The COVID-19 Code: How digital agencies are attaining the ‘work-home’ balance

As digital agencies go back to business, they share their working world tools & tips

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Updated: Apr 2, 2020 12:25 PM
Work From Home

Post Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of the 21-day lockdown, India Inc scrambled overnight to put into place a seamless ‘work from home’ setup. After the initial hiccups, dramatic changes and many challenges, both the employees and employers have managed to bring in some semblance, a sort of ‘method to the madness’ to balance home and office.   

We checked in with the digital agencies, the experts of the tech world, to see how they were coping and to also understand how they were adapting to their new work quarters. Not surprisingly, the online magicians are already up and running, juggling both worlds quite efficiently.

 From flexible office hours, tech support to good old fashioned encouragement and much more. Here is a look at what’s cooking at home (No, not literally) for digital players.

 At Madison Media, the focus is on efficient time management to help minimise the strain on employees, explains the agency’s Chief Digital Officer Vishal Chinchankar. “Ironically these are unprecedented time of the year, and when most of us are working on clients in terms of annual planning. While it’s quite an operational strain, we, at Madison, have set some ‘Work From Home” (WFH) rules to make sure that we minimise strains. For instance, not just at leadership but at each business level we conduct business calls every alternate day. Some set rules to WFH include Defined Work Hours, Make To-Do Lists & Use a Planner, Check-In With Co-Workers Frequently and Use Professional Communication Tools. It’s not been easy given the lockdown, but I believe soon we will get used to working in this fashion.”

For some agencies ‘work from home’ is not entirely a new concept. However, it is a new experience of having to implement it at such a large scale.  Elaborates Harikrishnan Pillai, CEO & co-founder, TheSmallBigIdea, "We already had an existing work from home policy and an SOP around it. All we had to do was extend it to the entire organization for an extended period of time. We have planned digital ‘Wow Wednesdays’ for people to come together and play activities digitally. We have encouraged managers to keep speaking with the team members, especially ones staying away from the family or the ones are new to the organization.”

Digital agency, iProspect, is ensuring that the morale stays high and the motivation is coming in right from the top - from CEO Rubeena Singh herself, as is evident through the social media posts, where she writes: “Difficult times are not sent to destroy you! They are sent to STRENGTHEN you. I draw my strength from my wonderful team iProspect . While I miss seeing you all every day at the office, your energy and enthusiasm even in times like these keeps me motivated!"

Much before the official lockdown announcement, Gozoop was one such agency that proactively declared ‘work from home’ as a precautionary measure for its employees. Having had the first mover’s advantage of setting up an office from home sytem, the agency has also been constantly making efforts to educate their employees and the public about the Coronavirus outbreak through their internal and external communication respectively.

Says Rohan Bhansali, Co-founder & Director, Gozoop, “Prioritizing team safety first and then business continuity, we started our work from home transition early, on March 13 itself. This early start ensured that the team was safe and allowed us time to settle into the WFH mode so that our clients were served well. Of course, the sentiment everywhere is low, but when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Some of our most astounding creative works have come out in the past week.”

Talking about these campaigns, he further adds, “We launched the #HumHongeKamyaab campaign in support of social distancing. Besides being very well received by the media, the campaign, which was turned around in just 3 days, also reflected Gozoop's #WhateveritTakes philosophy and lifted team morale. To support and build on our culture we have started activities such as online meditation, part advance salaries for stocking groceries, #GZQuarantineMeme - an internal meme challenge - no agenda Zoom meetings with Gozoopers, virtual birthday and anniversary celebrations where the team comes together on a video call. We have always taken pride on our culture and it's been encouraging to see the team always putting 'We' before Me.”

From driving efficiency through collaboration platforms to ‘Cocktail Time’, Mirum India is also striving to strike the right balance for work and home. Hareesh Tibrewala, Joint CEO, shares in detail their typical work day, “We are indeed living in unprecedented times and have been hit with a once-a-century kind of event. As a digital agency, all our delivery of work to clients in any case happens online (either on a platform or via a software), so in any case client side deliveries have not been impacted. Also, having a very young workforce who live their lives on mobile or in front of a laptop screen, adaptation to the work-from-home culture has not been much of an issue.

"We are using MS_Teams which is a great collaboration platform. It allows team members to access each other's calendars, so setting up online meetings is easier. MS_Teams comes with an inbuilt chat, file sharing, calendaring and video calling feature. All of us are suddenly discovering the power of this collaboration platform.  Also, having a structured beginning-of-day stand up calls at a manager level, and a end-of-the day email reporting, is actually helping managers plan the work with their individual teams better.

On a lighter note, Tibrewala shares an anecdote on the benefits of working from home. “Boredom aside, a whole bunch of team members are very happy that they are able to invest the commute time with their families: supervising young kids do their online classes or spending time with elderly parents. One team member went to the extent of saying (I am sure it was in jest), that WFH has saved his marriage. He and his wife now sit next to each other the whole day…and also get their office work done.”

In order to encourage networking and bonding between the team, Mirum, has a daily “Cocktail Time” in the evening. It is a half-hour company-wide online townhall, where team members demonstrate their talent, from stand-up comedy, sharing deep-sea diving experiences, rap-songs and heaps of other talent. Tibrewala believes that activities like these brings people closer and also help unearth some hidden talents.

Understanding the challenges that come with ‘working from home’, Zirca Digital Solutions is ensuring that employees are able to make time for their family while upholding their commitment to top quality work, says CEO and Director of Zirca Digital Solutions, Neena Dasgupta, “Considering the unprecedented situation which we find ourselves in, it has been a process of discovery. It is only through meticulous planning, enforcing guidelines and setting strong expectations that we have been able to strike a balance. This, of course, is after a period of trial and error where we have had to tweak work routines while making time for the in-between household chores. A large part of this mode of working is to constantly connect with the human side of the team and ensuring that the connect doesn’t wane. Our cadence emphasizes that creativity and work ethic doesn’t lose out in the home environment.”

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