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From Office to Home in 24 Hours: The Ups and Downs of New Reality


180 Kingsday managing director Stephen Corlett reflects on the continuing changes on the industry during the Covid-19 outbreak

From Office to Home in 24 Hours: The Ups and Downs of New Reality

Like many, 180 Kingsday has had to manage the move of their entire agency from the office to home in a matter of hours. Here, MD Stephen Corlett reflects on what went right, what didn’t and what agencies are grappling with to make this new reality as seamless as possible for staff and clients. 

About ten days ago, it became apparent that the team of 180 Kingsday would be required to work from home. At that point, it wasn’t clear how many staff members would be working remotely, but we knew it would be a significant amount. By Friday 13th March, it was looking likely that we’d have to ask 50% of the team to stay home. By Sunday the 15th, it was everyone. 

So, how do you move nearly 120 people into their homes and not skip a beat? Here are five reflections on what happens, what goes right, what goes wrong, and what comes next. 

ABC - Always be communicating

Yes, we’re in the communications business, but as we all know, we’re sometimes not great at it. Especially not with each other. We make assumptions, rushing off a quick email with the question posed in the subject line, or dropping a mistyped WhatsApp to check that thing we needed to be done has in fact been done. Although not ideal it works, but in this new reality it doesn’t. Right now, how we communicate will be the difference between a good day and a bad day.

So, don’t assume - pick up the phone and check. Don’t reply with a terse response - walk around the house then read it aloud. And don’t manage by email - take the time to make it personal. Miscommunication has already created missteps for us; there’s no script for this and no communal coffee machine for us to gather around to thrash things out. We don’t know how long we’ll be apart, and so we have to commit to picking up that phone and staying close even in distance. 

Keep it simple

It’s easy to become obsessed with finding new ways of doing things. Yes, there’s more video conferencing, but this isn’t the time to try out a new project management platform that promises more efficient working. Everyone in your team is trying to make sense of the world, not just their to-do list. So keep it as simple as possible. Stick to the platforms you usually work in. If a team liked working in Whatsapp and Google Slides then continue with that. We spent the first 48 hours looking at all sorts of wonderful tools and then realised that most people are figuring out how to access the server remotely while writing briefs and managing the kids. Keep it simple. 

Good enough is good enough

It won’t be perfect, not straight away, and maybe not for a long time. So be ready to be happy with good enough. This isn’t about lowering standards; it’s about accepting that everyone is adjusting and you’ll be flying the plane while you build it for a time. So don’t worry about the stitching on the armrest today - just make sure the bloody thing flies.

It’s business as usual, even if it’s not

And yet … there’s also the undeniable truth that the business needs to keep going. For some of our clients remote working, working from home, twelve video calls a day is normal. Be ready to acknowledge that things are a bit weird for us right now, but for some clients, day to day work isn’t all that different. In addition, suddenly there are new opportunities emerging. And our culture and mindset around working in small, flat nimble teams means that clients are now needing our capabilities more than ever - move fast, work together, make decisions, make work. 

Not all heroes wear capes

Leadership comes in many forms. Management teams need to display a clear sense of direction, even if that means admitting things are changing rapidly. More importantly, you’ll find new leaders emerge, showing themselves in all sorts of ways - through their compassion, their empathy and their talent. It’s when you know that leadership doesn’t come from the top, but everywhere. In our experience, the most critical leaders will be found in the back office - the people who help ensure the functionality of the business. Primarily this means your IT, Office Admin and HR become the most vital, so they need clear direction and unlimited support. We were incredibly lucky with our team - they were simply incredible. Moving screens, getting UBERs to take edit suites across the city and ensure simple things like the catering and the office cleaning was managed. It’ll be the things that you take for granted every day that suddenly become something to worry about. The people who sort this stuff out are the heroes - don’t forget them. 

So what next? Well, keep up the good work, the compassion, the communication, the selflessness and the sense of camaraderie. Keep up the patience when things aren’t perfect and keep up the commitment to doing good work - the creative stuff that the clients are paying for. We’re ready to do business, but it’s been a monumental effort from everyone to make it so. 

The only thing left to say is the very best of luck. This won’t be forever, but it will be an important time when you and your team will learn a lot about each other - not least, the questionable decor of each other’s homes.  

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180 Amsterdam, Wed, 25 Mar 2020 13:07:39 GMT