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1 year on the Challenges and Opportunities…

On the 13th of March 2020 we unknowingly embarked on what was going to be our last working day in the Generation Media Central London office for over a year.  Little did we know then what the next year would have in store.

Like many businesses we were in the process of beta testing a full company working from home day on Monday 16th March 2020.  That very afternoon whilst the whole company worked from their own homes, the Prime Minister historically addressed the nation, instructing them to “work from home if you can.”  This directive made a situation that was currently a novelty was our new reality.  This was one week prior to the official start of the first UK national lockdown on the 23rd March and the sentiment was that it was going to be “12 weeks to turn the tide of coronavirus”.

52 weeks later we sit and reflect on the last year with a mixed emotions.  In one sense it feels like yesterday that we were chatting around the coffee machine in the office, at the same time the reality of working in isolation for a full year makes casually discussing whether to have Wasabi or Pret for lunch around the coffee machine like a bygone era.

As we embark on the anniversary of working from home, it is important to look back and reflect on some of the challenges and opportunities the pandemic has brought to our workplace and most importantly what have we learnt to build back even better.

 

New ways of connecting and communicating

For a business that was firmly office based it was almost unthinkable to shift to a full WFH strategy.  As ever our team rose to the challenge, quickly adapting their weekly schedules and embracing the tools at our disposal.  Teams was not previously in common use within the business but quickly became a preferred method of communication.  Zoom, traditionally in place for international conversations where we could not meet in person, became a mainstream meeting platform.  Let’s not forget the array of other new platforms and tech we are all now operating efficiently on a daily basis from Google Docs, Google Drive, Trello… the list is endless. It is amazing to reflect on how all business events from training, conferences, trade shows, recruitment, pitches, status meets to innovation workshops have all gone virtual.

We have also had to find new ways of connecting with our clients implementing Monthly Newsletters, Generation Media Academy training webinars and of course the GM Coffee Break Podcasts that have hosted leading lights from across the industry over the last year.

And these initiatives and tools are not fleeting relationships and will endure as mainstays in our lives, merging with our ‘new normal’ as we transition back to office life.

 

Pivoting business strategy

Most businesses have had to pivot throughout the pandemic to ensure survival and also to thrive and we are no exception.

As a business embarking on international expansion the pandemic both closed the borders and opened them for us.  With virtual meetings becoming common place, we have been able to initiate and accelerate conversations that may otherwise have been delayed until we met in person.  One of the highlights for our business in the last year in launch of our German business last month.  From set up to recruitment the whole process has happened virtually and benefits from an established client base of international clients built up over this period.

Another significant pivot for us was our Generation Entertainment offering.  Pre pandemic the customer base was focused around cinema content distribution.  As cinemas were forced to close their doors, we accelerated our movement into other areas of content distribution namely the social space and have filled a gap in the market for clients requiring a connected and accountable way of connecting consumers with their content wherever they are.

 

Bringing Well-Being, Diversity and Inclusion even higher up the business agenda

As with so many, our team were hit with a new reality which brings with it uncertainty, anxiety and pressure.  This coincided with the collision of our personal and professional lives as individuals navigated their personal reality of working from home, balancing child care, home schooling, fighting for space in a house share, internet connectivity issues… never before had the impact of or our personal wellbeing been so visible on our working lives.  As an employer it was our duty to address basic needs of safety, stability and security for our team but well-being went way beyond this…

We maintain connected (and still do) through daily check ins with immediate teams, weekly coffee catch ups with people from across the business to replicate those watercooler moments and we took our weekly company meeting virtual, still coming together every Friday to celebrate achievements of the week and update everyone on company news and initiatives.  Well-being newsletters were launched to ensure everyone across the business had access to the right resources and tools for the job.  We took our well-being week virtual with internal and external speakers and mindfulness sessions, as well as launching our first ever well-being day to give the team a break from the screen and a personal opportunity to reflect and focus on themselves.

The pandemic has also highlighted disparities across gender, race and socio-economic background, further highlighted by headline news events from the past 12 months.  We have always been proud of the diversity across our business and 2020 saw the launch of our Diversity and Inclusion committee which has hosted a number of events and initiatives set to educate and support individuals from across the business.  Something we look forward to building upon when we return to the office.

 

So what’s next?

The pandemic has forced us all to adapt beyond our wildest dreams to the challenges thrown at us during the past year.  It has also brought success and sustainable solutions.  With all of this has been the realisation that we are ultimately social beings who have chosen to work in an industry that thrives on social interaction and relationships.  Return to office life will probably never look quite the same but one thing we can all agree on is the unanimous desire to be back together, have opportunity to travel and cement and form new relationships in person.