Photo Credit: NBC
For the past five weeks I’ve been sharing insights on working from home through our Remote Working Blog Series. As someone who has worked remotely for the past two years, five weeks ago I considered myself a bit of an expert at this whole thing. I have my workspace set up just how I like it. I live my life through conference calls and video meetings. I know to avoid the fridge at all costs. I was all set. What I didn’t realize was that I am no longer working remotely: I am working remotely during a global crisis. In my case also working remotely with a ten-month-old baby at home. I know others are doing the same, or working while homeschooling, or coping with the daily challenge of living alone in this climate. Let’s be clear – there is nothing normal about this.
I’ve learned that, while a lot of my standard advice on remote working still applies (and I hope if you’ve read any of it you did find it useful), I myself have significantly shifted my expectations. Not just in the way that I work, but the way that my colleagues and clients are working too.
Throughout this blog series I’ve also focused largely on people who, like me, would otherwise be working in an office environment. So I want to take a moment to give a shout out to the teachers who are teaching remotely, healthcare workers who are providing telemedicine, trainers who are running exercise classes over Zoom, and all the inventive, energetic people who have found a way to make things work from a home office, living room, or kitchen table.
Last weekend Saturday Night Live was broadcast not from 30 Rock in New York City, but from its cast’s homes. OK, it wasn’t actually live. It was filmed in advance and edited. But the cast were all working from home to produce the show – a first in its 45-year history.
Tom Hanks opened the show from his kitchen (it’s a very nice kitchen), and set the tone immediately, “Will it make you laugh? Eh, it’s SNL. There’ll be some good stuff, maybe one or two stinkers. You know the drill.” Alec Baldwin impersonated President Trump, but without hairstylists and makeup artists to physically transform him he played the role through voiceover in a sketch about a phone call from the President. Kate McKinnon made me laugh as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with homemade props and her cat playing the role of RBG’s personal trainer.
Adaptability was the lifeblood of the show. But did it work? Make no mistake, this was not the same show. However, the rough and ready nature of it conveyed a sense of resilience. It made me feel something. And it fulfilled a need that we have right now – to find humor in the world around us.
The cast of SNL are not alone in this adaptiveness. The weekend also saw ESPN broadcast NBA players in a virtual game of H.O.R.S.E. from the safety of their own homes, and home basketball courts. From what I’ve read, it was no substitute at all for a basketball game, but – hey – they gave it a try to at least attempted to fill the hole left by sports. And for that reason, people did watch.
Talk show hosts and news reporters are increasingly filming without the polished production values we are accustomed to. Chris Cuomo has been broadcasting his primetime show from his basement since being diagnosed with COVID-19 himself.
None of this is the same as it was pre-COVID, but we’re sure grateful to have it. Our expectations as an audience have changed, just as the expectations of professionals everywhere have.
At Havas People one of our values is, ‘We find a way’. Perhaps it’s never been more of a mantra. Now, mantras are great to steer you right and keep you going, but how do we actually do it? How do we find a way through this?
I think we do it by leaning into another one of our values, ‘We work together’. We need to realign our expectations of everything, including those we work with. And to do that, we need new depths of empathy. Because this affects us all, but in different ways.
Empathy is stronger than sympathy because it requires you to actually see things from someone else’s position. The best way to do that is to learn what that looks like. Ask the important questions like, “How are you feeling today?” and be curious and aware enough to follow up on that. Know that if someone tells you, “I’m fine”, they might not be fine at all. Because if anything is normal right now, it’s feeling anything but.
Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be using our blog to share some experiences of our teams at Havas People while working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis.
Spoiler alert: nobody has a kitchen quite as nice as Tom Hanks does, but we do have a lot of cats.
Stay safe, stay well, and stay connected.
Director of Creative and Strategy, Havas People North America