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Business as (un)usual

Business As Usual. Or BAU. Either way, the situation that our country finds itself is not usual, it’s far from it and Covid-19 has forced us to be more flexible than ever. Being part of a reactive industry, Cargo embraced the challenge of this new norm, packed up our machines (and chairs in some cases) and set up from home.

Many across socials seem to be hailing working from home, or WFH (another new acronym), as a seamless shift to standard, almost as a sales pitch on LinkedIn. But we’d be lying if we said it had been easy. With some technological teething problems such as accessing the server or new distractions like entertaining children, we’ve slowly been acclimating to our working lives outside of the studio.

In the first few days, we had the opportunity to get used to our new workspace, get on top of our workload (but not tidy our desktops…Carl?) as clients were less reactive, understandably reviewing their own business strategies. But midweek, a large project we were about to launch was brought forward thanks to the current situation and increased pressure for the business to offer their service online, so the team was quickly put to the test in this new environment.

We already had some software and processes set up that meant working from home could happen, although they had never been used consistently. Slack was only ever used by the team to send GIFs during the day as we all sit nearby, so it always just made sense to start a conversation instead.

Cargo is a relationship business, both internally and externally and we’ve all missed seeing our colleagues daily (we haven’t braved a team video call yet). We’ve missed the ability to discuss, brainstorm and create together – face to face. Whether it’s seeing what everyone’s got for lunch or sketching ideas, some situations just can’t be replicated remotely, and this is something that is taking some getting used to. Some conversations are more difficult to have digitally as well, such as explaining feedback or tasks that could once be done in five minutes by popping round to a desk now has become a thought-through process.

At first, we were getting to grips with communicating via Slack. Are we sending too many messages? Are we updating too much? Too little? In the office, it’s clear to see when someone is busy with a workload and you can respect that they are occupied with another task to wait for an appropriate time to speak with them. We have started to master this now – creating specific channels for projects so that only those involved are informed of updates and adding statuses so that the team can see if we’re away from the desk or off for lunch. This lets us keep our hands in issues we need to through communication channels whilst not getting fear of missing out.

However, it can still feel isolating not knowing exactly what is going on – as we’re such as small team we’re often all up to date with what everyone is doing and involved in all conversations but this would be too overwhelming if we kept this up via Slack. Instead, we’ve been keeping our morning stand-up session booked in as a 9 am Skype call and this allows us to chat about what the team is up to. We’ve also added an extra catch-up at the end of the day which is another chance to keep everyone up to speed with project progress.

When it comes to our clients, we have received new instructions and change of strategy from those who understand the need to promote themselves in order to get through this. Although many comprehend that something big is happening and change is required, it’s a concern that some will ignore their marketing strategy. But marketing is about messaging and it remains as important as ever to communicate what a business is doing under these circumstances and share any operational changes. With the nation spending more time at home, time spent online will also increase and a digital strategy can’t be ignored. This has given rise to new challenges and we’ve been having conversations with our existing clients and supporting them in ways that we hadn’t thought of before.

When it comes to team morale and productivity, we’ve all tried to keep our normal routine, encourage regular breaks and get ourselves some daily fresh air which is helping. Some of us have worked from home in the past such as Paul who started the business in his back bedroom 12 years ago. He’d complete all household chores before having a clear headspace to start working and this is something that all of us have come to learn – a workspace needs to be tidy to encourage productivity.

Despite the rapid overhaul, we’re adjusting well but there’s always room to grow. Paul reminded us of something he heard a good few years ago…if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got. We all need to embrace change, keep our eyes open to new ways of working and learn as we go.