Elizabeth Spencer Phillips Employee Benefits Live 2016

My team is fantastic. There, I’ve said it again and I really mean it. Their response to lock-down and home working has been brilliant, I couldn’t be more proud.

On the upside

Productivity has been maintained (I’ll be honest, I doubted it would), morale is good supported by daily morning huddles via Teams or Zoom and Friday drinks and our cloud set-up has served us well. We’ve seen into everyone’s homes, with screen-bombing cats and kids. Our hair all looks awful, which is somehow bonding. No-one’s scared of video calls. We’ve seen more of our family and less commuting. Some of our team could quite happily never come back to the office…hmmm, more about that later.

On the downside

Some of us really miss the office banter and being ‘out there’.

Something is missing in meetings, something to do with chemistry. The nuances of face to face interaction, body language, the warm handshake that gives you a feeling of trust, the twitching leg that shows someone’s getting impatient. Head and shoulders in a box don’t show this. Our lovely newbie, Joanne joined us during lock-down. She doesn’t think any of us have legs, has no idea if we’re shorties or giants.

As a team, we can’t have the instant shout-out brainstorms where the best ideas pop up with people chipping in from all sides of the office. We’re a creative company – that’s so important. And it’s how we learn from each other.
Some people are crammed in at home with 4 people jostling for space on the kitchen table and can’t wait to get back to the office.

But what about our clients?

Big global names with huge workforces, employees displaced and looking for direction. Internal Communications teams have become the Key Workers of corporates – their profile suddenly raised. Yet many companies are in a state of limbo regarding BAU employee communications, instead are just looking at the next stage of pandemic comms. I feel they should be looking ahead to the last quarter or 2021, pushing new projects and progressive ideas through now, not waiting.

If BAU projects are kept in limbo, it will create a progress lag and further impact economic recovery and it worries me. Employees need more positive communication, confidence, progress, encouragement, more productivity, normality. Why stop a Reward communication campaign just because employees aren’t physically in the office? I firmly believe that those who move forward now will be the winners on the other side.

And personally?

Well, I loved it at the beginning. There’s nothing like a crisis or a major change to get me fired up. Whole family back home, all working from different rooms, streeeeetching our feeble broadband to its limit. Breakfast and lunch in the garden, hard work in between and then a mini party each evening when we downed tools. Wine consumption went through the roof. Started jogging, my new mantra is ‘don’t be a fatty in your 50s’. An old football became our very own ‘Wilson’ as we were castaway on Lock-down Island – quietly there for us in times of lock-down mania.

My colleague Wilson on Lock-down Island

But now, I’m twitchy, ground-hog day syndrome has set in. I want to get on a train to London, people watch, sneak into Selfridges after a high-powered meeting. I’m worrying about bringing the team back together again in one place and how it will pan out. Will some be reluctant to come and how will that affect team-bonding and learning? And I want to plan, plan, plan, but for what exactly? Post-Covid is an unknown. My MD peers at the Agency Collective have been a great place to test my thinking.

It’s all a case of scenarios….

  • Return to the office – how, when, who? And why?
    Balancing more WFH with the need for face to face interaction in one place
  • Yay! we can rent out half the office space as we won’t need it
    Oh, but we can’t rent out office space as everyone needs more distancing space
  • What if there’s a second spike and lock-down2 just when we’re getting super-busy in Q4?
    Well, we on-boarded a new recruit during lock-down so we can do it again and WFH has been pretty seamless for us.
  • How deep will the recession be?
    Million-dollar question (excuse the pun)
  • We haven’t furloughed, but what if our pipeline slows up once the furlough scheme is over due to afore-mentioned project-lag? There’s a longer-term risk for some businesses that weren’t hit hard immediately.
    Or will it be the opposite? Our clients will gear up quickly to deliver all the projects that have been on hold to achieve year-end targets in a really tight timescale. I much prefer this scenario!
  • How can I refuse everyone taking holiday at the same time once flights start?
    I need a holiday; can I go first?

A lot of questions, a lot of scenarios – and yet I feel incredibly positive. I have an awesome team. The one thing this disruption has confirmed as predictable is that the more uncertain we are the more we need communication.

PS. If you’ve read this to the end, then thank you, I hope you don’t think any worse of me for my ramblings. I’m off for a jog now – maybe I’ll answer some of my own questions on the way.

PPS. anyone else hate the default Teams ringtone? It’s become an earworm/lock-down side effect.

Caburn Hope
Rusbridge House, Rusbridge Lane Lewes, East Sussex BN7 2XX, UK

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