Business Unusual: How Mr President Are Keeping Connected Under Lockdown
With teams unable to work face to face, maintaining a strong company culture is a new challenge for most agencies. We have been speaking with Mizzy Lees from Mr. President about how the agency has adapted to ensure that they stay connected under lockdown.
Mr. President is an agency known for its company culture. We are a close-knit team and we care deeply about our employees’ experiences at work. This is one of the reasons that my role of People Director exists. My job is to balance the needs of the team with those of the business (amongst other things). We were one of the first agencies to close our offices and start working from home because of Covid19. It no longer felt safe for the team to travel across London, and since we knew our IT infrastructure was capable, on the 12th March we emptied the fridge, turned out the lights and locked the doors.
Part of my role is to monitor the collective energy within the team with the aim of keeping it positive and focused, with a shared ambition. I worked out pretty quickly that we needed to rethink the way we worked to achieve this, so here are some of the things we have been doing to keep the team connected in lockdown.
Keep up the usual routine
Pre-lockdown, we started the week together with the company wide Monday morning meeting and eased ourselves into the weekend with Fun Friday from 4.30pm. We were keen that lockdown didn’t stop us from coming together as a group, so we keep both of these events going via Google Hangouts. It’s a great way to check in with each other, to find out what everyone is up to and what we need to achieve that week.
The power of video
Using a video conference platform with a grid view is 100% worthwhile. There is something quite powerful and motivating about seeing the faces of the full team coming together. You get a much better sense of team spirit. Throw in a team quiz on a Friday and you also have structured social time too, without any of the chit chat social awks.
My pyramid of comms
I have a brilliant team of line managers. I work very closely with each of them to ensure that those in their team feel supported, heard, are pushed and have a clear path for progress. We anticipated the increased need to monitor workload and well-being during lockdown, so they each have more frequent individual and team check-ins, not just about work, but also to ask, ‘how are you?’. This includes those on furlough leave who are still checked up on weekly. In turn I regularly check in with each line manager to see how everyone is doing. If any flags are raised, I can follow them up. It’s a good system, but only works if we keep all the conversations going.
Know your point people
There are roles in the agency that connect with everyone. Whilst they might not be having the ‘how are you?’ conversations or monitoring workload, they are able to gauge general mood. I have a regular check-in with these people too to gauge how the agency is feeling. Again, if any flags are raised or anyone has any concerns about the team, I can follow them up.
Pick up the phone
I love WhatsApp and Google Chat. They make life so much easier. But sometimes you really do need to pick up the phone and have a proper chat to check-in. You can tell a lot more about a person from the tone of their voice. They will also reveal more about how they really feel when they have the space to talk. I seem to spend a lot of my time on the phone at the moment.
In recent weeks I’ve learnt that keeping the team connected in lockdown requires a real commitment of time and energy. It’s a necessity not just for businesses to operate, but also for each individual’s health and well-being. And whilst lockdown will be temporary, working remotely and flexibly is here to stay. So, the changes I am making now don’t feel like temporary solutions, but how we are adapting for the future working world.
Mizzy Lees is People Director at Mr. President