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A New Culture

This article was first published in Communicate Online.

Hearts and Science’s Sonia John (left), Associate Director – Digital Transformation, and Achrafe Mami (right), Associate Director – Biddable Media, discuss the future of company culture and their five key work-from-home learnings.

1. Work-life balance:

Start your day with the right intentions

Achrafe Mami:  When I initially started working from home, I was determined to have a good work-life balance by taking more control over my time. Little did I know that being at home soon led to being “always available.” I have clocked more work hours since working away from the office than when my physical self was at my desk. The physical parameters that determined personal time from work have become blurred. A few weeks down the road, I decided to re-assess my lifestyle. I’ve started being more flexible and think of it as work-life integration rather than a strict separation. This changed the game for me as I was simply more flexible about my working hours. I would take 30 minutes to tidy up before my next meeting or schedule a break to call my family between two tasks. This change in mindset removed that pressure of having a perfect balance, which is not always feasible for many of us.

Sonia John: In my case, it was about understanding what balance means to me. It started with me waking up, walking to the living room and immediately switching on my laptop to start the day. After a couple of days, I realized this approach was making me tired, less productive and it was impacting my mental health. So, I started making small changes. I wake up, make my bed, and meditate for 10 min. After meditation, I set positive affirmations to prepare my headspace for a productive day of work. When it’s time for lunch, I try to give myself a break from work by catching up on relevant news (steering away from catching up on Netflix shows) just for 30 minutes before going back to my laptop. These small changes have made all the difference in my wellbeing and positive work attitude.

2. Increase in productivity

Focus on key tasks and refraining from dabbing into too many things

A.M.: One of the key learnings from this experience of WFH has been evolving the way we collaborate and work as a team. Previously, I was heavily involved across all discussions and projects due to the close proximities of the office. With less physical interactions, we had to adjust the way we open and approach new projects with team members. This has resulted in more opportunities for individuals and has provided them with a space to jump in and offer their support. It has left more room for strategic thinking and better efficiencies through automation and dynamic solutions.

S.J.: What I miss the most is being able to have face-to-face conversations with my team on day-to-day tasks. Sometimes, I wish I could be in two meetings at once. But the upside of this is that my team members have more accountability which makes them feel more responsible to deliver their best. This makes us grow stronger as a team and builds trust. We can prioritize our time and focus on what is most important to get great work done.

3. Mindfulness

There is nothing more fulfilling than being present

A.M.: I think we can all agree that our lives have recently been revolving around the same activities with not too much going on. It can get monotonous and less exciting every day. Think about the first time you cooked a special meal or smashed a workout at home, to now. It is important to try to keep that spark we had few weeks ago. This can be as simple as being more aware and present when doing activities. This will make us more appreciative of moments spent at home.

S.J.: When we are at home, we have so much more time to ourselves – which, for some, can be great but for others, such as myself, takes some getting used to. By doing multiple things at a time, we end up working like machines, but we are not truly present. Thoughts are moving at lightning speed and at the same time, we must produce great work. It can get exhausting. So be mindful. Focus on what is in front you, taking one step at a time, and see it bring about positive change.

4. Value-centric work relationships

Partners want to inform and empathize

A.M.: It’s been very exciting to witness how quickly the industry adjusted to this new reality. I’ve had some of the most effective meetings with business partners since remote working, as the presentations have been more concise with direct value points and insights. Whether we’re dealing with agencies or advertisers, we’re all conscious of the fact that virtual meetings can be less engaging. This has challenged us to create presentations with diverse content and to rethink the way we deliver them in order to keep our audience’s alert and interested.

S.J.: I’m really enjoying the conversations I am having with brands and partners, that are more about relevancy with a touch of humanity. It’s going to be a whole new world that will have trust at its core, with the brand mandate expanded to solve problems for all, protect all, care for all, collaborate with all and innovate in the public interest. Brands want to show that they care, and partners want to help brands be more human. Partners aren’t just coming up with formats in numbers, but they are now trying to understand what is helping people and how they can assist brands to showcase that “we are all in this together.” Brand purpose has never been more crucial.

5. The New Normal

Be ready for the paradigm shift, because it’s here to stay

A.M.:  Success stories deriving from the WFH experience will undoubtedly encourage companies to be more flexible and accepting of remote working moving forward. Which brings me to the importance of designing a space at home that will accommodate this new lifestyle. It’s a good time to think of investing in an ergonomic chair, a desktop screen or upgrading your Wi-Fi router. It will pay off in the long run.

S.J.: We all want things to go back to the old normal, but the pandemic has demanded sweeping changes from all economies and some of them will remain in place even after the outbreak recedes. WFH being the most radical. The sudden need for digitization has been a wake-up call for brands and industries alike. Clients are looking to evolve their ecosystems to be data-driven in order to address the new normal; and consumers want more personalization without personal human contact. It’s a new world and there’s never been a more important time to be agile and transformative than now.