Nearly half of all companies are working remotely five or more days a week. This is up from fewer than 20%, pre COVID. A recent Gartner survey reveals that two thirds of companies plan to shift at least some employees to remote work permanently, even beyond the current crisis.
For all of its challenges, the pandemic has revealed a lot about us, our ingenuity, our resilience and our abilities to remain agile, adaptable and productive. And this has been as true for us here at The Basement as it has for everyone. Being that our business is built on collaboration – between our team members as well as between our company as a whole and its client partners – we thought it worth taking a look at those measures we’ve put into place over the last year to maintain our culture and meet our obligations as resource partners.
Working remotely is here to stay. And one interesting discovery, for businesses in general and for us here at The Basement, has been an apparent increase in productivity among those companies who have really dedicated themselves to making it work. A number of factors have been identified as possible reasons for this:
- Reduction in non-essential meetings
- Increased schedule flexibility
- No commuting
- Greater autonomy
According to Jacob Leffler, co-founder of the Basement: “It’s a matter of setting expectations, maintaining those high standards that got us here in the first place and then putting things in place to facilitate us making the best of the situation.”
For The Basement, this has been a matter of staying agile, not fundamentally changing the way we work from a systems/process/culture perspective and then deploying collaborative technologies that the agency and its clients can rely on to stay connected.
In many respects, The Basement was well prepared for the challenges posed by the pandemic as we had already established a strong, collaborative culture that made the most of prevailing processes and technologies that allowed us to effectively and efficiently “keep calm and carry on.” For instance, we already had a very liberal remote work policy that often saw our employees working from home or from connected coffee shops, co-working spaces and even clients’ offices when the opportunity presented itself. And did it ever present itself.
“We’d already established a strong foundation upon prevailing engagement technologies,” says Dustin Arnold, Technical Director for The Basement. “From our new virtual private network to new servers to new collaboration and work management platforms – all initiated pre-COVID and adapted to working even better under the current circumstances – we’ve shown a readiness, willingness and ability to put these to work for our team and for our clients.”
Adds Jenn Knapp, The Basement’s Director of People and Process: “We transitioned to Google Meet and its cloud-based collaboration environment pre-COVID. That was even before my arrival at the agency. It complements G-suite for collaborating and managing work flow and it put us in a position to transition to working remotely, full time, when the opportunity presents itself.”
The result? The Basement was able to not only maintain, but grow its culture of collaboration, fostering both creativity and productivity:
- Weekly virtual all-agency meetings
- Quarterly virtual State of the Agency meetings
- Weekly virtual departmental and project meetings
- Daily creative collaborations
- In-project collaboration in real time using Google Workspace
- Virtual access 24/7/365 to agency servers, asset management platforms and tools
This allows us to adapt with the times, in real time, and pivot seamlessly when necessary. For instance, the creative for a campaign for IndianaUnclaimed.gov had to be adjusted when some of the scenarios presented in the campaign had to be re-imagined to align with our new “surreality,” as the team likes to say. To be able to pull this all off virtually – and without missing a beat from a campaign results standpoint – was truly a feat of which we are all so very proud.
Aside from being able to stay productive, staying collaborative and leveraging the technologies and engagement strategies available to us to do so also allows The Basement and its “Dwellers” to stay…The Basement.
- Dwelling from home: a series of social posts that allow team members to showcase their home offices and the unique ways they are coping with forced distancing
- Virtual cooking classes: The Basement joined forces with Indy Urban Foodies to have meal kits delivered to Dwellers’ homes so that we can join coworkers in virtual cooking classes.
- Staying social: Weekly social posts keep the team and our client partners apprised of ongoing projects, team updates, virtual activities, Dweller news, seasonal happenings, charitable giving opportunities and more.
- BSMNT bingo: An ongoing, interactive, fun experience that incentivizes Dwellers to engage in – and post on a bingo card – pursuits ranging from joining The Basement Book Club, trying a new form of exercise and limiting screen time to donating to charity, writing a blog post for The Basement and hosting a virtual game night.
- Dwellness: Central to BSMNT Bingo activities are activities tied to the agency’s Dwellness series, encouraging Dwellers to get active, stay active, watch their diets and, in general, stay healthy.
- The Golden Dweller: An ongoing program that recognizes, quarterly, those Dwellers who most embody our foundational “stay” statements: Stay Curious, Genuine, Competitive, and Ambitious. At year’s end, we recognize The Golden Dweller: the one who shows us all how to Stay Fascinated.
These are just a few of the ever-evolving ways that, even virtually, The Basement team can remain connected and stay engaged with one another in a meaningful way.
“We’ve worked hard to address the physical and psychological toll the last year has placed on all of us,” says Muriel Cross, Account Executive and the driving force behind Dwellness Yoga and other agency wellness initiatives. “Our single greatest asset as a company is our people, and helping them to stay happy, healthy and together has been as important as our staying productive. If not moreso.”
Yes, such initiatives have allowed us to stay engaged. But it goes way beyond that. With all its challenges, in many ways the distancing forced by circumstance has brought us closer as we’ve found comfort in really sharing with one another and allowing ourselves to be vulnerably honest.
According to CEO Conrad Edwards, “We’ve been able to have raw conversations about the long-overdue reckoning over racial inequities taking place around us. We’ve been able to explore – and put into practice – things that we can do to contribute to real change in our communities, even if it’s just making a small difference. And we’ve been able to address personal anxieties stemming from the pandemic and beyond. We’re tackling a lot of uncomfortable topics in a direct way through honest communication and the cultural dynamic forced distancing has afforded us.”
Even with the promise of the emergent vaccines and continued concerted and responsible mitigation efforts, there’s no doubt in our minds that in so many respects, the way we work has changed forever. It is expected that by 2025, more than 30 million will be working remotely, up 87% from pre-pandemic levels. The Basement management team is looking into ways to adapt – permanently – to this new way of thinking, living and working. One thing is certain: everything we do will be in service to our ongoing and unwavering intention to stay curious, stay genuine, stay competitive, stay ambitious, stay fascinated…and stay healthy.