The good news about working from home is that there is more flexibility, no commuting and you can have your office just the way you like it. The bad news is that it can be isolating and hard to switch off. Below, agency chiefs give advice for keeping remote teams motivated and happy, whilst those WFH give top tips for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and feeling connected despite working alone.
Set clear WFH boundaries
Freddy Davies, managing director of agency H+K Entertainment: “Working from home blurs the boundaries between work and home life for obvious reasons and those quick office catch ups can become 30 minute calls in the diary. We’ve found it’s so important to set boundaries - we operate on a ‘core hours’ model, with everyone encouraged to keep meetings to within the hours of 10am - 4pm, putting them in for as long as they actually need to be and keeping Wednesday afternoons meeting-free. We’ve found this helps avoid being on seemingly back-to-back calls from 9am - 5pm, helping give our teams the headspace to work collaboratively and produce brilliant work.”
Introduce people properly
Freddy Davies: “In 2021 we formed a new sector at H+K, Entertainment, consolidating all of our clients from gaming, music, streaming, film, fashion and travel into a new team. This meant building a team culture from scratch with many new joiners and people that haven’t worked together before. We found starting all team meetings with breakout rooms of small groups gave people an opportunity to get to know each other, as well as introducing peer-to-peer sessions, assigned mentoring groups, regular leadership ‘open doors’, were all good ways of fostering team culture, togetherness, and creating a positive and productive WFH environment.“
Liz Barette, co-founder of PR and marketing agency Flock Creative: “We connect through daily Facetime catch ups, video brainstorms and use live shared documents to collaborate. We work hours that work for us as individuals - choosing to start early and finish in time to make dinner for the kids or starting later and working into the evening. Far from feeling disconnected, I’ve never felt more of a team and more in control of my work-life balance.”
Organise group activities
Kashif Naqshbandi, chief marketing officer at talent agency Revolent Group: “We run weekly shout-out meetings to celebrate hard work, with short games or activities included. These have been a huge success - and the fact that there are prizes involved has certainly helped! We also make sure everyone meets new hires through get-to-know-you one to ones, so everyone gets a chance to connect individually. And, of course, we have weekly, or even bi-weekly, catch up calls for every team, to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to priorities - and to make sure our people have what they need, both to thrive and deliver for our business.”
Offer complete freedom in ways of working
Alan Cerutti, co-founder and CEO of creative consultancy Happiness Saigon: “We introduced one fundamental rule before Covid-19 hit Vietnam: ‘100% Freedom, 200% Responsibility’. The idea is that there is one boss and that it is the task given to you. As long as the collective, the individual deliver on the task we don’t care where you are, what your working hours are and how much time you had to spend on the task. This simple principle leads to an increase of accountability, and desire to be effective to find your ideal work-life balance. And when we do everything to make people happy, because happy people make great work, we get great work and results, which makes people even more happy.”
Find fun ways to include people
James Vaughan, PR account manager and ‘Splendid Socialites’ lead at agency Splendid Communications: “We prize our collaborative culture, so we adapted office traditions to stay connected while WFH.
“Music is a passion of ours so, for Tuesday Tune Club, Splendid DJs share a theme (last week’s was ‘Future Sounds of 2022’) for everyone to submit songs then enjoy the resulting playlist at home, all listening to the same music as we did in the office.
“Splendid Loves is a fun meeting on Friday afternoons, looking at cool, creative work from around the world. Everyone, from Splendid Futures interns to CEO, gets to input. This was easily adapted from office sofas to a group video call.
“Finally, our monthly company meeting finishes with entertainment planned by our ‘Splendid Socialites’ team. Pre-Covid activities included visiting art exhibitions, escape rooms and comedy clubs. We’ve recently switched to virtual experiences, such as a magic show, street art tour of Delhi and even a sangria masterclass with drag queens in Lisbon.”
Organise coffee roulette!
Jen Smith, people manager at PR agency Eulogy: “We initiated fortnightly coffee roulette, complete with rota, to ensure we can stay in-step with one another and have a chance to speak to colleagues across all levels beyond our everyday teams. Especially good for new starters.”
Give more holidays
Jen Smith: “We’ve introduced unlimited holiday, making it easier for people to take time whenever they need it. We also reinforce our agile working policy, empowering staff to manage work and home life according to their individual needs.”
Make sure laptops are put away
Jen Smith: “Switching off at the end of the day is essential. We encourage everyone to pack their laptops away at the end of the day in a care box that was sent out during the first lockdown. Out of sight, out of mind.”
Five top tips for those at home
1. Connect regularly
Jessica Pardoe, account manager at agency Source PR: “We stay connected throughout the day using Hangouts whilst WFH, even if it’s just chat to replace that what would usually happen in the office, it’s really important to keep in touch.”
2. Switch off
Jessica Pardoe: “ It’s important to switch off too though, so what I’d suggest is keeping Zoom calls to a minimum, or as much as you can handle (you might get fatigued from them) and physically closing down for the day, that could be shutting the door to your office or putting your laptop away. And definitely no emails on phones!”
3. Section off a work area
Georgia Christley, account manager at agency Carnsight Communications: “Find a place in your home that can be solely for work purposes such as a spare room. I have sectioned off my spare room to include a mini office corner and I feel this helps me.“
4. Structure your day
Georgia Christley: “I try to keep my day structured and plan out what is needed to be done each day, I check through my emails and tasks for that day and then create a schedule to work alongside. Staying structured and keeping routine is important.”
5. Manage interruptions
Georgia Christley: “I will mute my phone at the beginning of each working day to eliminate any unnecessary interruptions, but there will always be the odd time I am disturbed such as when a delivery person pulls up outside and my dogs go crazy. To manage this I have made my working space at the top of my house.”
Although offices will be opening up more and more, WFH is definitely going to be a large part of PRs’ lives for the foreseeable, so it is important that companies work hard to ensure all their people are properly connected, wherever they are based.
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