It has been without a doubt an unprecedented time for everyone in our industry and community, especially businesses and organizations forced to transition to working from home (WFH). As we try to navigate this seemingly new normal, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to upend daily lives and routines forcing all of us to get creative about how we service our clients and keep work cultures intact in a virtual world.
With crisis management being a part of our DNA, The DeBerry Group has always prided itself on the ability to pivot on a dime when needed, to truly be proactive and not reactive for our clients. Last week, we had to look introspectively and put our crisis management skills to the test, for ourselves.
After one full week of working from home, we wanted to share what’s worked, what hasn’t and some additional lessons learned through the transition process in the hopes it can help others transition to a work-from-home office environment.
What didn’t work
One of the first things we anticipated early on was the reality of just how different it is to work without the normal equipment and tools that come with all the office’s bells and whistles needed for high-level production. Some of the early adjustments our team faced included:
- Adjusting to a smaller screen or going from two monitors to one.
- Accessing files from our server remotely.
- Sitting for hours at a time in a non-ergonomic chair not designed for office work.
- The inability to have in-person team meetings to bounce off ideas and strategize.
- Finding a suitable workspace at home or having to share one with a spouse, pets, and for most, kids at home.
What we learned
We learned the importance of having this conversation early before sending anyone home to work. Monitors and entire computer equipment were offered and available to use for their home workstations. We set up and tested remote access so that every file needed was available and never lost. We trained and set up our productivity software for mobile access. To add to the chaos, we even had two new hires come to the office on Monday for a half-day of onboarding to make sure they were prepared and comfortable working from home. Here are just a few things they and the rest of our team learned this week:
- With the stress of the system during week one, our conference calls were not connecting as normal, and we had to find other solutions.
- Keeping up with the rituals and routines of a typical work schedule proved to be very important. Without it, working from home can feel like being in a bubble with no sense of time.
- We know they’re comfy, but it’s best to ditch the PJs when working from home. No need to go all out with a power suit, but wearing normal, comfortable office attire sets the vibe for a ready-to-work attitude.
- Dedicate your workspace to one area away from distractions.
- Agree on a schedule between you and your spouse if you have a shared workspace.
- Ever wished there was an excuse to set up a traffic stop for all the foot traffic that comes with home life? Now we had an excuse. Boundaries were set with family members and roommates during working hours and make-shift signs on doors notified our availability.
What absolutely worked
In our previous blog, we talked about the importance of communication when dealing with the public about COVID-19. Interoffice communication without the actual office is especially important as well. Here’s the team’s rundown of what worked during Week 1:
- Optimizing existing productivity tools like Asana, Microsoft Teams, and Slack helped maintain an open flow of communication with clients and colleagues. This was much easier than trying to get approvals via email or text.
- Video and phone conferencing helped with clarity and allowed us to check in with each other. We were able to share stories about how we were managing during the week, plus there was always the fun possibility of someone’s child or pet making a surprise cameo in the background during a video chat.
- Messaging software not only kept the communication lines open about deadlines and expectations, but it also kept morale up as we shared all the latest memes.
What was key
During Week 1 of WFH, we were hellbent on keeping the work just as productive as any other week. This is serious work done in serious times. But we also know that without our culture intact, we don’t exist. We are The DeBerry Group. We are creatives, producers, strategists, leaders, and problem solvers. But without the joy of who we are and what we do, we can’t deliver on any of those things for our clients. So, here are a few non-negotiables that we held onto during WFH:
- Our agency thrives on the energy our personalities bring to any situation, so Microsoft Teams video chats have been an enormous tool in keeping interoffice ideation and team connection ever-present.
- Sharing funny comments on Slack or a pic of our Chief Snuggle Officer, Abby, or any other of our pets was an intentional act that kept the communications from just being tasks and approvals.
- And ending Week 1 with a virtual staff “happy” hour was another necessary touchpoint of our culture. It is important to keep your team virtually connected, via video, to check in as a team, share our feelings, and take a moment to laugh with each other, which is even more important now during these truly unprecedented times.
By no means has this been easy
Starting a conversation around what-if scenarios early even when it’s unknown helps us navigate this uncharted territory. And, we will continue to have these what-if conversations to keep adjusting as needed. We are ready for week two and will keep talking, adjusting, planning and sharing.
Above all, we continue to have our community in our thoughts as we all try to keep it together and get through it, together.