What is the ‘new normal’?

Over the last few weeks, we’ve all been adapting to a ‘new normal.’ Leaving our buzzy, creative, social, banter-filled offices behind and finding ourselves sat at makeshift desks in quarantine – all within, what felt like, the flick of a switch.

Thankfully, connecting people is what we do so adapting hasn’t been as technically challenging as you’d presume – it’s different, but we’re in this together and we’re making it work.

Here are just a few things we’re doing and platforms we’re using to keep the lines of communication open in these unprecedented times.

Video Conferencing

Who isn’t? Our screen time just increased exponentially. However, in the first week, we, like so many others, found ourselves swapping between platforms to find the best service that worked for us. Actually, ‘the best’ should read the easiest and most natural. For us, that’s Slack. We already use the platform in the office for internal messages, so it made sense just to extend the use to internal phone and video calls.

Just because you’ve got the platform in place, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re usually it effectively to communicate. We quickly put in place set times and days for calls to give our new working weeks structure – these were more frequent at the start and we’ve decreased them slightly as we’ve settled in the new routine. We now have daily all-team morning catch ups to check work is on target and workload is balanced. Then, once a week we have an extended ‘work-in-progress’ meeting where we run through everything the agency is currently working on.

Now that’s all very sensible but is anyone else just craving some relaxed, bonding, social time for a momentary escape from the isolated life we’re temporarily living? WE ARE! So, we created ‘On Cloud Wine’ every Friday at 5pm we switch over to Google Hangouts so we can extend the invitation to clients, associates and friends to join us for fun social times with a glass of the lovely grapey stuff.

We’ve also introduced ‘Cocktail Cribs’ when each week we take it in turns to give ‘all access’ personal tours of our homes. It’s a bit of fun and helps us to visualise each other working and help strengthen that feeling of connection.

Instant Messaging

As mentioned above, in the office we were already using Slack for internal instant messaging and chat. It massively reduces the volume of e-mails in our inboxes which easily becomes overwhelming when you’re sat on your own island every day.

Using slack means we can also use it for internal calls to keep home expenses at bay – no-one needs to add extra overheads or rack up personal bills right now.

With the Slack app, we can also continue to use the platform when we’re not sat at our desks. As we’re all working slightly different hours and, in some cases, managing the inevitable juggle of working from home with children – notifications on our mobile phones still remains a lifeline for urgent messages regardless of what we’re doing and where we are in our homes.

The Office Phone

Our fab phone system support team at Ontel have given us access to 3CX, it’s effectively a private exchange for our office phone. With an app installed on our mobiles and a web-platform on our laptops, our office extensions automatically redirect to our mobile phones. All our phones ring simultaneously when someone calls the office so we can make sure one of us can always answer the call and one poor designated person isn’t having to answer every single call. We then use the same transfer numbers we would in the office to transfer calls between mobiles. It’s that simple.

Server in the Cloud

Is it possible to praise Dropbox enough right now? Not in our minds. Thankfully, our whole server has always been in the cloud and individually synced to each of our laptops. Therefore, as long as we’ve got a connection to the internet, we’ve got access to the files.

The only downside is multiple people can’t edit the same file at the same time, so now and again we’ll switch to Google Docs but just keeping each other in the loop and making sure we don’t keep documents open on our screens when we’re not using them means it works just fine. 

The holy bible in our cloud is our masterful WIP, our work-in-progress worksheet that details every action for that working week for every client. Don’t get us wrong, sometimes it can be a little overwhelming but it keeps us in check and on task and means we can all transparently see who might have too much or too little on their to do list so we can rebalance the work. It really has been a huge blessing since we’ve been working remotely to keep transparency across the agency when we’re all working in our little silos.

20 phrases a video conference call wouldn’t be complete without

So, these are just some of the ideas and tools we’re using right now to keep in touch and give each other virtual hugs of support over the electromagnetic waves.

It might seem like one dark, long tunnel at the moment but it’s only by coming together and holding each other up, albeit virtually, that we’ll find the light at the end.

I know we’re British, but have you ever heard yourself say, ‘I’m sorry’ more than in the last few weeks now that we spend, what feels like, 50 per cent of our days on video conference calls?

To give you a bit of a giggle, and remind you we’ll all in this together, here are our top 20 phrases that no video conference call is complete without. Enjoy!

  1. Hi, who just joined?
  2. X are you there?
  3. Sorry, I think we’re still waiting for X
  4. Hello, hello, hello… can you hear me?
  5. This system is shit
  6. (sound of someone typing, possibly with a hammer)
  7. Can everyone, who’s not talking, go on mute?
  8. I’m sorry, I was on mute
  9. (inappropriate gossiping or shouting at child) Sorry guys, I thought I was on mute.
  10. (child screaming)
  11. (dog barking)
  12. I’m sorry, X you cut out there.
  13. Sorry X, shall we catch up on this later?
  14. Sorry X, can you move your microphone closer to your mouth?
  15. (crunch, crunch, crunch)
  16. So (cuts out), I can (cuts out), by (cuts out)
  17. Sorry, I was having connection issues
  18. Sorry, X I think there’s a delay
  19. Sorry X, I didn’t catch you, can you say that again
  20. Sorry guys, I must jump on another call