After nearly ten years as an agency, we never expected to have to draft a memo on dealing with a global pandemic. We never thought we’d be sourcing large amounts of sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. We also didn’t think we’d be having to disinfect our meeting rooms and other common spaces multiple times a day. And we certainly never imagined having to get our whole team from two offices in two different cities to work from home for an unknown period of time. But here we are.
The health and safety of our teams and of our clients and partners has always been the most important thing to us. At the end of the day, we love what we do, but the best part of getting to do this is the people we work with. So, the decision to work from home, while becoming clearer throughout these last few weeks was made relatively easy.
What started as an early morning planning Slack for the future and what ifs, was decided by late Wednesday evening (March 11th), also on Slack. The future of running an agency. The perfect storm of sports leagues shutting down, travel restrictions coming on line, and then America’s Dad Tom Hanks testing positive. In all seriousness, those items, plus not wanting to put our team in any situation where they may be vulnerable made it an extremely easy one. So as of March 12th all of our teams were encouraged to work from home. Our offices would remain accessible for any additional needs (cords, screens) but with no real support.
Our teams already work cross country and we already utilize the tools that are driving the economy in this new era: Slack, Zoom, G-Suite, Adobe, Dropbox and Jira. These allow pretty great virtual collaboration. We do wish we had the foresight to buy some Zoom stock, but other than that, we were pretty able to seamlessly transition. We know this transition is a big one. And we can’t thank our team enough for taking it one day at a time with a smile on their faces.
One thing we never had to do was focus on the non-work stuff – the culture. We’ve quickly added daily multiple team video conference huddles stretching from early on East Coast time, to the end of the West Coast day. We’ve added virtual happy hours, and other video meetings to fill the gap. Nothing like having your team on a call to end the week all from home Brady Bunch style – it’s surprisingly fun. We have dropped the idea of “offices” and merged our Slack groups into singular channels – So, no more Vancouver or Toronto, we are just one Pound & Grain united team now. Sort of like bringing the Avengers together.
One great idea that came quickly was the suggestion of sending our now remote team members a little buddy. Our Managing Partner Sandy Fleischer got creative and found plant services that could deliver a nice new surprise green friend for everyone’s desk. The deliveries with personalized messages were such a nice touch. Seeing everyone’s reaction and how the team gave them names and the pretty humbling things they posted on social was such a bright moment in our first full week doing this.
It’s interesting to note. I got into this business in the wake of 9/11. We started Pound & Grain in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and benefited from how Vancouver rode out that economy on the gas in the tank from the 2010 Olympic Games. And we are now facing a whole new unprecedented situation with the coronavirus amidst a tremendously challenging economic situation. There’s a generation of motivational speakers that have talked about how the words for crisis and opportunity in Chinese are the same. Or as Homer Simpson would say, Crisitunity. No wonder articles claim that this is about the same as a bad character tattoo translation.
True or not, the sentiment is spot on. Our mission remains as always to service our clients, create great work, and be an awesome place to work. But our mandate on the eve of our 10th anniversary of being an agency, is to weather this storm, ensure the health and safety of our team of incredible people, provide timely and real time value to our great clients and prepare for the incredible time that we will have during the recovery ahead. Thanks to our resilient team, we’ve got this.