As we begin to contemplate a return to working in the office, we asked some of the team at brandformula to reflect on their WFH experience over the last 15 months. In this two-part group discussion, we asked them for their thoughts on this unique period and their expectations for the future of working both at home and in the City.
Part 1: Q&A
The chat below features insights from:
🔴 Martin Wiggins, CEO
🟢 Carl Eastop, Operations Director
🟠 Nick Patchitt, Creative Services Director
🟡 Sarah Bean, Account Director
🟣 Helena Martin, Content Manager
🔴 Martin: The key thing I have found is the need to support a wider group of people involved in making the decision on any project. This has meant being involved in more calls than before lockdown and taking the time to outline ideas and the ways that they are executed to people who might not have previously been involved. So, the ‘how’ is just about spending more time with people.
🟡 Sarah: I’ve undertaken a lot of virtual calls which actually has worked well. Being at home meant I could be more responsive to clients based in Europe (as I wasn’t commuting) and I could be more flexible when contacting clients in Australia and Canada.
🟢 Carl: I had literally just overseen the move to a cloud-based server and Office365 when the first lockdown was imposed, so fortunately that meant it was a relatively smooth transition for the team to work from home; so, more by luck than judgement, things like Teams meetings and file sharing were integrated almost immediately and helped us deal with clients remotely in the most effective manner.
🟣 Helena: Fortunately, a combination of the nature of digital/content marketing and my existing relationships with our clients made the shift to remote working relatively seamless. Aside from the obvious transitions to virtual meetings with both clients and our internal teams, the main way I’ve had to adapt has been to make an increased effort to keep on top of content trends and the increase in focus on digital channels as a result of the lack of face-to-face interactions.
🟠 Nick: Weirdly, the main clients I have worked for in the past year have been mainly US-based or European, so it has actually been a fairly smooth transition. In fact, Teams calls have become universally standard, compared to pre-Pandemic times, and presenting and progressing creative work with such clients has been pretty painless. Good wi-fi is essential though!
🟢 Carl: Communication and not being able to ask those quick questions across the office which can resolve queries quickly. Platforms such as Slack have helped, but it can be difficult juggling between instant messages, phone calls, video calls, and emails, and being disciplined to ‘switch off’ at the end of the day.
🟣 Helena: Aside from eye strain and ‘Zoom fatigue’… much of our content planning for clients would normally revolve around industry events, so a huge challenge at the start was how to communicate our clients’ key messages to their target audience(s) without physical events to tie it all together. This did quickly turn into an opportunity though. The launch of virtual events meant we could leverage these to develop and distribute our usual volume of content with the added asset of creating dedicated ‘virtual event’ landing pages to maximise relevance and engagement. For others, the ability to reach target audiences through sponsored content on LinkedIn has really helped to overcome this challenge.
🟠 Nick: Finding sufficient stretches of time to concentrate on idea generation and producing creative work in amongst all the Teams calls has been the biggest challenge for me by far. The hour before the day starts and at the end of play are the most fertile times for work.
🟡 Sarah: Creative exploration was a challenge as I couldn’t share quick scribbles or diagrams and the Creatives couldn’t easily share scamps which made the process a bit more tricky and not as much fun. My personal challenge was to not be checking my phone/emails all the time. With not much else going on, it was easy to be ‘always on’, which we all know isn’t healthy. Having Billie, our dog, wanting regular walks helped me take a break.
🔴 Martin: This has probably been two-fold. First was making sure than we made the changes quickly to how we operated the business – saving costs where we could, and to do our utmost to keep the team together. And thankfully this has worked. The second was trying to keep everyone supported throughout the process. We have all learnt much about ourselves and our colleagues during this time.
🟢 Carl: I probably get more work done from home as I tend to work during the time I would usually be commuting!
🔴 Martin: As Carl mentioned earlier, we already had plans in place to move to more agile working – and had invested heavily in our IT to enable that. That said, we had to learn very quickly what that was going to be like! Naturally, a lot of work for clients has focused on internal comms, content, and digital – so that has accelerated the output of many, but I know that there is a real drive to bring back the ‘humanity’ to the working relationships and to improve the quality of much of the output.
🟡 Sarah: Digital communications certainly became a focus during the pandemic. Websites, LinkedIn, and email became key communications with the absence of networking. With fewer distractions, we found good content was really engaged with, giving our clients a great opportunity to communicate their expert opinion. Being able to reach people also became easier as we were all at our desks for a call!
🟣 Helena: The opportunity to think outside the box! I’ve had to get more creative with content ideas, formats, and distribution strategies to continue to reach and engage audiences in this new world of extended working hours and increased time spent online. One of the most exciting opportunities has been helping clients create different types of content, e.g. podcasts and videos. Lockdowns have eased audiences’ expectations of professional quality, so while we have still had demand for professional filming projects, we’ve also seen much greater uptake in the development of rough and relatable content filmed from home; this is not only a more relaxed filming environment for clients, it’s also much more affordable to deliver and has actually had a fantastic impact on raw and real engagements.
🟠 Nick: Lockdown made me take a step back from routines – I learnt how to use After Effects (animation/video), started running (more of a panting shuffle), getting a taste back for DIY… I am still peddling the old jokes though so not all has changed for the better.
🟢 Carl: Not as much as I thought I would to be honest – I’ve quite enjoyed not having constant interruptions that a printer isn’t working or the copier is jammed!
🟣 Helena: Everything except for the Central Line! Life in the BF office is always fun, so I’ve been missing the daily banter, the face-to-face creative brainstorms, the in-person catch-ups with clients, and of course the amazing array of lunch options!
🟠 Nick: As much as Teams calls have been a success, it’s just not the same as passing conversations with people you don’t directly work with, creative brainstorms around a table, the general noise of a busy office.
🔴 Martin: Three things – the team, the clients, and my ‘thinking time’ on the commute. Did I mention coffee? Maybe four.
🟡 Sarah: The water cooler moments… casual chats with people you don’t know that well, socialising with colleagues and clients, and just generally being in The City – the buzz, the history, the Friday lunchtime din from Leadenhall Market!
🔴 Martin: Have already done that one – it was Gaucho.
🟠 Nick: I’ve got a yearning for a huge helping of bratwurst, sauerkraut, and a giant lager from Bierschenke next door to our office.
🟢 Carl: Wasabi probably – have missed a good sushi and katsu curry fix.
🟡 Sarah: Cocktails at one of the rooftop bars and I love Spanish food so probably Camino.
Can you relate to any of the above WFH vs the City answers from the team? Let us know on our socials and click here to see Part 2 of this discussion where we played a game of WFH-themed This or That.