Being available to clients if they need us out of hours meant we were already set up to work remotely whenever we needed to, but working from home for more than a day is a brave new world for most of us. We’re a sociable team and value being in the office together to have people to discuss ideas with, to overhear what our colleagues are up to, and to generally enjoy each other’s company. That said, I’m quite talkative so I’m sure the others are also enjoying the peace!
Having remote access to the Maxim server and Office 365 meant we were able to begin working from home the week before the lockdown was announced. While those first few days were strange, the fact we’d taken the decision as a team meant we had control over our own actions, which is a reassuringly empowering thing in these strange times.
This helped give a sense of purpose to those early days: we can’t cure covid-19 but we can take steps to keep ourselves and our colleagues safe.
The biggest change to the way we now interact is our use of Microsoft Teams. We already had this app but as a close-knit team we chose to wander into each other’s offices rather than quietly type away in faceless chats. Nowadays those faceless chats have replaced the buzz of the office and become a practical tool for quickfire questions and “gentle nags” to check the status of various tasks.
These are supported by video calls, mostly on Teams but also using Zoom: it took no time for us to realise the importance of having access to unlimited length video calls and both of these platforms have been invaluable. We have team catch ups as regularly as possible, as well as using video calls for meetings and one-to-one chats with clients. Other video activities have included attending online networking, workshops and webinars (for the latter as a participant, chairperson and audience).
We’ve also started The Maxim Arms – a virtual pub – on Zoom as a way of keeping in touch with furloughed staff and various others. It’s a great way to end a busy week at our dining tables.
No one knows what a post-lockdown world will be like. We can do our best to review the possibilities and plan ahead so we shape the future, rather than being led by it, but the only thing we know for certain at this point is that we’ve taken the collective decision that we won’t be going back to our offices as a team any time soon. Which means more of the above in terms of remote working and video calls.
It’s highly likely video calls will become a permanent offering when it comes to meetings, because of the time saving that comes from not needing to travel and the ease of having everything you need to hand. However, video calls should never completely replace meetings because they lose all the important added extras: the pause by the door to catch up on x, y, or z; the brief chat about other interests that help to build personal relationships; and any number of other apparently insignificant activities that can happen between arrival on site and the start of your meeting.
As for other lockdown activities that we’ll continue to implement in the future, we’ve been offering clients some good alternative solutions to face-to-face events that I’m certain will be a welcome addition to our long-term event management and public engagement offering, alongside public-facing activities of course.
This wouldn’t be an article about working from home if it didn’t pay tribute to the co-workers who have had “the office” thrust upon them.
Office Dog Alice was the most experienced when it came to putting up with workers, but there’s a whole menagerie of animals keeping us company while we work. They may not offer the same support and advice as our human colleagues, but I’m sure we’re all grateful of the odd five minutes with our furry or feathered friends.
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