Like many businesses, as the crisis hit we moved our entire team to home working pretty much overnight.
Operationally we were well-equipped, since the agency was founded we’ve offered a Work Where You Like day every fortnight, where our team can do just that, then six months ago we introduced core hours promoting more flexible working. This meant our team already understood the fundamentals of working remotely; effective communication, good time management and 'Do What You Say'.
So yes, on paper, we could all work from home, but this wasn’t just working from home, this was and is working from home amidst the largest global pandemic our generation has ever seen. We knew it would test our culture like never before.
Seeing 'Challenge As Opportunity', I immediately focused on making sure everyone was safe and had what they needed to do their job, before turning my attention to how we could come out of this with an even stronger culture.
What we’ve done so far…
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
It's a scary enough time for everyone so the last thing we wanted to do was to add to the uncertainty. From 4th March we began sending a weekly agency-wide update about the plans and decisions we were making, sharing useful resources and ensuring that we confirmed the proposed end date for remote working (even if that might change!) Always aiming to 'Say It Simply'.
From our whole company briefing every Monday (now virtual, thanks to Zoom) to our weekly one-to-ones (via Google hangout) we’ve made sure all standing meetings continue, with video-on, always.
Focus on wellbeing.
In this time of high anxiety, we wanted to make sure everyone was looking after themselves. We doubled the monthly wellbeing budget we offer, knowing that many may have lost out on gym memberships, meaning they could put the money towards something that would support their wellbeing at home; from yoga mats and weights to kindles and candles, or even a desk or chair for their new home offices/bedrooms!
New ways of working.
Without the comfort of our studio, our creative team began shooting out of their very own home set-ups. With a lot less kit than they’re used to it’s amazing to see their ability to produce the same standard of content despite the limitations. Then, unable to host our normal quarterly event, our marketing team pivoted their approach and began hosting our first ever virtual events! Proof that our default setting is 'Get More From Less'.
Keeping the fun, virtually.
Social by name, social by nature; our team likes spending time together, it’s just part of the magic of Born. Initially, I channelled a lot of energy into social initiatives from competitions (like BRIBS, our very own MTV Cribs), weekly coffee & chat dates (using Slack plug-in Donut for random pairings), group lunch dates (again using Donut) and Friday’s Dress Up & Drink (exactly what is says on the tin, over Zoom, obviously!)
As the reality dawns that this is a marathon and not a sprint, we’ve killed some of the above and come up with more sustainable ways of doing things. After all, our culture isn’t driven by the few, it’s owned by the many.
When I joined the agency six months ago we formed our first ever social team, a group of Born Socialites who really fucking care about what we do together, and more importantly how we do it. Becoming remote has really seen them step up and drive those initial initiatives forward, giving us as leadership more time to focus on the longer term impact of the crisis and planning for the future.
We scrapped the coffee dates, replacing them with an optional WFH Buddy to help to 'Make Each Other Better'. We swapped the group lunch for breakfast knowing everyone wants to get out and stretch their legs half-way through the day. We dumped video always-on, aware that it can be an energy drain and encouraged our team to pick up the phone where they can. And Friday’s Dress Up & Drink sessions are evolving weekly with new themes, new hosts and always a lot of laughs.
What’s more, across the agency so many others have got involved; we’ve had pub quizzes, card-making sessions, run clubs and the iconic #ratemyplate slack channel.
There’s no doubt, COVID-19 has tested us. We’ve had to adapt like never before, but thankfully, our values have guided us through.
So for now, we’re proud to say our culture is overcoming this one.