We had obviously already been impacted quite substantially with the lockdowns in Shenzhen, but with China getting back on their feet over a reasonably short amount of time in terms of working practice, we expected similar for our lives in the UK.  Little did we know…
Over months of logistical and emotional turmoil, we transformed the company to a full WFH model.  We gave up our office in Farringdon - stripping 10 years’ worth of equipment out of two full office floors in 4 days and being treated horrifically by our then landlord over notice and fees.
We shipped all executional equipment out to our team’s homes, thanking our lucky stars that most of them had workshops better than the one we’d had in the office!
We put in place a plan to keep the ‘social’ aspect high – daily team check ins, weekly socials, brainstorms, knowledge shares, mental health check ins, and training.
As a business, we worried about productivity vs. mental and physical health.  Could the innovative nature of what we do survive us all being separated?  We are, after all, a business of big dreams and shared ideas – how would that now work?
What we found really surprised us, and has led us now to a place where, voluntarily, we are around 80% still a WFH based model.  Here’s what we learnt:
  • Don’t be prescriptive about your team’s ability to adapt and cope.  We kept a very open dialogue with what worked and what didn’t and found that our company were more productive when given flexibility around hours and location.
  • Trust people.  Sounds simple, happens rarely.  We work from a foundation of 100% trust and honestly and only take action if someone breaks that.
  • Give responsibility to the team to support and encourage their peers around them.  COVID brought us all closer together because we took the time to check in with everyone in the business, instead of just who was sat on your desk bank.  New starters now have a 2-week onboarding plan to ensure they are fully immersed in our culture, mission and vision, driven by their peers.
  • Listen and make swift changes.  The best people to tell you how to the run the business are the people working with you and in it.  If your team see their thoughts becoming actions, you retain momentum, rather than just moaning by the water cooler!
  • Tech will save you.  We have so many more systems now that not only support our WFH life, but also underpin more directional brainstorming, logging of ideas and underpin our dedication to continual improvement of process, including a unique intranet RPD ‘bible’ that has revolutionized the way we work.
I am not going to pretend that any of this was easy and that there weren’t struggles along the way.  I am still in shock over some of the challenges we faced as a business across COVID.
However, the pandemic gave the team an opportunity to take charge of their work, their focus, their ambitions and their path to success.  And I am delighted to head up a team of people who, no matter where they are, always thrive for better for our business, our clients, their team mates, and themselves!