Like some kind of global social experiment, the lockdown has given us all the opportunity to reflect.
It’s given me a rare moment to work on my agency Big Cat; what needs to change and what should stay the same.
I was always of the opinion that Google circa late 90s had it right. Keep people physically close, let knowledge and ideas flow by osmosis. If we keep the surface tension tight then less information would fall through the gaps.
It worked. We had comms sat behind creatives with digital folk sat opposite accounts and everyone working within feet of each other. Conversations overheard, flowed into people’s unconscious. Formal meetings were reduced. Strategy was activated more efficiently. Friendships were forged.
That all ended abruptly on 23rd March 2020. Almost two months later and we’re still navigating the new normal.
Looking after the wellbeing of your team is not only ethical, its essential to commercial success. This starts with culture, which has been high on my list since the beginning, nearly 20 years ago.
We knew that while many things will inevitably change, we should try to keep some things the same. In an attempt to maintain togetherness amongst the team we kept our weekly All Company meeting and our Friday afternoon, Wine & Wotsits, but moved them to Zoom. We were already collaborating on projects through Slack and Asana so work/pitches/briefs continued ‘as normal' albeit supported by the ubiquitous Zoom.
During the first month of lockdown feedback from the leadership team on morale was good. Things appeared to be great in my ad hoc check-ins with the rest of the Pride. However, I was still concerned about unspoken issues. Our solution was a wellbeing platform called Office Vibe, which tracks 10 measures from Wellness, Satisfaction and Happiness to Relationships with Managers and Peers, Alignment and Ambassadorship. These are combined to give an aggregated Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS). Staff are also asked regularly to give more detailed feedback, again all on the QT. Fluctuations and suggestions are discussed weekly at a senior level and we’re able to act quickly on specific issues.
About a month after lockdown there was a drop in Wellness and Happiness in the agency. Within a couple of weeks, we had launched House Cats, a weekly email with contributions from across the agency including recipes, TED Talks, exercise videos, Spotify playlists, and book reviews. The numbers bounced back quickly.
In navigating the new normal, we've learned new things, adopted new ways of working. Zoom has become a verb and a prefix. Things have undoubtedly changed but it would be a terrible shame if everything returned back to normal.