In common with most people, it is hard to recall a more extraordinary period in my life. 3 weeks ago, we were packing up the office and closing the door for an indeterminate time. Something that was unthinkable a month or even a week earlier. The uncertainty of how to run the business at distance, manage and support the team and handle the scale of upheaval that WFH brings was still to come.
In the first week of the lockdown mild panic ensued. Some clients ran for the hills, others negotiated pauses in their contracts and newly won business delayed starting. We had no idea on the ultimate effect on the business. We could only drive forward giving maximum support to our clients whilst looking towards the horizon for the growth we had taken for granted.
Week 2 began tentatively, daily life started to find its rhythm. For me the routine quickly became having an early start to maximise my daily exercise allowance with Annie. Then it was coffee and down to work. Days now involved endless Microsoft Team meetings and the horrid novelty of them started to wear off and they have become a new way of life. With a business heavily focused on consumer brands which are mostly doing well in the crisis and a strong digital and social media team being at the forefront of many client’s ‘must haves’, the business started to assume a positive momentum.
By Week 3, our previous office life became an island that was disappearing fast. That does not mean to say WFH is a better way of working, for certain it is not, in my opinion. All the teams report how much time is being spent on video meetings, its as if people imagine that there is more time for this interaction when the opposite is true. Similarly, doing creative thinking at distance is incredibly difficult. But we are managing in a world not of our own making.
Overall, the business seems to have stabilised and we are starting to see growth once more. Do I think we can assume that the crisis for the agency has passed? No. It is too soon to say if we can come out of our own intensive care unit. What we are seeing is a realism from clients based on accepting there will be a new ‘normal’ and the wise ones will plan for it so that they get the best start when our doors and windows are flung open again.
I have learned a few things from this exile. At the start I spent too long on the 3 ‘w’s – working, walking and worrying. Not surprising based on the speed at which all our worlds came crashing down. It inevitably took time for sense and acceptance to penetrate through the layers. However, there was a brief moment, when I toyed with the idea of replacing the 3 ‘w’s with wine, whisky and wodka (except I hate whisky!)
What Week 4 brings I have no idea, no predictions but also no expectations. This seems to be the most sensible way forward. I do have one piece of advice which I recommend. Wherever you work at home – desk, kitchen table, dressing table, etc. – at the end of everyday gather up EVERYTHING and put it away so that you do not live surrounded by your work stuff. Give your head and heart room to breathe. Or just, for once, observe the clear desk policy – you know who you are!!
Happy Easter all.