March 19, 2021
Like every single person and company around the world SPOV has been affected by the ongoing problems of COVID 19, how did we cope and adapt on a personal and professional level?
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In January 2020 we began to think about implementing a plan to help transition our company to adjust to a ‘working from home’ situation, not only was the safety of our colleagues at the forefront of our minds, but we were also halfway through a year long project for a AAA game title and could not afford any disruption to our delivery schedule.
Undoubtedly we are lucky that we work in an industry that exists on a digital platform, our workflow, pipelines and client interactions can all be carried out before a computer screen and the projects we were working on all continued, others aren’t so fortunate. However, a very large part of what we do and how we work involves talking through ideas with our colleagues, this would be a harder problem to solve.
We began by analysing what systems and hardware we would need to implement to help support a large team of fulltime and freelance staff in continuing, as seamlessly as possible, a workflow that was challenging to manage when everyone was in the same building, let alone spread literally all around the world.
Servers were upgraded, I.T. systems were implemented and continual support was offered to every member of our team to make the transition as smooth as possible. Yes there were issues, pets appeared during client meetings, cereal was spilled over keyboards, web cameras didn’t work, home internet connections were sometimes slow or non existent. Occasionally total postcode electrical outages meant team members were absent for periods of time throughout the day. However all these problems were overcome, mobile data was a saviour along with cloths and sponges.
We were fortunate with how smooth this transition was, we managed to move our workforce to a remote setting over one weekend, security measures were increased and no deadlines missed!
The creative process was the hardest thing to move remotely, a quick 5 minute chat to discuss an idea or troubleshoot a problem became an ‘official’ zoom call or a stream of online messaging that challenged us all. Over time we all became more relaxed on video calls, the normal flow of conversation took a while to resurface, people talking over each other, long pauses after someone stopped talking became a thing of the past as we all got more familiar with this new way of conversing.
Messaging on Discord got quicker, spelling mistakes forgiven and gifs and emojis helped to ‘punchline’ comments and inject humour...some of our older colleagues struggled in this area!
But how did we cope personally? One of the problems with ‘working from home’ is that a work/life balance becomes much harder to manage. We were aware that people are not only struggling with the impact on their lives from a global pandemic but also the pressures and stresses of working on challenging and demanding projects.
People were encouraged to check in on each other on a daily basis, just a simple ‘How are you doing?’ goes a long way to enabling people to open up about any problems they are having. A walk in the morning before you start work helps to recreate a commute and defines the beginning of your working day, it is easy to just get up 5 minutes before the daily standup and yes some of us were guilty of that, but breaking up your day was hugely beneficial.
At the end of each week a social session was introduced, people could have a beer, have a catchup about everything and anything. One of the biggest successes we introduced was the ‘Friday Night Pub Quiz’. Each of us would take it in turn to come up with a set of questions and over time the presentations by the ‘Quizmaster’ became more involved and impressive. A simple list of questions written on a piece of paper became a 30 page interactive powerpoint involving videos, music and the legendary ‘page curl’ transition. Friends and family would join in and even after the quiz was finished people would stay on and have Mario Kart Switch competitions with homemade trophies awarded.
So how has the pandemic changed our business? Well, not that much, apart from the obvious remote working, a lot of our processes remain the same, but it has sharpened our focus on how we present ourselves to clients and the outside world.
A new website with a clearer message of what we provide, who we are and what we are about was important to reach out to an audience in these challenging times. Lockdown has certainly given us the time to evaluate the way we do things, tweak a few processes and implement a few new ones.
Like many businesses we are grateful to have survived this period and certainly take nothing for granted, to continue to exist in this environment you have to be open to change, evolve and improve and that is something we pride ourselves on here at SPOV.
What happens when this ends? Who can say how quickly life will return to how it was, or will it be changed forever? Certainly we have learnt a lot in this past year, we learnt that we are lucky to work in an industry that carried on, we learnt that we could cope with not all being under one roof, we learnt that we have a great team (we knew that anyway) who can cope with an extremely challenging situation. Finally, and some might say most importantly, we learnt that we only need to wear ‘work’ clothes from the waist up!
‘Working from home’ used to have a stigma attached to it, this phrase was usually met with a wry smile, ‘Yeah right’ the response, this we feel has changed forever.
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