As we reach 100 days of lockdown, life before coronavirus almost feels a distant memory.
At Fluidly, we went remote slightly earlier than the government advised. I wanted to make the call with enough time for people to prepare mentally – and to collect things from the office – and I think this really helped with our transition.
We’re also a pretty digitally-savvy company, and already had a fairly flexible working policy, so our team adapted very quickly.
In lots of ways we’re able to be more agile, work more efficiently and we’ve made some fantastic inroads with the product thanks to minimal distractions.
But, even for us, it’s been a learning curve. And for other more traditional businesses and industries, I can only imagine what a tough time it’s been – especially in cases where staff weren’t adequately equipped to work remotely, or companies didn’t have the necessary collaborative software and tools.
We’ve definitely learnt some really important lessons, and while there’s lots I miss about seeing my team and being in the office, there’s some things I’ll want to take forward from this strange period.
A more flexible office space
This seems obvious. There’s no denying that remote working will become even more commonplace. But while I was already comfortable with staff working flexibly, I don’t think anyone was prepared for quite how well we would be able to adapt. And for the clear benefits for lots of people, of less time wasted commuting and being with family more.
Plus there’s clearly a cost-saving for lots of businesses too, if they can relook at their physical office space.
We gathered feedback from the team and we definitely don’t want to go entirely remote, but we probably only need capacity for 50-60% of employees at any one time.
This means we can re-evaluate our office options, and I want to make sure I really think about a solution that will allow us to get the balance right.
Bring our whole selves to work
Ironically, there have been times where isolated lockdown has allowed us to feel more connected than ever.
While we’ve had to talk over a video screen, the nature of the last few months has meant we’ve been constantly interrupted by pets, children, deliveries and who knows what else.
We’ve also seen into each other’s homes, seen our colleagues in an entirely new context – and learnt new things about who our team are outside of work.
I’ve really missed impromptu kitchen chats in the office, which a virtual call can never quite recreate, but I hope we can continue to bring our whole selves to work more.
I think there’s a real misconception about working from home that it may hamper productivity.
Certainly it can be easier to get distracted by household tasks, especially if you don’t have a dedicated workspace. But, when you are zoned in to work mode, it can be super efficient.
Trying to juggle homelife with work has also enabled me to have a laser-like focus when I do have working hours.
Plus, with virtual meetings, people are rarely more than a couple of minutes late, which means a lot less wasted time. With no travelling to contend with, there are no excuses, but equally there’s something about not being face-to-face with someone that makes conversations easier to keep timely. There’s a lot less digression.
In some ways it’s a shame to lose some of the more conversational chat, as that’s what really helps forge connections, but there’s a lesson in keeping meetings sharp that I’d like to continue.
Keep up the agility and innovation
Crisis often leads to remarkable agility and innovation. You only need to look at some of the things that have been achieved in record time over the last few months to see that.
The Nightingale Hospital was built in just 10-15 days and brands have pivoted their business models entirely in a matter of weeks.
And while I certainly wouldn’t wish for continual turmoil, it is incredible to see the creativity that emerges when people are faced with what feels like insurmountable problems.
The issue is that in day-to-day life, we tend to focus always on substitutions – even when we’re trying to make improvements. We think how we can save time and cost by switching X for Y. But we should be thinking about additions, new ways of creating superpowers.
There’s a fantastic anecdote from a business called The Jubilee Project which asked the same question to both children and adults around what would they change about their bodies. Adults say things like “Be taller” but children are much less constrained in their thinking. They say “I want a mermaid’s tail so I could swim faster”.
This period of change is a real opportunity for us to create a new set of superheroes – and I’m determined to try to keep that culture at Fluidly even as things settle down.