An unfortunate fact of life is that you never fully appreciate the things you’ve perhaps taken for granted until they’re taken away.
A few short months back, you could head off to work in the morning, jump on a packed train and pick up a coffee on the way to the office – all without thinking twice.
When you arrived, you’d plonk yourself down at your desk, check your emails, grab another coffee and wander over to chat with the team about the projects in progress, meetings, the weather, and footy results. After work you always had two main options – you could either shoe-horn yourself back onto another packed train or you could fight your way to the bar while waving a contactless card in the air trying to get a drink.
Everybody was less than 2 metres apart and there wasn’t a face mask or a bottle of hand sanitiser in sight.
Jump forward to now and the world is a very different place. Most people are seeing a lot more of the inside of their houses than they ever wished to and seismic behaviour changes are underway.
We all hope things return to normal soon but until they do, offices will remain closed and we’ll all need to find new ways of working and conducting day-to-day business.
Luckily, when faced with difficult times, people do what people do best – we learn to adapt.
One immediate adaptation is due to the enforced need to work remotely
WFH is the new norm and for those lucky enough to be able to take advantage of it, tech is helping us all continue with business as normal. Or as near to normal as possible given the circumstances. Mainly by allowing ongoing communication to continue between teams, colleagues, suppliers and clients.
Tools like Slack, MS Teams, Google Hangouts, Zoom and of course, old skool mobile phones, have become even more important. Allowing us to share ideas, hold meetings, briefings and discuss project plans and updates wherever we may be based.
Whether it’s having a quick catch up with a colleague living on the other side of London, or holding a planning workshop with a client in Japan, these tools are fantastic in keeping the show on the road and allowing projects to keep on track.
That’s not to say there are not going to be occasional issues with wifi, or trying to find a convenient time to arrange a meeting slot if people are joining from other timezones. But you’d get these at any point of the year and not just in lockdown, right?
There is also the added benefit that with remote working, you no longer need to worry about ordering the right number of coffees or stressing about client dietary requirements 10 minutes before a meeting is about to start.
In our office we’re used to working with a mixture of tools and platforms so the move to WFH was pretty seamless. We’ll use whatever platform is right for the occasion, and the agency has been running ‘in the cloud’ since the beginning.
For instance, we tend to use Google Hangouts for team stand ups, one to ones and general chats.
We also use Slack for ongoing day to day internal communications and calls or we may use Teams, Zoom or Hangouts for client meetings, workshops or briefings so we can benefit from multiple attendees and screen sharing.
We also use InVision as a great way of compiling feedback from multiple stakeholders on UX and design work.
Basically, if the tool fits – we’ll use it!
The main point is that we can still communicate effectively and ‘face to face’ – even if that does mean virtually.
It may not be as up front and personal as meeting in person and shaking hands but it is the next best thing. Plus you don’t need to wash your hands for 20 seconds afterwards.
Having said that, the human contact you get from working as a team in an office is just as important and can’t be overlooked. We are all social animals and regular ongoing interactions and contacts are super important not just to avoid the onset of cabin fever but also for general mental well-being.
This is even more important nowadays in the face of a global crisis and the sense of isolation that is causing. Everybody is different and everyone is tackling the global lockdown in their own and different ways.
A few weeks back, if you fancied a chat or needed a shoulder to cry on, you always knew that there was someone in the office you could head off down to the pub with after work. Now, we can’t even do that.
Or can we?
At 93digital, we set up our own virtual pub called the Alexander Arms. We may not be able to physically stand with each other up at a bar but we can use technology to meet up virtually and chat about the usual stuff – the moans, the weather, football, music etc etc. Oh, and ‘how hard it is to get pasta, tinned tomatoes and toilet rolls in the local supermarket?’
We’ve recently had a pub quiz with other ones planned and in the pipeline.
These are all conducted via Zoom and are proving to be a great way to check in on everyone in the team, and to get a sneak peek of their home’s decor and bookshelves in the background.
It may not be perfect and will never replace the real thing but it is a laugh and it definitely breaks the monotony of the lockdown. In fact, a study by Professor Robin Dunbar at Oxford University found that “….you are as happy and you laugh as much whether the face to face interaction is on a computer or it’s actually happening in front of you”.
From all of us here at 93digital, keep safe and if you are in the virtual vicinity…
Why not join us for a drink?
Google’s Core Web Vitals: why UX & development matter for SEO more than ever
Planning user journeys into your website redesign project
Do you have an exciting strategic project coming up that you would like to talk about?