Three months in, A&M agencies adjust to Work from Home

Agencies work from home

Through the various personal and professional hurdles, A&M agencies continue to work from home to keep functioning as normally as possible. Social Samosa takes stock.

Over three months ago when the pandemic was still at a nascent stage in the country and Work From Home was still an option for agencies to consider rather than a government-mandated act, we had asked A&M organisations to share their plans. After a quarter of a year living through the good and bad, we went back to them to follow up on how things stand at the moment. Turns out, things aren’t easy but professionals are inevitably accepting the realities, overcoming the hurdles along the way.

First things first

Work From Home is slightly easier for some agencies and professionals. It depends on the nature of the work as well as the resources and spaces at the disposal of individuals. Essentially, it is tough for everyone, only in varying degrees, making it a team effort to ensure seamless execution.

For DigiChefs, a mix of communication protocol, proper tools and extensive planning aimed at creating mental bandwidth for the team has been key to implementing work from home. As for the challenges, Sarvesh, Creative Director, DigiChefs tells us, “The challenges mirrored Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in some ways.”

“The early days dealt with issues of connectivity and communication, then slowly shifting to performance and productivity and eventually to psychosocial and mental health needs. It has been heartening to see the team be there for one another throughout these stages,” he explains.

Kiran Ray Chaudhury, Cofounder & Jt Managing Director, 80 dB Communications tells us, “In the first month or so of the lockdown, the pace of work (work+home) did seem very overwhelming and often stressful. But as we’ve become more aware of the situation and more adjusted, the pressure has eased and the WFH has taken on a nice rhythm.”

On a personal note, she tells us how WFH has always been a productive option for her for it allows her the flexibility of taking care of kids and household responsibilities as well as find time to pursue hobbies and learn new things. It has been a ‘do it all’ option at the best of times.

Productivity 101

Ambika Sharma, Founder & MD, Pulp Strategy feels WFH home is here to stay but in a hybrid model, which will depend and vary as per the roles and workload. She doesn’t feel optimal productivity can be achieved in a 100% WFH model.

Explaining the experience and the challenges faced by her agency and employees, she tells us, “In a collaborative environment, the biggest challenge has been to work without human contact with colleagues.”

Other challenges include infrastructure, data connectivity and hardware upkeep.

The PR industry is facing a unique challenge when it comes to pitching story ideas and communicating with clients as well as journalists. With the communication channels being restricted to online and calls, the importance of face-to-face interactions is being understood more than ever before.

“It might be more convenient to send an email, conduct Zoom meetings and converse on audio calls but we think learning from face-to-face interactions is the most valuable and effective to stronger the relationships with the stakeholders,” explains Rajat Grover, Founder & CEO, Elite Marque.

Family and Home

Echoing the triumphs and trials of working parents, Chaittali Dave, Manager, Mumbai Nucleus PR helps us piece together an important aspect of the situation. The situation is especially difficult for parents who have to now handle work and family side by side, with little to no help.

For easier management, Dave implemented her work lessons at home, dividing the work with her husband and kids, as they do with teams, with everyone contributing their bit to keep the household running.

“As a working mother of two 3-year-old twins, who have an insane amount of energy,  there are a lot of things that need to be managed at your home and on the other hand, you need to do justice to your work too. It has been a balancing act each and every day,” she tells us.

When there are no physical boundaries between work and home, things are bound to get difficult for all parties involved. Drawing lines is key to keeping everyone sane and productivity reasonable. Gozoop’s Chief Happiness Officer, Bansi Raja tells us how it’s been the most challenging to just disconnect.

“When clients give feedback at 11:30 PM, and you have to call your designer who’s probably doing the dishes, it isn’t really easy. Waking up and sleeping to your laptop isn’t going to help your sanity either. While that did become our default in the first two months, we’re consciously speaking with our clients about this new normal and mutually drawing lines where necessary,” she explains.

To Keep up Motivation

The work environment in A&M agencies is one that is hard to replicate in a work from home setting. While the work can be done and within deadlines, the motivation to do so can be tough to keep up when you have to depend on screens and microphones for human contact and tackle internet connections to ensure you are delivering the perfect punch line. All the while knowing it wouldn’t translate into a high five.

Anurag Gupta, Co-Founder, The Other Circle tells us about the custom-made solutions the agency came up with for different team members as per the challenges they were facing. “We introduced a buddy system where each buddy pair would share their thoughts, wins and loses with each other, along with their normal work-related queries.”

“The management then got a call with each team members once a week to understand the week that had gone by and plan for the week ahead. Any flags raised, either work-related or buddy related were discussed internally and resolved on an immediate and empathetic basis,” he adds.

To help employees battle the monotony of work from home, they have also tried coming up with training sessions, Friday happy hours and weekly Townhall sessions to boost the morale of the team members.

To sum up

Technology has been a major facilitator in the adaptation of Work From Home, accelerating innovation. The experience of these months has made it easier for agencies to accept that working remotely is a possibility without letting workflow to get affected. This is bound to change the way hirings and collaborations are looked at in the future.

Among the challenges faced by the leadership as well as the employees include finding the balance between work and home, despite the blurring lines as well as the lack of human contact. The lack of choice is making matters worse for people in a world where news cycles are increasingly bringing them gloom on a regular basis.

Agencies based in Mumbai have an added dilemma of the havoc monsoon is capable of causing in any plans to re-open anytime soon. As for those in Bengaluru, life seems to be getting back to track in bits and pieces with the gradual opening of offices. There is hope, after all.