Twelve months on from announcing that we’d all be operating from home for a bit, it feels like a good time to revisit and recap on how working around COVID has been for us.
As Kit rightly pointed out at the time, we were already in the fortunate position of being able to take our work with us. As long as there’s an internet connection and somewhere to plug a laptop in every few hours, then we’re golden: our designers can create, our builders can code.
Yet whilst many of us regularly put the odd shift in from the spare room – usually to duck out of the firing line or focus on a particularly irksome problem or project – it was never anything like this became.
From a technical view, everything we need to run the agency is readily available from a reliable laptop.
Kitting folks out with decent Bluetooth headsets and an extra screen, keyboard or mouse here and there was really about all that was needed to transform us from communal office to solo remote working.
Dropbox, Slack, Creative Cloud and G-Suite (since renamed to Google Workspace) remain pillars of our daily workflow. We ditched our office based VOIP phone system for a fully cloud-based one and we probably will never know a life again without Zoom meetings.
We’ve had some frustrations with the VOIP system we originally opted for (chosen quickly at a couple of days notice). Although feature rich and great on paper, it’s constantly let us down where it was most needed: call quality.
Our sincerest apologies to anyone that’s endured a call with us that descended into both parties apologetically talking over the top of each other as the lag built up. It’s made for a few pretty embarrassing moments and we’re in the process of ditching this for something more reliable.
We’ve spent the last few weeks testing alternatives and are happy to announce that we’ll be upgrading to something much better in the next few days.
Everybody on our team has been superb.
Despite COVID, lockdown and the challenges around remote working, juggling phone calls and Zoom meetings amongst childcare, key-working partners, and all of our clients and suppliers facing the same, we produced some of our best work to date over the last year.
Our clients too have been brilliant. Nobody’s been overly bothered by the odd bump or hiccup as the way we work progressed and evolved. For that – thank you. It’s made a tough and challenging time that little bit easier and we’re all most grateful.
This forced prolonged trial period has proven beyond doubt that flexible and home working are not just possible and effective, but also massively beneficial and to be encouraged if folks so wish it. The days of herding everybody into the office between 9am and 5pm every day are long gone, and with good riddance as far as we’re concerned. From here on out folks can come into the office when it suits and save themselves the commute when it doesn’t.
One positive outcome of all this is proof beyond doubt of the principal that as long as shit gets done, then it really doesn’t matter where or at what time of day it happens.
And done, shit did get.
2021/21 has been, by some margin, our busiest year’s trading to date, adding two new team members to the roster to help us keep on top of it all.
Spending the majority of a full year working in isolation has taken its toll on all of us in some way or another.
The effects of burnout are evident, and with the lack of opportunity to actually go anywhere beyond home during what’s felt like the longest, wettest winter on record, it’s made for a tricky balance between enforcing folks to take time away from staring at a little screen to instead spend a few days staring at a big screen. The coming longer spring days and better weather should see improvements on that front, coupled with the continued vaccine rollout and gradual easing off of restrictions as we move towards summer.
Projects have taken way longer to plan and collaborate on over email, Slack and Zoom than the halcyon days of just chucking everything up on a whiteboard and hashing it out between everybody.
Then there’s the subtle things like missing out on the weekend’s gossip and activities. The catching up whilst waiting on the kettle boiling, sniffing out problems before they start to brew or simply just picking the bones out of an idea someone suggested in passing. All nigh on impossible without face to face contact.
We’re really missing this and can’t wait to be able to see everyone properly again once government restrictions (and the joiners) give us the go-ahead to get back into the office.
Until then, stay safe.