For us, the initial disturbance of IT, secure working communications, shared web platforms and so forth, were sorted about 3 weeks prior to lockdown actually starting. So, like many businesses the practicalities were in place.
The realisation of a close team becoming distant souls working apart, yet trying to stay together, was considered in part too. We organised 3 social or team informal Zoom meets every week, something we still do, with Friday afternoon drinks at 4.30pm as our way to all be together virtually when we can’t in person.
In the midst of the last round of business unusual, we and our client partners around the world pressed on through with this virtual way of working. Running strategic workshops, creating new campaigns and delivering digital solutions for our clients, wherever they are.
The gap in between the last lockdown and this one has given us the opportunity to step back and see what’s happening. We, I’m sure like many other businesses, are evolving rapidly. Just like nature evolves ensuring natural selection, deciding on which species live or die based upon how they can adapt to the changing conditions, so do we.
For me, the realisation that while agencies like us can be more agile than many encumbered businesses, the shift from ‘bricks and mortar’ is a pill that would, in any normal circumstance, be a hard one to swallow, is now not.
Instead of being an agency of people in a building, we are an agency of people connected by the grace of Tim Berners-Lee and Zoom, using platforms and new tools to ensure we’re always connected, sharing and working efficiently. We have shifted from ‘bricks and mortar’ to a globally connected online business operating around the clock for our international client base, almost without realising it. We work as efficiently with our Asia team in Hong Kong as we do with our own in the UK, with a small issue of time difference but it has demonstrated to us the power and actually, the convenience of being an online team. For us, it’s working.
A further demonstration of our adjustment is how few of us actually returned to the office post-lockdown 1.0. Because it was working for us, our clients and our team’s work/life balance too, the thought of returning to the office has, for most, been squarely put out of the mind. Of course, it’s not for everyone. I, like many, still miss the buzz of human interaction however, I find myself not being able to hold a ‘normal’ telephone conversation without realising something’s missing, namely seeing my counterpart at the end of the line.
Nothing truly replaces human on human interaction when it comes to any working culture but the model is working. Going forward, I think that human capital needs investment to ensure a shared positive culture to keep a distant working team very much together.
That said, what the last lockdown has proved is that though we’re tangible and real at heart, we are now in the new age of the truly connected but virtual business. From bricks and mortar we have become a strong online agency for this age of business unusual, preparing us for Lockdown 2.0. How the second one further shapes us and the way we all work, remains to be seen but we’re excited by what we will do and learn.
Whatever you do, stay safe & connected.
Director Strategy & Innovation