A New Normal – What it Looks Like for a Small Marketing Agency & How We’re Adapting
Business as usual.
It’s the American way just as a stiff upper lip is a British tradition, right? I won’t recap the timeline of coronavirus of COVID-19 or the shutdown or lockdown or shelter-at-home or whatever you’re calling … this. We are all experiencing it, just on varying timelines.
People are affected differently, but everyone has been affected. It’s affected Wall Street and Main Street. We see the reports daily – lots of numbers and statistics about the virus and the economy. Easily digestible charts and graphs. But not so much about how the changes are affecting us as individuals, as a people. And more importantly, not much about how individuals are dealing with those changes. It’s not the American way to talk about that stuff, especially at work. Everything’s fine. Except when it’s not.
we still had some challenges to work through, as many of you did.
Vela is a boutique agency with a close-knit team.
A true small business. Many of us socialize together outside of work and at work. While a handful of people typically work from home (WFH), the majority come in on a daily basis and enjoy the camaraderie. We work off our phones a lot and are used to being mobile. We’re very fortunate in that, so the pivot to WFH was somewhat painless for us. But we still had some challenges to work through, as many of you did. Here are a few of the tactics Vela used to try to make the transition as smooth as possible on every level.
At the beginning – Our leader, Ginger Gallagher, has always had a very literal open-door policy. Even before this became “this,” she was sending out weekly emails to tell us how Vela was preparing and what changes in policy were being enacted. Her tone was calm, matter of fact and steadying. She made it clear that while those were the general policies, each person should do what they felt was best for them and their family.
WFH offices – Most of us were not prepared to WFH for an extended period. A day or a week at the dining room table, sure. But for a month or more? Vela allowed employees to take home office furniture as needed. We’d recently redecorated and had a surplus of office chairs. I didn’t have to purchase a thing for my home office. Vela provided me with a laptop, second screen, whiteboard, office chair and desk, even an ergonomic standing pad. It saved employees dollars, as well as the stress of acquiring those items.
Flexible hours – We’ve always been fortunate that our company allows flexibility during the work week. Need time to go to the doctor? Come in a little earlier, leave a little later. But now with people juggling teaching kids at home, WFH with partners that are also experiencing WFH, vacation plans being canceled and the like, Vela has allowed each of us to be as flexible as needed, as long as we’re available for client and colleague needs. Some people are starting their day at 5:30 a.m. to end early while others are starting at 10 a.m. and working later. Others are splitting their days to make sure their kids get fed. Everyone is making sure to take the time to walk around their neighborhoods for some fresh air daily.
Work From HOME can create silos.
Water cooler chats – This was the coolest activity initiated. Again, we’re a very social agency, personally and professionally. We are truly collaborative and thrive off each other. WFH can create silos. It can make people more focused on getting their tasks completed, but also make them more stressed to fit in everything in their lives. We instituted an official once-weekly water cooler chat through Microsoft Teams. Wednesdays at 1 p.m. we all stop what we’re doing to hop online and catch up. Sometimes it’s a vent about a husband; other times it’s a show and tell with kids, cats, dogs and chickens. Or showing off a new remodel that was completed. The week after Tiger King aired was probably the most animated/horrified/intrigued conversation.
Social media changes – In the beginning of “this,” there was a lot of uncertainty and upsetting news coming out on an hourly basis, and not much else. Some of the local social media channels in Winston-Salem tried to highlight local business deals and encouraged people to shop locally. This offered a bit of a break. We took it a step further and instituted a new social media strategy for the time-being. We’re sharing “Good News” posts multiple times a week – uplifting sidewalk drawings, Broad Branch Distillery’s offer of free hand sanitizer or Shedd Aquarium’s latest post on what Wellington’s up to. Basically, if it makes us smile, we want it to make you smile.
Staying in touch – Again, with WFH comes separation. Our team members have been making an effort to touch base with each other to make sure projects are meeting and exceeding goals, and that no one feels overwhelmed. People have been stepping up to offer suggestions for processes, ideas, and projects that accommodate the new normal. One of these is our new blog and web series coming up to talk #WhatHappensAfter with our clients and others that need support. Check out our first article here, and stay tuned for more.