THE RETURN TO PR AGENCY LIFE. WHAT’S THE ‘NEW NORMAL’ FOR BRAZEN?
Forget the grind of the 9-5pm and slave-to-our-desks mentality. We’re ripping up the rule book and having a strong word with ourselves post-lockdown.
On Friday 20 March 2020 I walked out of Brazen House and locked up with no idea when we’d be back. Covid-19 was waging its war on the world. To be honest, it was a moment of fear, trepidation, disbelief and sheer bloody terror I’ll never forget.
First, staying safe and healthy. Second, working from home. How the hell can we do that? Surely, we can’t operate without our big office, industrial coffee machine, 3 printers, 2 scanner, 2 servers, 5 TVs and franking machine. Not forgetting our copious team catch-us, brainstorms and social get-togethers? Won’t everybody just be watching Netflix in their pyjamas? (boss’s paranoia).
Course not. So we got on with it, created a brand new working from home plan, and on the whole, it’s been more than OK.
The Brazen team have been writing about their experiences throughout lockdown. Together and individually we’ve found a renewed creativity – forged deeper relationships with our clients – found more time to focus on our wellbeing – created some special team moments (another quiz anyone?) – displayed a level of resilience and positivity that the daily grind of the commute can dampen (be honest) – and tried out a mind-boggling cornucopia of video-conferencing tools that should never be possible.
Now, seven weeks later, Boris has told us to ‘Stay Alert’ and briefed us on his new roadmap for reopening society, urging those people who have to go back to work to do so – and for those who can work from home, to stay home, with a potential ‘back to work’ date for all of around June 1 2020.
Great news. Because the culture and camaraderie of the PR Agency environment is pretty hard to replicate at home, isn’t it?
BUT there’s that feeling of trepidation back again. What will agency life post-Covid look like? Will we definitely be safe?
So we’ve turned our minds to the practical. The Brazen PR team in Dubai has already been back in the office for two weeks with stringent rules in place; two metre distancing, 30% office capacity, working x3 hours for x2 days a week, sanitising the office before and after work, face masks worn at all times, temperature tests on entering buildings, plus a slow opening-up of the world around them. All good so far.
What’s our immediate plan? We hope our plan helps you plan your return to work too, assuming you’ve not already decided to sack off the expensive real estate and work remotely forever!…
We’ve decided to permanently introduce flexible working after the lockdown, mixing office-based working with working-from-home to help our team strike the work-life balance that, let’s face it, we’ve only ever truly experienced during this strange time.
When do you honestly need to return?
Ask yourselves when you really need to return. It’s not a race. If working from home is working for you and your team, why change it? Take your time and work towards June 1, or even go beyond.
Getting the office ready – Health & Safety
People will be feeling anxious about their health and safety and nervous about returning, so this is absolute priority. Start with an office deep clean well before anyone returns. Then, devise a heightened daily cleaning regime; put clear signs around the agency reminding people about hygiene controls; create sanitising stations; provide everyone with a hygiene desk pack (hand gel, desk wipes, face masks, disposable gloves, thermometer); put clear floor markings to denote two metres, especially in areas where you greet suppliers/ visitors; put a plastic shield around your reception desk (and any other areas where deliveries are received).
In office distancing – consider your numbers
Calculate your office’s square footage, how many staff you’ve got, then make sure you adhere to the government’s directive around in-office distancing (people must sit two metres apart which may mean a major office rethink and no more hot-desking). You could do this by working flexibly (late starts/early finishes) or in shifts (half days/ alternate days) – splitting WFH and physically being in the office between you. Set a new rota system up and keep flexing it (test & learn).
Make more space – now
Work out if you need to remove any office walls; go open plan if possible; transform communal spaces into desk spaces; consider increasing the size of your kitchen; are the toilet facilities appropriate?
Commuting to the office
Check who’s travelling from where and put in allowances for those team members getting public transport, especially from afar. Consider late starts and early finishes plus flexible days. Encourage more walking and cycling to work (offer staff access to the government’s ‘Cycle To Work’ scheme if you don’t already). Make it fun, clock up your steps/miles on your phones/ Fit Bits and encourage a bit of friendly banter on Strava.
Many clients will be going through similar if not more radical changes. So talk to them in advance and work out how to adapt to their ‘new normal’. Face-to-face meeting might not be possible for a long time, so continue using Zoom/Teams/ Google Hangouts etc. Make sure all your team know the parameters/ restrictions and feel comfortable with them.
Keep talking to your team
Can’t stress enough how important it is to talk to your team, involve everyone and take care of everyone’s mental health and wellbeing. As agency head I’ve sent a daily 5pm round-up while we’ve been WFH plus regularly ring and video call every single member of the team and will continue doing so post-Covid.
Check in with your HR advisors
Don’t make this up. You may have furloughed team members, so do check that you’re doing the right thing by them and organising their return to work, so they feel safe and secure.
The lockdown’s legacy for Brazen? Our heightened TRUST in each other as humans and colleagues. And for that I’ll be forever grateful.
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