Businesses need no longer be confined by the four walls of an office. That’s the most exciting lesson of lockdown for Debbie Morrison, managing director of global partnerships and events at media investment analysts Ebiquity. In fact, she believes having its staff working remotely has made Ebiquity more global, inclusive, innovative and agile.
“The last 14 months have proved that working from home and not having a physical office presence isn’t a barrier to collaboration and delivery,” says Morrison. “Working from home has been a great success. We’ve been more creative and we’ve engaged more clients. You don’t need to be physically face-to-face to be great at collaborating.”
One of the most powerful experiences for Morrison has been the way virtual meetings and collaboration tools have broken down market boundaries and internal silos.
“We have team catch-ups on a regular basis, and because these meetings are now virtual, they’ve become more inclusive as everyone can dive in from across all markets,” she says. “So technology has brought us all closer as a global team. Collaboration tools mean we can share assets and have workgroups across multiple projects, so it’s easy to keep up to date - we just create a new group with a new project.
“We also have regular virtual Town Hall sessions for the whole organization, and also CEO briefing sessions held at different times to ensure all markets from APAC to the USA to Europe can take part.”
But while Morrison recognises the business benefits of remote working, she also acknowledges it has meant everyone having to learn new skills.
“We’ve all been learning on the job, especially stretching the boundaries of meeting platforms, which was a huge learning curve for us all,” she says. “We’ve also been encouraging and coaching our teams on how to be more visible in the social space, which has been important with no face-to-face meetings. We’ve up-weighted internal communications to keep everyone connected, and used virtual platforms to get together to discuss needs and share experiences.”
Drawing on her knowledge of agencies from her 29 years on the management team at ISBA, Morrison is excited about the concept of “borderless talent” becoming a reality.
“The pandemic has broken down the walls; it’s now possible to collaborate on projects with anyone, anywhere in the world - even outside the M25!” she enthuses.
Key to this will be the new generation of collaboration tools that help teams work together no matter where the individual members are located, letting them access the same resources and allowing workflows to operate just as efficiently as they would if everyone were in the same room.
A better use of time
This question of efficiency is one that particularly resonates with Morrison. She was already working from her home in Devon three days a week before the pandemic, as well as commuting to London for the other two.
“I certainly don’t miss the endless time I spent commuting,” she says. “I really don’t feel that the three to four-hour commute from Devon is a productive way to work any more. Lockdown has made everyone realise how efficient and effective working from home can be. As it eases, there will be a lot of people seeking different modes of working going forward.”
Yet Morrison admits to facing the same issues as many others when working from home. Switching off from work remains a problem, and she admits to missing seeing her team face-to-face.
“I also miss the serendipity of conversations with people around the office, but you can always pick up the phone or drop in on a video call if you have an idea you want to chat through,” she says. “I’m sure I’ll migrate back to the office at some point, but maybe not on the same regular weekly basis as before.”
It’s lucky then that we have the technology and collaboration tools out there to enable this flexible working reality which, in turn, encourages a greater work-life balance.