The Beast From the East: 3 Lessons

— Rebecca Mulgrave, Sr Account Manager 

Last week it snowed – and, ironically, while the world seemed to freeze over, everything went into meltdown. Typical Britain. Commuters found themselves in chaos as trains ground to a halt. Retailers struggled to stock shelves bare from panicked bulk buying. And many of us were simply cut off – sheltered at home, waiting for spring to (finally) make its tardy appearance.

That was certainly the case for me – living the Kent life and logging on from home, with no other company than my cats (who, by the way, were equally apathetic at the sight of snow). For three days I worked from home, dialling in to meetings, communicating with colleagues via Skype and silently working as normal. However, by day two the novelty had worn off – as, to some extent, had the practicality.

By day four I was battling my way into work with the rest – finding myself on a packed train making polite conversation and laughing in the face of delays with all the other presumably conversation-starved Londoners. We were just so pleased to be in the presence of other human life that all usual commuting ‘rules’ (avoid eye-contact, uphold library-like silence, etc.) were abandoned.

But, it got me thinking about collaboration, and how important it is for communications. Turns out that ‘The Beast From The East’ did teach us something (other than to wear layers, lots and lots of layers…):

1. The connecting power of technology

With so much technology at our fingertips, it’s easy to take it all for granted. A few days working from home certainly makes you appreciate the connecting power technology has in our workplace. Whether it’s video conferencing or Skype messenger, technology is the key to effective communication and collaboration among teams – without it, we’re as good as snowed in.

2. The value of face-to-face interaction

Having said that, today it’s all too easy to rely on emails or instant messaging to communicate with clients or colleagues, even if they’re sitting on the adjacent desk. But, a lengthy back-and-forth on email isn’t always worth the time and effort, and can often be more confusing than helpful. Collaborating face-to-face on a piece of work, or taking the time out to attend a meeting in person instead of via video link, can mean things get done much quicker – and with the added benefit of bouncing ideas off one another, we are usually far more productive as a team than on our own.

3. The reality for remote workers

With the Gig Economy set to spark an uptick in short-term contracts and freelance work, we could soon be looking at a ‘snowmaggedon’ style workplace (minus the freezing temperatures) as working with remote colleagues or in disparate teams becomes the norm – especially in industries like PR, communications and marketing. Having experienced the pros (work-life balance, zero commute) and the cons (cabin-fever) of remote working – albeit for a few days – having an understanding of the reality for your remote colleagues will allow us to forge better, more collaborative ways of working for the future.