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APRIL 20, 2021 //     

COVID-19 One Year On – What I’ve Learnt

By Sue Grant

About the Business

As news of the virus spreading in the UK increased each day, we took the tough decision to shut the London office on 13th March 2020, the same day as our US colleagues. This was ten days prior to the UK government’s decision to lock down, by which time the virus had continued to escalate particularly across London substantially.

I was proud that at A+P, we took this decision early on, before even our own government decided to do so.  As with the rest of the company, our top priority was to keep our teams safe and well. We of course thought we would all be back in a couple of weeks (my jacket still sits on the back of my office chair in Kings Cross), but little did we know. Over the years, we’ve been through financial crashes, dotcom busts, the London terrorist attacks, economic recessions, but never a pandemic that would fundamentally change the way we all worked overnight.

In the past year, I’ve learned many things about my team, myself and what I think the future holds.


My Team

As UK soul artist Billy Ocean’s lyrics say ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’. And that’s exactly what happened here at A+P London. Our teams quickly made it work, no matter how challenging their own personal situation was. They ensured all client campaigns continued without a moment’s interruption.

Whether working on a bed, sharing a kitchen table with a beloved partner (well they were ’beloved’ at the beginning of lockdown), or taking it in turns for a quiet space, the personal challenges were many and varied. Having made sure everyone had the systems and processes to be able to work from home from laptops to Teams, it was business as usual. But everyone just got on with it and no one complained! Everyone rallied around and supported each other. Our teams continued to do amazing work for our clients and made sure we were still delivering impactful results. Our trust has never been stronger.


Myself

I quickly realised that I missed the interaction and face to face time with colleagues which Zoom calls can’t replace. I didn’t miss the 1.5 hour commute each way. I also missed the structure of the working day: getting dressed for work and leaving the house at 6.30am each day (smugly knowing which carriage on the train to get a seat).

I also missed visiting our other offices in Munich, Paris and San Francisco – again when that face-to-face time and physical contact can’t be replaced virtually. I missed networking, having breakfasts with contacts, former clients, and colleagues. I missed networking drinks on the way home too, often at Waterloo station. And though each previous year, I would yell, ‘This is that last year I am doing Mobile World Congress!” I actually missed that too!

While there have been true benefits to working from home – the extra time saved on my morning commute, my new sustainable standing desk in my attic study and learning local walks – I will now be forever grateful for the little things that make life “normal.”

We need the interaction of face-to-face time and meetings with colleagues and clients that remote working can’t give.


The Future

So, what next? Well, we are all watching the success of the vaccine roll out in UK and looking forward to the overused phrase ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ becoming reality. But with the EU’s COVID-19 cases rising and issues with the vaccine roll out, caution still needs to prevail.

We too will continue to be cautious and careful as a business, continuing to put our teams and their wellbeing and health first. Like many, we plan to have a cautious return to the office.

There has been much talk in the media about the workplace future ranging from the Nationwide Building Society who has declared it will let all employees work remotely, to Goldman Sachs who wants all staff back in the office as soon as possible.

Our research has begun, and we currently have a ‘working group’ talking to our teams to find out what they would like the future work environment to be. Once we have that information then we will make an informed decision about the best way forward.  Our foremost priority has always been to ensure our teams safety. And despite calls from the government to ‘get back to the office’, we do not rush back too soon and spread the virus again.

Whatever the future structure, we can be absolutely sure that our amazing UK team will do an awesome job of continuing to do award winning client campaigns and just in the same way as they did when the pandemic first struck. And as for me, I’m looking forward to the day I can chat on the mezzanine as we make a brew and with my pod of super A+Pers who come from all avenues of the agency, and of course share a glass or two of fizz at our legendary weekly Friday night drinks. 

Sue Grant heads up our Technology practice in Europe. To learn more about how we can help you, click here.

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