If you’ve been reading our updates you’ll know we packed up our workstations, saluted one another from a safe distance and officially went remote on 16/03. And we really haven’t missed a beat with our clients.
But going from a highly-interactive, collaborative creative studio environment to suddenly hanging at home in front of screens hasn’t been all smiles. Sure – the fridge is closer (blessing and curse), we can personally guard our own caches of toilet paper and pants are optional. But when you’re accustomed to churning out your best work in a certain environment, a big shift is not always easy. And we’re not alone. The exodus from the office has begun with even big-four consulting firm EY requiring from all staff work from home. As of this writing, the Australian government has yet to ban office workers from coming in and many organisations are hanging on to their office staff whether for lack of infrastructure or lack of trust.
No matter where your own company stands on office work for the moment, the most likely scenario is that we’re all going to have to make the transition soon. And that means being ready to effectively communicate, manage your staff and continue to produce remotely; all whilst keeping madness at bay and remembering to change your tee shirt.
Make time for socialisation
We have an awesome culture at Kick. We love each other to bits (most of the time) and spend a lot of our day emotionally investing in each other with training, personal discussion and mucking around. We all love language so our chatting is fun and has a lot to do with our creative process. When we first went remote, one of the challenges was maintaining that interactive vibe. Because it was our norm, a lot of us expected that it would just carry on as usual via email, messenger and video chats. And we were dead wrong.
As it turns out, despite being able to link up virtually easier than ever before in history, the distance was an issue and it changed the way we talked to each other those first few days. We became hyper-efficient, almost robotic and it was easy to forget you were talking to another person. Our Zoom chats were even weird. There’s a funny kind of detachment felt when video conferencing with someone you’re so accustomed to plonking down next to for a chat. We knew it had to change, so our fearless leader Lou gathered us up and forced us to talk about our feelings.
I cringe at the thought of these kind of scheduled ventings of emotion but it was exactly what we needed. At home there’s a million factors complicating your already complicated job and how you’re each dealing with all that needs a space for discussion. From that cathartic explosion (I’m overdramatising), we formulated a strategy including chat breaks, phone calls out of partners’ earshot and booking in one-on-one lunch catchups. It’s an ongoing, ever-evolving strategy and I recommend remaining flexible with your own people. Keep track of interactions if you need to and ensure your leadership is taking time with everyone in the organisation.
Have a lunch and learn
No one knows how long the COVID-19 crisis will persist so uniting with staff and keeping individual teams working together is going to be a deciding factor in the long-term health of your organisation. If you’re a manager, invite your team to attend a webinar together during lunch and follow it with a debrief to hear what everyone took away from the talk. Individuals need to be reminded that their opinions and unique perspectives matter and are part of the organisation’s DNA.
And you don’t need to be a manager to tee up a lunch. Make it a point to invite a different colleague to a virtual lunch (real food, of course) at least twice a week to ensure everyone is travelling ok.