We were half-expecting it, but it still came as kind of a shock when, on March 23rd 2020, the UK Government issued the instruction for the entire nation to work from home if possible in order to fight coronavirus and to protect the NHS and save lives. Two days later New Zealand went into level four lockdown. With clients and colleagues across ten time zones Rx has a distributed team that is used to working remotely; the challenge we had ahead of us was the sudden separation of two co-located teams now working remotely during a pandemic. So, we trooped home and stayed home; thankful we were well, thankful we were safe and thankful we could still do our jobs. We had become a quaranteam and part of the biggest experiment in home working ever.
Effective teams rely on effective communication. We continued to use Microsoft Teams, Skype and Webex for collaboration and communication with our clients. Now more than ever we would need to rely on the bonds of our professional and personal relationships to keep up morale and motivation. Being an Rx team we faced the challenge together and zoomed into lockdown.
Mornings now started not with the usual scrum for the kettle and the teabags (we are in Wales and New Zealand after all) but with shared emails welcoming the day and each other into it. Kind words, previously spoken but now generously and truly written made opening the inbox a pleasure, sharing a nutritious virtual breakfast of resilience, humour and togetherness.
The New Zealand team jumped right in and with gusto, raising many a smile with their endlessly inventive ways to hold a team meeting. My particular favourite was Throwback Thursday – the ‘Eighties maybe the decade that style forgot but it is still remembered in the back of a few Rx wardrobes. Club Tropicana- just when we needed it most.
And, we did it! On Friday June 5th we did it; we reached the pinnacle of a successful Zoom meeting. No, not working out how to change our virtual backgrounds. Button Stavropoulos joined us for the team catch-up and established himself as the purr-ticipant most likely to be invited to future meetings. We had our very first cat on a Zoom call.
As we emerge from lockdown the world outside our windows is sadly still with its share of dread but we are not quite so fearful. We have learned a lot; about how to live a safe life, about ourselves, about our clients, their children’s names. We are closer than we were and all of us, people and businesses, are stronger for it. An Rx colleague said for him the zoom calls were about the camaraderie we share and need, the human-time. Another said the calls were escapism –an hour away from the perverse pressure that is staying safe. We all need human-time and we all get by with a little help from our friends.