Prior to the pandemic, I spent each of the 23 years of my post-college life heading to the subway and riding into some part of Manhattan to work. In my mind, there was no other way to work. This is how it’s done in New York City—especially in digital marketing and communications. We need to be together to collaborate, meet with clients and talk to prospects. Our Manhattan address, office space and phone number helped legitimize our business. So when the coronavirus came on the scene, I was worried—how could we perform for our clients, manage employees and operate with everyone working from home? And with kids in the background?
I’m happy to say I was wrong about all of it.
Remote Before We Realized It
I really miss working in Manhattan—no doubt about that. It’s lively. It’s energizing. Knowing so many people who worked there made it even better. I loved meeting my wife and friends for dinner after work or seeing a concert or show. There was no better place to have a business and there’s no doubt, in the early days, Manhattan played a role in validating us as a firm that could run with other full-service digital marketing companies.
The pandemic made us realize that we had already evolved into a mostly remote business. After all, we didn’t actually see our clients more than a couple of times a year, as most were based in other parts of the US. And the team was mostly remote, as well. As we built strong relationships, we didn’t want to let go of great members just because their lives were taking them to other cities. So we’d already set up strong remote tools. Everything was in the cloud and we’d deployed communication and project management platforms that didn’t rely on close proximity.
Lessons We’ve Learned
While my team embraced working in their own spaces, the first couple of months were a struggle for me (as you can see from a previous post). Having the kids at home, sharing an office with my wife, competing virtual meetings and schedules, and trying to separate work from home tasks proved impossible. I wasn’t seeing the positives that other people were laying out.
The summer school break gave us a chance to recalibrate, and now we’re more relaxed about blending work and home responsibilities. I’m now okay with running to the store for eggs between meetings. I’ve taken the two to three hours of time I’m not commuting and arranging the day differently, since chores don’t have to wait until 6 pm or later to get done. And I’m seeing my family throughout the day, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.
Funnily, through video conferencing, we’re actually getting more face time with our clients than we did before. I feel like it’s helping grow our relationships, as we have a chance to catch up personally—something that doesn’t happen in a quick email exchange or phone call.
And the FATFREE team? They all pushed to make it a good experience. But they’ve worked with each other for quite a while now, so there’s a lot of trust and shared responsibility there. They just don’t let the clients, the company or one another down. It’s how they’re wired.
So, when the pandemic is over, we are staying put. This well-oiled machine will continue to work from anywhere on the globe. It’s a great way to connect with top talent who values real balance between working and living. As awful as the pandemic has been, I’m choosing to look at how it’s helped FATFREE grow in a positive way.
And for me? The most important thing I’ve learned is to be patient with myself. Things will get done.