At Fuel we understand the value of human to human communications. We reflect on how we can maintain this whilst working from home.
Well, we all knew it was coming; we were talking about the idea of working from home en masse, testing our networks, our VPN connections, exploring the technical challenges and debating the theoretical social implications. This was going to be more than just one or two of us who had to work from home whilst waiting for a delivery, needing to get our heads down, or trying to break up the monotony of the daily commute – you know, the everyday ‘inconveniences’ of modern life.
Then Steve, our MD, with his foresight, took the very swift and brave decision to kick us all out of the office on the evening of Sunday 14th March (note: I was actually in my local pub attending the Quiz Night at the time with what seemed like half of the village, all desperate to make the most of that sense of community and interaction whilst we could). And the first thought in my head when I read the messages via Slack and WhatsApp was not around the dangers of a potential Global Pandemic, or the impact it may have on my health, my friends, or my family – but how will I cope?
My role as Head of Client Services at Fuel really only exists to bring people together; to bridge the gap and turn the agency/client relationship into a partnership – either internally by acting as the agency ‘glue’ to focus our project tribes’ thinking and shape our offering into real value or externally by communicating on both professional and personal levels with our customers. How was I going to do this now? How was I going to be able to maintain my purpose?
I felt suddenly isolated and cast adrift. My first reaction was to ‘keep calm and carry on regardless’ in order to cling on to what I knew.
This may sound somewhat selfish and unrealistic given the events and announcements that are unfolding in the UK day by day. BUT, consider this; I’m one of those, single, financially independent female types. I live alone (yes, cliché coming – with my cat), I have no dependents (children, or elderly relatives who rely on me). It’s me, myself and I.
Which then throws up another challenge – how am I going to do all of the above and not go stir crazy? Staying safe from a virus is one thing, but if I lose my mind first, what’s the point? And I’m sure I’m not the only one where mental wellbeing comes into play here. We’re all social creatures, we crave contact – working from home can be a challenge, but take away our ability to socialise – either personally or professionally and we have ourselves a real game changer.
And then I tried it (‘cos I had to). And it surprised and delighted me in ways I hadn’t expected and, will no doubt, continue to do so:
Many of them large, global companies in the Technology sector, already had this covered; their innovative technologies and solutions already support their customers to work remotely over secure, reliable networks, store and manage data and distribute computing power to their end users to allow them to work and connect from anywhere. I now have a whole new appreciation – for their innovation and vision, their belief in what they do, and the enabling powers of their products.
Yes, they drive me mad, but I’m in awe of each and every one of them and how we’ve managed to adapt and thrive as a team. Friday Beers have swiftly been replaced with Friday Virtual Beers utilising online meeting technology (only downside is you have to bring your own beer!). Daily stand-ups have been replaced with morning online meetings (not too dissimilar from Celebrity Squares for those of a certain age, and we’ve already got some great insights into each other’s interior decorating skills). And best of all, the fact that we now don’t just email each other – we take the time to call and chat whilst working via Slack.
We’re all now a part of something much bigger, and the sense of community is on the rise. Be it within our agency, with our customers, or in the places we call home. I’ll give you just one example; you may have picked up the fact that I live in a village in deepest, darkest Essex where Fibre has only just become a ‘thing’. There are 4 of us single female types amongst a much larger group of friends; we set up a WhatsApp group so that each morning we can check-in so the others know we are OK. Anyone that nips to the shops during the day then does a ‘shout out’ and collects stuff for the others where we can. And anyone that needs to isolate doesn’t have to do so in fear.
I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that in these unique and unchartered waters, my eyes have very much been opened to the benefits of our existing technologies which I either took for granted or didn’t really value for their true potential; when they are coupled with human ingenuity and imagination, it’s a very powerful thing.
About the author.
Alex Calton is the Head of Client Services at Fuel Integrated.