This Australian Company Transitioned To a Remote Agency In the Face Of Coronavirus In No Time
Digital marketing agency Impressive last week made the pre-emptive decision to switch to working remotely to encourage social distancing and prevent further outbreak of coronavirus across the country
The world is rapidly changing. The coronavirus has forced businesses in Australia and across the globe to take stock of how we operate. What was a priority only a week ago may no longer be viable.
One of those priorities for many businesses was working together in an office environment. Now instead, many have had to swiftly transition to working from home (WFH). While some already had the infrastructure in place to do so, others had to act quickly to prepare.
Impressive, a Melbourne-based digital marketing agency, is a business that has been able to almost seamlessly make the switch to remote work.
Collaboration is at the core of Impressive’s business
A business focused on collaboration, Impressive operates as an extension of their clients’ marketing teams—working closely with one another to ensure they’re generating only the best results.
While they’ve always had a work-from-home policy available to staff, as a company they’ve rarely needed to use it. Instead, the team has always prioritized their ability to be agile. Daily operations include regular stand-ups between departments to ensure everyone is across what’s happening in their portfolio, and who needs to take ownership of what task.
Impressive’s culture is built on teamwork and in the four years since CEO Robert Tadros founded the company, the office has always been full of passionate people working together.
Making the switch to work from home
Last week, Impressive made the pre-emptive decision to switch to working remotely. This was to encourage social distancing and prevent further outbreak of coronavirus across Australia, in the support of the Australian federal and Victorian state governments’ plans.
Senior management advised teams to bring their devices home on Friday, March 13, and communicated the changes to their client base, before confirming arrangements over the weekend.
“This wasn’t a decision made lightly,” says Tadros. “The senior leadership team and I had been in talks for a while, assessing the risk to the business, before deciding that putting the health of our people and the greater community was the only choice.”
Some of the key initiatives implemented included the following:
Twice-daily team huddles
Each team must hold a morning and afternoon team ‘huddle’ via video chat. This allows much-needed facetime, invaluable to stave off feelings of isolation, and allows everyone to cover what one is working upon, challenges or call outs in the morning huddle and how did the day go and wins from the in the afternoon huddle.
Fast responses on Slack
When you can’t walk over to the person you need to speak to, what’s your next best option? For Impressive, it’s always been Slack.
To ensure the teams are still available for each other, the company has set the expectation that everyone must respond within 30 minutes while working from home, or have a status set as to why that is unachievable (such as lunch break, in another meeting, or driving to an appointment, among others).
Visibility on client projects is crucial during this time. The team has always used project management software to report on tasks and milestones—and working from home is no exception.
The security of sensitive information, including client details and intellectual property is vital for any business. Despite the speed in which Impressive had to transition to remote work, there was no lapse on the security protocols the company already had in place. They simply contacted their provider to increase their number of VPN licenses, allowing them to securely access their network via their hosted firewall.
Video meetings wherever possible
Not only is Impressive encouraging video communication between team members, but also across teams. This helps to feed the company’s collaborative nature, and also ensures they’re thinking outside of the box and developing innovative digital strategies—something that is critical in the current climate.
Challenges faced (and overcome)
Operating a completely remote workforce with such short notice is obviously not an ideal situation for any business—but one many companies around the world now have to face. Some of the challenges that Impressive have had to overcome include the following:
Internet access: The load on Australian broadband has increased exponentially. Some providers are struggling to manage the load for voice calls, much less data. This is being closely monitored by everyone in the business.
Isolation: A challenge remote workers face even at the best of times is isolation. Video conferencing and regular Slack communication is ensuring the team still feels connected throughout the working day.
Distraction: It may be tempting to do household chores while working from home, but it’s not the only distraction that can wreak havoc on productivity. While regular communication with the team via Slack is valuable, it can also be hard to stay in a flow state when the priority is to respond. This is something the team is closely monitoring to ensure everyone feels supported and still productive.
Ergonomic requirements: As Australia moves the majority of its offices to working from home, ergonomic requirements have certainly taken a back seat in favour of more pressing concerns. That being said, Impressive’s people and culture manager, Bronwyn Bowen is working closely with impacted individuals to ensure the company is doing what they can to maintain occupational health and safety standards for its staff.
“Additional monitors, mouses and keyboards have been brought home from the office—even desk chairs, if a suitable one is not available at home for employees,” says Bowen. “We want our people to feel as comfortable and ready for work as possible during this transition.”
The Wins So Far
While it’s certainly been an adjustment for the whole team, there have been some positive moments. The company holds weekly wrap-ups on Fridays, where everyone gets to share wins for their team and congratulate each other on their hard work. Last Friday was the first wrap-up held remotely, where over 60 employees came together on Zoom to share their experiences and hear from Tadros.
This was followed a few hours later with another special event for the team: Friday drinks at 4pm. While this is currently not an option in the office, it didn’t stop everyone from meeting up virtually on Google Hangouts to share a drink and catch up for the week.
It’s been heartwarming for Tadros to see the company he grew from one employee to 65 pull together and support each other and their clients throughout this period of uncertainty.
“I can’t begin to explain how proud and blessed I am to have such a determined, supportive and hardworking team by my side,” says Tadros. “Although we’re physically separated, I believe it’s brought us all closer together than ever before. Everyone is going above and beyond to help each other out—it’s seriously incredible.”
The Changing Face of Business Operations
There’s no telling what will happen over the coming months, let alone weeks. But one thing is for certain: when we return to equilibrium, it’s likely many businesses will reassess their operations. Collaboration is a core component for Impressive and for many companies—but their WFH policy has now been stress-tested, so it’s likely we will see more flexible arrangements in the future.
As things continue to change, the priority is working together and continuing to support each other, no matter the current situation.