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This March marks one whole year since the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses and offices to shut their doors indefinitely. Remote working became the norm for Narrative and one year on, our team are still doing amazing work and landing new clients despite not being able to share an office together.

With an end now in sight, we wanted to reflect on what has been a challenging year to talk about how amazingly our Narrative team has managed during a year in the virtual office, and how we have supported each other as a team.

While meetings over Zoom aren’t always ideal – though a lack of daily commute is welcome – our Narrators have adapted impressively to ‘the new normal’ – a phrase which we’re sure will be 100% banned once we actually return to the workplace!

Find out what our Narrative team has to say after one year working from home

KIERON, MANAGING DIRECTOR

Initially, I was amazed at how quickly we were able to make the decision to work from home and actually do it – it was pretty much a day! The technology challenge was easy to deal with, laptops, remote server access, and Zoom – easy! How hard could this be?

However, I feel that very much like the fact we’ve had three lockdowns, I have had three very different experiences with working from home. During the first lock-down I struggled to deal with the office being at the dining room table, the lack of commute took away the time before and after work that naturally punctuated the working day – I never seemed to switch off.

By the second lock-down I’d managed to set myself a few rules and was really enjoying home working, less time rushing around, more time to run and do other things – this was surely the future!

However, by lock-down three I really began to miss the office. We’re a creative business and whilst technology has been able to move much of the office to home, a creative brainstorm just isn’t the same over Zoom.

So, in summary, I think hybrid working will be the new normal, however, I’m really ready to get back to the office and get back to doing what I love – being creative with a brilliant team.

AIMEE, CLIENT PARTNERSHIPS DIRECTOR

When I used to look at my diary and see a day full of meetings I’d despair – how will I get anything done in between? Are these all necessary? Could some of these just be an email?

But after a year of working remotely I can’t wait for a day packed with face-to-face meetings filled with creativity, laughter, ideas, cups of tea in branded mugs, colleagues’ news, client updates, a hasty lunch in between agenda items, future planning, relieved smiling faces, more cups of tea, handshakes and hugs, banter, new views, new faces, and the occasional free pen.

And all without missing a word due to bad internet or mute buttons.   

And after all that I’ll really enjoy working from my kitchen table for the rest of the week to catch up on work…because lockdown has reinforced that there’s nothing like working from home for productivity! 

One thing I have loved though about working from home is the flexibility – to walk 5km with a podcast before my first meeting, or to bake a cake at lunchtime to destress or to start later and finish earlier one day so I can spend time with my family.

I miss routine but also love the spontaneity of some working days so when the “new normal” returns, my biggest challenge will be around finding a good balance and not letting myself think that 12-hour days are the key to productivity when we all know exercise and relaxation are just as key.

JO, CREATIVE DELIVERY DIRECTOR

Monday 23rd March 2020 was my son’s 11th birthday and already by then we were all set up and working from home even before the official lockdown was announced. His birthday meal was cancelled but we made the best of it, never imagining that one year on my son’s 12th birthday will be another one in lockdown.

I’ve worked from home for about 90% of the year which I don’t think anyone could have forecast, but it’s almost normal now. I do miss the office camaraderie, the banter, the creative sessions, the lunchtime walks, the laughter, and the general ambiance that the Narrative team enjoyed, day in day out.

I certainly don’t miss the commute, the Tyne Tunnel fees or the heady chaos of work/life balance.

I like the flexibility to clear my emails from my desk at 7 am if I want to (and the ability to finish a bit earlier to get a walk in).

I’ve loved the Red January initiative which was just the boost we all needed in a gloomy January, 10 months into the lockdown.

I definitely think Zoom is here to stay, to replace those meetings where a phone call isn’t enough but a physical trip isn’t necessary. But it certainly can’t ever substitute the buzz of a “real life” team meeting or a pitch.

In terms of support, we’ve been lucky enough to all have access to the tech needed to make WFH a success.

TORI, HEAD OF PR AND MEDIA

I am definitely a people person and miss the buzz and conversation of the office; particularly as my husband, very early on, stated that sharing a ‘home office’ with me was not going to happen and promptly situated himself in another room!

Despite the lack of face-to-face interaction across the various lockdowns, as a team it has been lovely to see everyone rally round on-screen via Zoom calls, Teams calls, quizzes, catch-ups etc. This effort from across the business has definitely had a positive impact on morale and culture with our dispersed workforce.

It has definitely become more normal to see people on screen, even though it felt very strange at first. It has shown how digitally capable we are and I have fully embraced the ‘upstairs for working, downstairs for lounging’ ethos with my new genre of workwear consisting of smart top and joggers!

Living quite a distance from the office, I certainly haven’t missed the commute, but it has been a case of adapting to finding ways to switch off from work when working and relaxing are in the same physical space.

We’re a creative lot and although we’ve made things work over video calls, I miss getting together for creative ideation sessions and bouncing off each other in the office to explore new ideas, briefs and pitches.

Overall, I think it’s a real achievement for all of us and one which I’m really proud of us. We have managed to win some amazing new contracts across PR, content, creative and media despite these extraordinary circumstances. This is definitely a testament to us pulling together as a team, keeping communication lines open from videos, emails, WhatsApp, and more.

NICOLA, PR AND COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

I joined the agency in November, just as we entered a second National lockdown, and I have to say that starting a new job during a pandemic is incredibly strange!

Much of my induction was done via Zoom, and despite this, I was made to feel incredibly welcomed and included within the team. While I sadly wasn’t able to meet our clients face to face as I would normally, or have the unique enjoyment of getting to know my new colleagues at the pub, I’ve remotely settled into the role via a combination of Zoom check-ins, virtual quizzes, and tech support that’s allowed me to get on with most of my work without a problem!

I’ve been very lucky to have been in previous roles where working from home was the norm, so when lockdown hit I thought I’d be fully prepared for the shift. What I wasn’t prepared for however was how long we’ve been doing this!

As a lot of my role involves writing, contacting journalists and building media lists, I actually find that working from home has made me much more productive! I get tasks finished in much less time when not interrupted by meetings and phone calls.

I also love how much more balanced and flexible my day is without a commute as well as being able to drink as many cups of tea as I like – free from judgement!

I’ve adapted well because naturally, I like to quietly get on with my work in my own time, but Zoom and emails are absolutely no substitute for great team communication and chemistry!

I do really miss office craic. Creative ideation – which is a huge part of what we do – is also so much more difficult when you can’t get in a room together to bounce ideas off one another. You can’t catch up over a cuppa (or six, in my case) or just have a bit of non-work chatter with our clients to get to know them better. Without it, it does feel like there’s something ‘missing’.

I’m really looking forward to hopefully having a balance of both worlds once the dust has settled.

What are your thoughts from working from home? Can’t wait until it’s over, or are you embracing the virtual office? Tweet us at @NarrativeComms

This post was created on 23rd March 2021
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