18th March 2020

A new approach for unprecedented times

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Lauren Swarbrick

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As we enter these unprecedented times, it’s difficult not to worry about what the future holds. Unfortunately, no amount of worrying is going to hold back the tide! So we must brace ourselves, support each other, keep a positive mental attitude and look for new ways of living and working. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll come out the other side stronger for it.

Coronavirus has already caused unimaginable loss, but we’re also seeing tiny glimmers of hope - random acts of kindness, a reduction in pollution, an improved sense of community, and the normalisation of remote working to name but a few. If some positivity can come out of this tragedy, it’s worth working towards.

In light of the latest advice issued by the government regarding Covid-19, this week we gave all of our team members the option to work from home, effective immediately. With this in mind and with the potential of a mandatory studio shut down on the horizon, yesterday the full team ran a successful ‘working from home’ day. This has ensured that each team member has the necessary technology, equipment, processes and tools in place, to enable agile and secure remote working.

Being part of a close knit, highly collaborative team, it’s hard not being in the same room as each other. Here’s some of the tactics we have adopted to make working from home ‘work’ and be as seamless, productive and enjoyable as possible.

Environment and equipment
We have encouraged our team to set up a proper ‘work-station’ at home; a room or area that is reserved for working and that has their normal work creature comforts, including their work equipment (even as far as their studio chair). Working on the sofa may be fun for a day, but having a productive, appropriate and comfortable space to work in is vital for maintaining focus, and keeping your mind and body (particularly your back) healthy over extended periods.

One of the hardest things about working from home is a lack of structure. Humans crave routine and a change in day to day habits can be disorienting and demotivating. We’ve set up a start and end of the day full-team video chat to ‘frame’ the day. As well as marking when work begins and ends all together, it’s an opportunity to go through what everyone is working on that day and make sure that there are no blockers.

Down time
Working remotely can be isolating, especially for people who live alone, which some of our team do. We have set up a team #coffeetime channel on Slack where anyone can pop in for a chat and catch up throughout the day. Like the metaphorical office watercooler, the #coffeetime channel is reserved for casual chatter, not work related discussion, to give us all some light relief and to let off steam between sprints of work.

We’re a digital first company and make use of digital tools for project management, file sharing and collaboration as part of our daily lives in the studio. Our ‘can’t live withouts’ are Harvest, Asana, Sketch, Slack and Google (Drive and Hangouts). As these are all Cloud based, it's been a seamless transition which has made things easier.

As I’ve mentioned above, we already use Slack to communicate, not only within the agency but with some of our clients as well. This allows us to discuss and get / give answers in real time, without conversations getting lost in huge email chains. Slack also offers super easy to use video call and screen sharing functionality, which is great for collaborating on joint projects, which is fundamental for an agency like ours. Clear and fast communication is the lynchpin of agency life and without Slack, we’d be truly lost!

Virtual meetings
We have already informed our clients that effective immediately, we are limiting face to face meetings to those strictly necessary for the successful delivery of live projects. Instead, we have moved to video conference meetings for both existing client and new business development meetings. There’s nothing quite like being in the same room to build rapport and generate chemistry, but video conferencing is a close second and modern tools like Google Hangouts and Zoom really do make a difference.

We recently completed an 8-week course on Mindfulness to help us better tackle high-stress situations, recalibrate and rebalance, too. Putting this into practice is going to be especially important now, with those that are self-isolating and working from home, to keep their balance and stay positive. We’d thoroughly recommend taking a few moments and allowing yourself time for breathing space, and to reduce stress in these unsure times. There are apps such as Headspace, Mindfulness: Finding Peace, Calm and a whole plethora of YouTube videos, too - all of which offer guided meditations.

At the moment, it’s unclear how things will pan out, but one of our strengths here in the UK is battening down the hatches and weathering the storm. Let’s continue to share resources and knowledge, remain connected in new ways, look out for those around us and support each other through all of it.

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