OK so we've made a decision for our team members to work from home as of today for 2 weeks minimum. We'll monitor the situation and see how it pans out. Here's a little insight into how we're dealing with the coronavirus here at MadeByShape.
It's the most important thing in life. As a business owner, it's very important that myself and Jason make a decision that considers the health and safety of our staff. I've read up a lot on the virus recently, how other businesses are coping, and how to keep the business running smoothly. It's certainly sensible to work from home and ask team members to be cautious. After all, imagine if any of your staff get ill, how would that make you feel.
We've also had to cancel our team trip to Brussels. Booooo. Hiss. Boooo. But it's for the safety of our team. Unfortunately we don't get our money back so any ideas of what we can do instead - let us know. Maybe we can all get on Zoom and have a team conference call where we all just get drunk facetiming each other and sharing our screens.
Working from home
Now we've made the decision. Clear instructions have been put in place, starting off with a home setup. Here at MadeByShape we have equipment for everybody, all team members have the ability to take home their laptops, iMacs, tablets etc. We've advised that they setup a space in a spare room if possible to help them concentrate. This is easier for some than others. As a business owner, we need to understand that people are human and some work different to others. Some will work in silence, some with music on, and some will put Netflix on in the background. This is fine for us. As long as they hit their deadlines. Which we come onto next.
As a small studio, even before the coronavirus hit - we have team deadlines and individual deadlines. So this doesn't change how we work. The only difference is the environment. Putting Netflix on, having the dog running round, kids etc. can distract - so this is important that the individual manages their own time and sticks to the deadlines we will set.
We are using Trello as a project management tool for tasks and deadlines. We've setup a board that has each team member, what their tasks are, and when the deadline is. These have labels attached to them for; To Do, Working On, Completed. All colour coded so it's easily recognisable.
Since day one, we have always let our team members know how much they are valued, how much freedom we give them and what is expected. This is great if you want to push yourself, but it does mean you are responsible for your own time. So if you miss a deadline, it's your fault - no excuses. If you don't understand a brief, or a specific task - then it's your responsibility to communicate and ask questions. Which leads us onto...
We aren't sat in an open office environment anymore. So asking immediate questions is different. The banter won't be as good, but I think production will be better. Our usual working hours are explained in this article. But now we're working from home, we are going to have a team facetime via Zoom at 8:30am every morning. And check in points at 10:30am, 2:30pm and 4:30pm. Specific tasks within Trello will be outlined and it's upto the team leaders to check in that the work has been done.
Throughout the working hours, everybody will be on Slack for instant communication if need be. I'm not sure if it will, but I think that with us not being in close proximity and discussing stuff - the casual video of a goat singing or a massive snake eating a unicorn will reduce in frequency.
I also think it will help certain individuals solve problems on their own a bit more. Sometimes, it's too easy to ask for help in a studio environment. Spin your chair around, tell somebody your problem, and ask them to help. It disturbs that person, but helps you. If somebody fixes an issue for you, did you really understand why it was an issue and what you needed to do to fix it?! Sometimes not. If you figure this out yourself without asking, you have a better understanding in the future as to why it happens - and prevent it from happening again.
If you're an existing client on Shape Support - our process will not change. You can check your Trello board for updates and email your dedicated project manager directly. The fact that we're working from home, will not alter the workflow.
We have cleaners who visit once a week to give the studio a full clean. But as a precaution - we've deep cleaned the studio ourselves also. Better to be safe than sorry.
We've also changed our voicemail to a message that asks for all enquiries and requests to be made via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
One thing I do think will change is business development. When it comes to new projects, face to face meetings are always better. We will of course be offering Skype or Zoom calls to discuss projects, but I don't think this will be the same as meeting somebody in person. Let's see how it goes.
In terms of getting the work, nothing will change. We actively perform Organic SEO on our site, we have a long term strategy for SEO. So we presume enquiries will still filter through. This is all a guess, because we don't really know what's going to happen. Some clients will think "let's hold off on getting that new website until this all calms down" and some clients will think "this is a great time to get our acts together and create that new website whilst we have a gap in the diary".
The big one. It's seriously affecting some businesses already. And we have clients who are panicking. For us, as a business - we have retainers in place, we have ongoing SEO projects. So we're not at immediate risk. However, what is unsure - is whether we will receive as many enquiries and how long the coronavirus will last. Let's say we didn't get any projects at all - there's always stuff to do. It's important for the project managers to delegate tasks and make the team busy. We're working on a new website for Shape, surely there's aspects we can still improve. There's side projects we've been discussing for a while, these can be completed. And some team members will be busier than others due to the scale of projects they are currently working on. So it's important to relieve pressure and keep on top of everybody to see how they're coping.
It's important to keep on top of the clients who have retainers, but if there's clients who aren't on shape support. Maybe this is a great time to get involved. Our team can be completing tasks for your business - taking the stress and pressure of you in a time of uncertainty.
As all staff are still working (from home) we will be paying wages in full. Any external freelancers we have in place, will be paid in full and on time. We will monitor the situation and see how long this virus lasts. I think it's important to try and carry on as normal as much as possible. It's OK to slow down a little, to understand and adapt to a change in environment, but work still needs to be done.
For me, cutting the gym out is going to be an issue. But I think it's sensible to stop going. So home workouts, and runs will have to be implemented for the next few weeks instead. A few of the lads are keen cyclists - which I don't think will be an issue. But I do think it's important to stay active and not just eat fried chicken on the couch all day with your laptop on your knee.
Stay safe everyone. Let's see where this takes us. I have a feeling that this change in environment will improve communication, especially around deadlines. And these aspects will creep into our everyday life when we are back in the studio.