By Alex Wares - 13th May 2020
As we approach what feels the eight millionth week of lockdown in the UK I have taken some time to reflect on what we have achieved as a team in the last couple of months and what the challenges and learnings have been.
We are fortunate as a B2B agency for a number of reasons. Our work (on the whole) lends itself to remote working, we are in a resilient sector, the team is filled with capable smart talent and we have some amazing clients who are willing to adapt and be brave with their marketing decisions.
Like many business, the first week or so was spent getting the operational infrastructure and management processes in place. It was relatively straightforward to ensure that teams had their tech – Macs, monitors or additional Zoom accounts etc – in place, and that there were regular cadences for team meetings and one to ones.
But then it was into the ‘new normal’ and we have had to adapt in ways that we would never have considered previously. As a ‘people business’ our talent is our most precious asset and it continues to be critically important that we nurture and take care of our colleagues.
How have we done this? The first thing we need to acknowledge is that everyone is different and will be affected by the challenges of home working in different ways. There are personality types who will thrive being locked away at home and then there are others who will miss the hustle and bustle and strength that they draw from interacting with others. Individual personal circumstances will also play a massive part in how people adapt and it is incumbent on us as business leaders to try to be sensitive to people’s circumstances and provide support without being clumsy or appearing to single people out.
In the early weeks of lockdown it felt like there had never been more to do, more Zoom calls to attend and diaries stacked full of half-hour appointments. To counter overwork and burn out we have encouraged people to stick to office hours wherever possible, to take breaks for lunch, get out to enjoy the spring weather and be disciplined to try to finish at 5.30 most days. Personally speaking, this has helped massively – disconnecting from my laptop and calls schedule helps maintain a break between work and personal downtime.
Other initiatives we have instigated within the team or the wider business are lunchtime quizzes, lunch and learn sessions and Friday Zoom drinks with our CEO, Chris Bagnall, who has been great at updating the agency on where we are with the business and general openness to try to help put people’s minds at rest. For the more fitness focused amongst us we have also started a Transmission live online training session one lunchtime a week provided by JTT Muay Thai. This is a combination of HIIT and Thai boxercise class which has built up a fair following of those willing to sacrifice chilling with a sandwich for burpees and boxing one day a week.
Our client services team is excellent at strategic agile thinking, helping clients adapt to a challenging situation and, as a result, the volume of work coming through the agency has to date been stable and is actually growing as we move into the summer. We have not needed to consider furlough (or worse) within client services – conversely we are looking at workload and considering at what point we will need to grow the team again. I know not every agency can say the same and it occurs to me that once a semblance of normality returns, when potential candidates consider a new employer they will ask the question ‘how did you treat your staff during the Covid crisis?’. It is too early to claim too much on that front but I would like to think that in future we will be able to hold our heads up high when posed that question.
So, what have we learned? Our client services team and the wider business is remarkably resilient and adaptable to a working from home environment. Where we may have expected challenges, perhaps in more collaborative disciplines we have seen some consistent examples of amazing creativity which has delighted clients. Where we might have expected a bumpy time in terms of how teams collaborate we have on the whole seen a seamless transition to digital-only communication. We know that different people will struggle at different times and that is ok, it is our job to do our best to support them and each other.
From a leadership perspective it has been important to maintain openness and transparency the regular frank and calm communication from our CEO to the teams has helped significantly in keeping the business up to date and helping to put people’s minds at rest. Other key learning has been be human, be visible and wherever possible try to keep things fun even more so than under usual circumstances.
In terms of clients there has been a remarkably consistent positive approach to marketing investment. Yes, tactics have changed but long-term objectives remain and it has been exciting to advise and work with the clients it is our privilege to serve.
One of the saddest things has been having to say goodbye to colleagues who have moved on to new opportunities during spring 2020 and it has also been strange adapting to welcoming those who have joined the team at the same time without the usual face-to-face contact and onboarding process. I am certain though that once we return to the office we will have a massive send off at Transmission’s local, The Eagle (and wherever we end up later 😉), for all those who have left the team in the last few months in true Transmission style.
And as we now cautiously, optimistically consider how and when we may return to normality, this experience has taught me that we have the best agency client services team in the world – bar none! I am incredibly grateful to them for their hard work, resilience, agility and determination and I consider it a privilege to be part of this team.