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Posted July 22, 2020

What we’ve learned as a business through lockdown.

Working from Home

It would be easy to be wholly negative about the last three months of business life. Being locked down and confined to quarters with the kids for 13 weeks hasn’t been easy at all, but there have been some real positives to come out of all this for the business.

Remote working works!

Without a shadow of a doubt we have proved that we can work from home as a business. It’s not perfect and we have had to adapt to new technologies, really lean on our existing cloud-based project management apps and work hard at maintaining our culture – but it works. Some of the crew have even improved their performance in lockdown and I have personally benefited from being stuck in my own quiet bedroom office when I had to hit a tight deadline or concentrate on a design piece that I might have been struggling with.

We have always had ad-hoc ‘working from home days’ at The Bigger Boat, but we will definitely be making more of them after lockdown. There will always be times when you need to be in the office with other members of the crew. We’ve found that pinch points on a project work better when we’re together and ideas meetings work best face-to-face – but if we need to get our heads down, we’ll stay at home. Got a delivery coming? Stay at home. If you have the right people, systems and processes in place, there’s no reason why you can’t make working from home work.

No commuting

Normally, I really don’t mind the morning commute. It’s usually a pleasant 20/30-minute drive in which I can have a bit of solitude, stick on the latest audiobook and relax. But I have really enjoyed not having to commute at all over the past few weeks. No commute means I can have an extra half hour in bed, get an early turbo trainer session in on the bike or just enjoy a leisurely breakfast of scrambled eggs before I hit the home office desk.

Virtual meetings

I think I used Zoom once or twice before lockdown – now it’s once or twice per day! This has to be the dawn of virtual meetings. They’re not perfect (I’m sure you’re as sick of hearing ‘can you all see that?’ as I am) but do we really need to take a three-hour drive to London for a one-hour meeting – then get back in the car for the three-hour drive home? Imagine if three people have to go to that meeting – that’s three people out of the business for 18 hours (not to mention the impact on the environment). With the right set-up, we don’t have all that travel time and cost and we can still hold the meeting. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are times when only a face-to-face will do but we would be crazy not to throw virtual meet-ups into the mix after lockdown.

My own music

This might not be at the top of everyone’s list but being able to listen to my own music without fear of being judged or having to appease everyone is so nice! I’m sure some of the crew would say I don’t care about pleasing anyone anyway! But not having the stress of being office DJ has been a real weight off!

WFH pitfalls

It would be disingenuous to say that working from home is perfect. Here are just a few of things I think we need to look out for: You can end up sitting at the desk for long periods of time. You really need to make sure you’re getting some breaks in otherwise getting out of the chair is almost impossible – especially at my age and with my legs! Get up and take the dog out for a walk. Maintaining culture and staff morale needs attention too. We held quizzes and regular check-ins with staff to make sure that everything was OK at home. We even had The X Factor’s Wagner make an appearance on a team Zoom call just for the hell of it! We used a remote jukebox app so that all the staff could hear the same tunes and we still did all the cool stuff that we used to do in the office: crewmate of the month, celebrating every success no matter how small and adding positive client feedback to our dedicated Slack channel.

To sum up, we would be crazy not to take advantage of what we’ve learned in lockdown. From virtual meetings to more advanced use of cloud-based apps and storage and the stress-busting bonus of ‘working from home’ to the environmental benefit of less commuting, it really hasn’t been all that negative an experience for The Bigger Boat at all.

Posted by Doug Main

Creative Director, current table tennis champ, lover of the design grid and everything to do with road cycling.