt like a hive of purposeful activity. By mid-March we’d closed our doors and were readjusting to working from our kitchen tables feeling somewhat stunned by what was happening. It was a challenging transition to make but we’ve done it. Brilliant creative work has been produced, clients have been taken care of, and as an agency we’ve pulled together and collaborated. I think we go forward with a greater sense of confidence around this, knowing that we have the tech and working practices in place to support remote working. There is really nothing that replaces being physically present with others, particularly when collaborating on a task or project. That said, we all typically lose productivity through the constant distractions that inevitably come with being office based. I believe as we go forward and navigate the complexities of operating an office space with social distancing regulations we will likely evolve towards optimal working practices (e.g. a combination of remote and office working) which presents a great opportunity.
We’re not all in the same boat
We made it a priority at the agency when we went into lockdown to really understand what each individual was dealing with. We didn’t do that via a survey, instead setting up time to talk to each person so that we could understand the nuances and how we could help. It’s been impressive to see the agency’s caring approach in action, and it pays dividends in high levels of engagement and commitment. Our team constantly goes above and beyond in their efforts.
Parents and carers need our support
Parents and carers have been hugely impacted by the lockdown and we need to provide them with flexibility, support and understanding– to adjust to working from home is one thing, doing it with a toddler and a baby is another matter entirely. Parents in the agency have been creative, conscientious and productive in spite of what they’re dealing with in their home life. As an agency we quickly rewrote policies, providing them with additional benefits to help them navigate through this insanely challenging time.
Flexible working can benefit everyone
Of course we know this, but it has become even more apparent through the Covid crisis. For the sake of our mental health and wellbeing it’s become harder to fit into a rigid 9am-5.30pm day with an hour for lunch. Whilst for the sake of effective team working having core hours and consistent work patterns is incredibly helpful, we are people, not robots, and sometimes having a 2 hour break to go for a long walk or 30 minutes in the afternoon to meditate or chat to a friend works wonders in maintaining our energy levels and productivity.
We’re wired for connection
This Brene Brown phrase feels apt to use. We set up our Microsoft Teams collaboration space to enable social chats, sharing of gifs and jokes, and weekend stories with photos. We created fun activities to play like ‘Through the Keyhole’ in which we took a photo of an area of our homes with some strategically placed clues as to our identity, and our 23art challenge saw us recreating famous works of art (think David Hockney’s ‘A Bigger Splash’ via some random kitchen items). A high point was Mental Health Awareness week during which we nominated each other (with a few words about what we appreciated about that person) to make a random act of kindness. It created a great sense of community and a feel-good buzz. I certainly feel that these moments of fun and personal connection have enabled us all to get to know each other so much better, and have been a lifeline at a challenging time.
I work with great people, for a great agency
I don’t mean to be schmaltzy, but it’s true. I’ve ‘been around the block’ enough now to know a great working culture when I see one. What rose to the surface through the lockdown was kindness and care, and having navigated this unique experience together, I believe we are an even stronger agency.