WFH has become as popular an acronym as WTF during the COVID-19 pandemic (disclaimer: no scientific research was conducted to support this claim), and it’s interesting to see so many companies adopt work-from-home practices so rapidly when GFM and CenterTable team members have been working remotely, at their convenience, for nearly two decades.
As part of the work-life blend we practice at our agencies, we’ve always had the philosophy that team members should be able to get their work done from wherever they need to, as long as client expectations and deadlines are met. Over the years, that has meant that work gets done from home, from the coffee shop, from the soccer field, from many airplanes and even from the chair at the hair salon. And while our team members are adept at working remotely, COVID-19 has provided us with an opportunity to keep learning and growing. I’d like to share three of the things we’ve found invaluable during these trying times: flexibility, creativity and vulnerability.
WFH conditions vary greatly from home to home. Some team members are quarantined alone with no pets or other distractions, while others have two adults working from the same home with three children to “teach” while schools are physically closed. Then add in barking dogs, grocery deliveries, construction outside your open window (it is getting warmer and not everyone has air conditioning), WiFi disruptions, random SONOS interruptions, etc., etc., etc. Flexibility is the key to productivity. Not everyone can be expected to sit in their home office in front of their computer from 9am to 5pm. Instead, team members need to find the times and spaces within their homes that work for them so they can be creative, present and productive. That may involve three different time chunks during a day or a late start or a really long work day followed by a really short work day. It might include taking walks while on a conference call or starting dinner while listening to a webinar. As long as we’re communicating with each other and – again – meeting client expectations and deadlines, these variances in schedules make COVID-19 work life much more manageable.
There’s a lot of talk these days about the “new normal,” yet no one really knows what that will look like post-COVID-19. In the meantime, we’re creating new normals every day. When Child Abuse Prevention Month (CAPM) has always relied on an in-person rally at the state capitol, how do you still bring hundreds of people together to share this important message? Even though our video production team couldn’t be in the same physical location to film CAPM spokespeople, we were able to help coach those leaders on their personal filming techniques and pivot quickly to produce a virtual event via Facebook Live that included the Governor of Colorado, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services and various partners and community members sharing their stories with hundreds of people who joined us live from throughout the state of Colorado.
And how do you counsel your nonprofit client partner when their annual fundraiser – a live country music concert – can no longer take place because of social distancing and Colorado’s stay-at-home order? A team of 12 team members jumped in to quickly capitalize on the fact that we had a captive audience at home and worked with country artist Lindsay Ell and her managers and promoters, media partners including KYGO-FM and 5280 Magazine, and numerous generous sponsors, and produced an online concert two weeks later from five different locations — complete with live and silent auctions. In just 75 minutes, the broadcast reached a live audience of 53,000, and raised more than $165,000 for Tennyson Center to support Colorado’s most vulnerable children.
Just because something can’t look exactly like it has looked in the past, it doesn’t mean that the goal cannot be achieved. It’s important to step back and ask, “What are we trying to accomplish?” And then find new and creative ways to accomplish those goals. Now is the time to be innovative and try new things without being so focused on little things that might not go exactly as planned. Who knows what will work?
And when things don’t work, it’s OK to admit it and talk about it. That includes everything from that big new idea for a client to the seeds you planted with your kids as part of their lesson plan to the sourdough starter that was going to change your baking life. It’s imperative that we support one another as we all struggle through this pandemic together. The relief that comes from knowing you’re not the only one struggling is palpable and good for the soul. There will be good days and bad days. Good moments and bad moments. But we’re all going to get through this together and come out stronger on the other side — with some silver linings to boot.
From my perspective, the lessons we’re learning while working from home are valuable ones that we can take with us into the “new normal.” Let’s ask ourselves: Does everyone really need to be in the office every day to be productive? Why is 9 to 5 considered “work hours”? Can we continue to use technology to stay connected? Are there better ways to keep ourselves safe and well?
I realize we all (at least at GFM and CenterTable) miss seeing our co-workers “live,” but I hope everyone takes the time to rethink what office life looks like as stay-at-home orders begin to shift to safer-at-home orders and/or get lifted altogether. To not have learned valuable lessons during this pandemic would be a lost opportunity.