WFH a year on – what have we learned?

By Ollie Tunmore, Senior Account Executive, Spa Communications.

The last thing anyone needs to read today is yet another article telling us how ‘2020 shocked the world’, or ‘how the workforce of today will never be the same’, and how these are ‘unprecedented times’.

However, the past 12 months have undoubtedly been a testing period for many industries, but especially for the PR and comms world, which is oh-so reliant on the personal and intricate relationships we build with people to carry out our business.

The very nature of our work is essentially focused on interpersonal relations – be it in the form of meetings, events, social gatherings – we are people-people, and we are paid to be so.

With recent reports suggesting that by 2025, up to 70 percent of the entire working population may work remotely at least five days a month, and 74 per cent claiming they would ‘permanently’ shift to remote working after the pandemic, it is no wonder that communications professionals alike are feeling the strains of this newfound means of business.

I have been working in my current role for a year to the day of writing this piece, yet, I have never actually met my team.

While interviewing for the job back in Feb-March 2020, we carried out the entirety of the recruitment process through video calls. Our face-to-face meetings were cancelled due to the impending lockdown and we all figured it would only last a few weeks, maybe months.

Oh, how wrong we were.

Twelve months later, I have been permanently based in my small office at home and have still not had the chance to meet a single one of my clients or teammates. Nevertheless, our team has continued to expand throughout this year, in part thanks to phenomenal demand within the technology sector, but frankly, through a lot of hard work, grit and determination.

As a team, we no longer fit in our old office, even if lockdown constraints were lifted. So, with a future that, for many of us, looks to be incredibly remote, how can professionals within our sector prioritise personal, professional relationships, smooth and clear-cut communications, and deliver an efficient and effective PR practice?

Regular check-ins: One of the key aspects of remote working I (my team and many of my wider peers) seem to have recognised is that every single person has felt the impact of not having physical communication with people. It is all too easy to presume people are comfortable and happy in their day-to-day, because you can’t physically see it. Make a real effort to make contact with your peers and colleagues to make sure they are coping.

Virtual 1-2-1s: These have been a saving grace for me and many of my teammates. Even if 1-2-1 meetings were not part of your practice beforehand, they should be now! At Spa, we have biweekly, half hour 1-2-1 meetings with our managers to run through the week’s challenges, opportunities, pressures and successes, as well as personal mid-week check-ins every Wednesday morning to prioritise health and wellbeing.

Crucially, however, it provides an opportunity for open dialogue to discuss anything that might be on your mind – positive or otherwise. These moments of one-on-one communication are absolutely priceless at the moment.

Share and manage your workload: And don’t be afraid to shout when you’re sinking. Without physically being in a working environment together, it is becoming increasingly difficult to gauge how our peers are fairing with their workload and hours can quickly creep. We do not have access to the usual small tokens of stress that we might observe when working together in the same room, so it is vitally important that you speak up if you feel elements of your workload are getting out of control. It sounds cliché but teamwork really does make the dream work.

Go the extra mile: Birthdays, anniversaries, internal wins, all of these things have been somewhat muted over the past year with many people having to celebrate at home in a painfully understated fashion thanks to the various lockdowns. Even if you did not particularly make much of a song and dance per say before, now is the perfect opportunity to really push the boat out and try to make sure your peers know they are valued through thoughtful gestures like company cards or gifts. Even just small morale boosters like food vouchers or congratulatory/thank you messages can make a real difference.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to speak out if you’re struggling: This year has been tough for even the most resilient of people (and we all know how thick skinned we communications pros have to be!). One of my personal, key learning curves has been to understand that it is more than okay to struggle, but even more important to reach out for help. Be it mentally, physically, with your work, your personal life – whatever it may be – your team are here to help you and while working remotely, there is nothing more important than the wellbeing and safety of your people.

Ollie Tunmore is a Senior Account Executive at Spa Communications, a B2B PR, social media and content marketing agency specialising in the technology sector. Spa Communications is currently hiring at various levels thanks to account growth. Please get in contact at hello@spacomms.com

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