How a local independent agency has adapted through a pandemic
We’ve sat down with our very own Company Director, Phil Crossland (socially distanced of course) to see what his take is on the pandemic and how he had to adapt the Ewe Agency workplace quickly and efficiently to keep staff safe and deadlines met.
- How did you feel when the pandemic was announced?
Relieved that I’d managed to get back from a trip to China! When I was there, we went past Wuhan - but that was at 200mph on a bullet train, so I think we were safe. From a business perspective, I was initially concerned that consumer confidence would be hit and that it would cause spending decisions to be delayed. As the pandemic unfolded, I was split between ensuring our team was safe and that the business could continue for our clients and shocked at how deep and widespread the impact was - Hollywood disaster film scenarios coming true right in front of our eyes.
- How soon did you take action in the workplace?
Pretty much immediately – we updated processes and systems to allow for safe, fast, and secure WFH (work from home). While our team was working remotely, I got busy with refurbishing and reconfiguring the office to comply with COVID-secure guidelines. When the first lockdown was lifted, we made plans to start coming into the office again. On the morning of our first day back, the government announced they were updating guidance to urge people to work from home again. Very exasperating after so much investment in following the workplace safety rules! So after just 3 days back in the office, we resumed WFH.
- How have you found managing a team in lockdown?
Actually, surprisingly it is better in some ways - I like to try to speak to everyone every day, and having the whole team in daily group meetings for project planning and delivery gives me better visibility across everything. Not having group meetings in the same way as being in the office means we have to be more disciplined to ensure people don’t just put their heads down and work away on their own. We’ve always done our best work collectively and ensuring that we have collaborative insight, solution, and creative sessions are essential.
- What’s been a highlight for you whilst working from home?
Well, even though the office has been closed, I’m in every day to keep an eye on systems etc and as I’m paying for the office I may as well use it! The whole WFH opportunity has made me reflect on how we work, and whilst an office will always be needed, I’m not sure the solution we have now is necessarily going to be the same in a few years.
- What’s some quick advice that you would give to other businesses in your situation?
As President Obama and Winston Churchill, both said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste” The pandemic has allowed us all the opportunity to reflect. To look at why what and how we do things and how we can make it better. Here we’ve completely renovated the office, decluttered, and improved the layout - a fresh lick of paint has helped as well! We’ve updated our IT, systems, and processes to be much more efficient, accountable accessible, and secure. Looking outward we’ve also taken the opportunity to look at each and every client, our understanding of them, their customers and markets, and how we can add the most value. We have also looked at our mission, vision, values, and brand and have simplified our proposition and promise and invested in the future of the business in terms of services and solutions we offer.
- Is there anything you would have done differently through all of this?
Overall, I don’t think so - we’ve prioritised ensuring our teams jobs are safe and secure and that we are in the best possible shape to support our clients through the challenges we all face. One possibility would have been a monthly general meeting in the office, but we decided that it was not essential.
- What challenges have you had to face whilst having a WFH-based office?
Systems and communications have been a challenge. Ensuring collaborative apps and tools etc were fit for purpose and that colleagues could work seamlessly was essential to get right early in the pandemic. We’ve also been empathetic to and supportive of the different requirements of team members’ personal and family situations. Flexi working around key contact times has helped and our teams have been responsible for managing their own schedules based on agreed project requirements.
- Has what’s happened changed the way you would do business in the future?
Less reliance on face-to-face meetings but making the absolute most of the ones you have.
- What are your predictions for the industry after Covid?
I am very confident for the whole economy following the easing of lockdown. We have seen big bounce-backs after tough times before - purchasing, investment and change decisions gave been delayed over the pandemic and this will lead to a surge in demand in general. For our industry I think the development of direct relationships between brands and consumers will increase. These relationships will be supported by e-commerce, social and self-service engagement tools and the importance of customer journeys and lifetime values will continue to be core to us all.
- Do you feel like you’ve grown closer to your team?
Yes. WFH Teams/Zooms meetings are windows into our lives at home - cats and kids etc all make us relatable and more human. Very much a good thing.
- What are your marketing predictions for the year ahead?
Lots more - of everything. More demand, more opportunities for us and our clients to succeed and more opportunities to build engaging dialogues and relationships across all channels - even face to face!
- Do you think Covid will change the way we work forever?
Yes, office based 9-5 and clock watching will hopefully for most be less restrictive and the focus for more and more of us should be not “look at the hours we get but look at what we get out of this hour”.