A Real Surreal Six Months

September 23, 2020

Diana Conconi

Almost exactly 6 months ago, the world as we knew it changed forever.

Since then, time has seemed amorphous. Days race by and yet seem to stand still at the same time. I find myself constantly checking my calendar to remember what day it is. If it wasn’t for deadlines, ZOOM meetings and client deliverables – those things that provide a semblance of structure – my schedule would be in a perpetual state of anarchy.

But COVID has been about so much more than just coping. It has forced us to reimagine possibility, embrace innovation and remember the value of relationships.

Luckily, our office already had a remote work policy so that transition was fairly smooth. The work was also never an issue. The team takes great pride in what we do and ownership of our clients, so alongside trust and constant communication with each other to ensure the right resourcing and support, nothing got dropped. We continued to create very successful campaigns for clients and we even won a good bit of new business along the way.

What did change was how quickly we learned new videoconferencing tools like ZOOM, relocated conversations to Slack, measured and re-measured our office in order to install plexiglass panels (wherever proper distancing wasn’t possible) and even moved our main drive off of a server and onto another, more reliable platform…a primary example of something that needed to be done but kept getting put off until the pandemic forced us to do things differently.

Instead, our biggest concern was the culture shock. We actually like hanging out together so we knew we would miss the easy banter, free snacks in the kitchen and Friday wine cart social. When you work as hard as we do, you definitely need an outlet for fun. So, we figured out how to make technology more fun. Our Friday wine cart social moved onto ZOOM and online game resources for trivia and “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?” kept us thinking…and laughing together. We also got closer to our colleagues in Montreal because, what’s a few hundred kilometres when everyone is just a click away?

We even found a way to host our annual summer “Amazing Day” gathering, complete with an oversized Jenga game and our scary clown mascot hiding, watching us from the bushes. But nobody even noticed because we were just so happy to spend time together catching up and realizing how much taller Taylor and Gillian (who joined us after the “lockdown”) both were in person.

All along the way, we did what communicators who thrive on information do – we communicated. Our “need to know” led to monthly surveys that helped us understand how different everyone’s experience over these months has been. Some of us are more worried about getting sick and most of us worry about getting others sick. Deadlines are still stressful and sometimes we work long hours, but on schedules that adapt to our own. But we feel productive. We feel engaged. We feel that our culture is intact and we know help is always just a Slack chat away.

Just this month, we started going back to the office in a careful, voluntary way.  The kitchen shelves are stocked with new, individually wrapped snacks, there are bottles of wine on the cart and, speaking for myself, I may be just a tad less productive because I’ve spent a little too much time chatting in the office on my days in.

Yes, the world has indeed changed. But our commitment to our clients and to each other hasn’t. Not one bit.

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