On 30 August 2019, Flow published a blog that explored flexible working practices such as home and remote working. At the time, our Joburg staff worked from our stylish agency head office in leafy Dunkeld, while the Cape Town team had a smaller base, with spectacular views of the city and Lion’s Head.
We wrote then: “It’s a no-brainer that smart devices, wireless technology and the ubiquitous cloud make it possible for people in many professions – including communications – to work anywhere, any time.”
Little did we know then that just over six months later, Covid-19 would change our lives forever and that the global pandemic would instantly plunge Flow’s employees – and those of many thousands of other companies around the world – into remote working when lockdowns and social distancing regulations came into effect.
So, what have we learned from all this?
Writer Victoria Garment states in an article for virtual application solution provider Parallels RAS that the biggest “takeaway” from 2020 is that, with the right tools in place, “remote work is not only viable, but successful”.
She says four key lessons around remote working are that effective communication is critical; flexibility benefits everyone; working from home helps minimise distractions; and implementing the right technology is essential.
Writing in Forbes, technology writer Joe McKendrick agrees that the global “work-from-anywhere” experiment has shown that remote work is sustainable and “doesn’t affect productivity”.
In Flow’s case, our initial forced work-from-home arrangement proved beneficial to both clients and staff, and the company decided to move to a permanent remote-working system in August 2020.
Here’s what some Flowstars have learned over the past year
Christina Kennedy, writer and subeditor
“The way you start the day is so important. Now that I can enjoy a walk in the park before starting work, I feel so much more focused and ready for the day ahead. It sure beats arriving at the office frazzled from the stress of traffic and aggressive Joburg drivers.
“Make-up is overrated; hairspray and heels even more so. And comfortwear is vastly underrated!”
Mandisa Mngadi, project manager
“Initially it sounded like such a bad idea to me. Just not being around people the whole day and being stuck in the house just didn’t sit right with me.
“But now I really love it. It’s convenient and I just appreciate not spending a lot of my day in traffic.”
Maria Foundanellas, executive PA
“I’ve learned to remain focused and motivated, even though on most days I’m completely on my own and the only form of communication [with others] is via text.
“I have learned that I prefer working from home; however, I do miss the interactions with people.”
Pakamani Nombila, content producer
“One of my biggest lessons about remote working so far is the fact that it can be done and that it presented endless opportunities for those who were quick enough to adapt to it early on.
“I’ve also learned that we don’t necessarily need the physical contact to keep a team or company culture going. If anything, remote work has made us connect to people more than we used to in our traditional office setting.”
– “I learned that the Spar makes mashed potatoes. It’s almost as good as my mom’s.”
– “I learned that I had to stock up on rum-and-raisin chocolates every time there was an alcohol ban, even though there was no rum in them.”
– “I learned that you can smile under that mask and whoever you talk to will see it and smile back.”
– “I learned that a difficult Sudoku puzzle is often easy, and an easy one difficult.”
– “I learned that Joseph Haydn composed 106 symphonies and not 104. And I listened to all of them.”
– “I learned that a gecko was living between the art I keep on the floor in my lounge. That made me happy.”
– “I learned that you can kiss the rain – just open your arms wide and look up.”
– “I learned that the greatest adventure is simply a conversation (thank you, Amadeus Wolfe).”
Sue Blaine, senior writer
“I’ve learned from remote working that it really pays to get properly dressed for work every morning so that you feel you are ‘on the job’, and I have learned that all the digital platforms in the world cannot make up for in-person contact.”
Ros Caboz, project manager
“I’ve learned that it’s possible to project-manage teams, even though it is digital. This involves a lot of meetings. Keep meetings short and to the point – between 15 and 30 minutes.”
Nadia Moore, content writer
“I love the balance I now have between my work and personal life. Before the pandemic forced us into lockdown, I was sometimes on public transport for up to four hours a day. Now I can rest, organise my home, cook healthy meals, save money on transport and submit quality work. I’ve learned the importance of balance.
“Relationships are important and require extra work when you’re working from home. I think working remotely has been a wonderful thing, but I do miss my colleagues and the social aspect of the office.
“Being at home has taught me to be extra intentional with how I communicate with my colleagues. One thing I’ve enjoyed is a weekly chat with a different colleague as part of our meetings. That one-on-one time with a person means a lot to me.”
Cara Wares, UI/UX designer
“What I’ve learned from remote working a year on is that you need to rather overcommunicate than undercommunicate with your team, as things can get lost in translation online.
“It’s good for your creativity to go for a quick walk or go outside for a few minutes to clear your mind – and to try to do stretch exercises daily, as we tend to sit longer at our desks.”
In summary, who would ever have guessed that it would take a devastating pandemic to fast-forward Flow’s inevitable move to flexible working in such an inconceivable way – and just how much everybody would learn from the experience in 13 months?