Insights

What we learned from our employees and where we’re going now

Posted by
Angela Carmichael
Insights

What we learned from our employees and where we’re going now

Écrit par
Angela Carmichael

It’s fair to say we’ve all learned a lot about ourselves during COVID-19. Many of us miss our colleagues and friends in the office, but we surely don’t miss those early morning and late afternoon commutes; some of us have realized we’ve spent way too much money on coffee and lunches all these years; and if they didn’t already, parents now recognize daycare workers and educators for the true heroes they really are.

While this grand societal experiment has been forced on us due to a global pandemic, FHR has been regularly surveying our employees across Canada to stay in tune with how everyone was coping with the “new normal”, and in our most recent surveys, we broached the subject of returning to the office.  

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, our employees expressed an overwhelming desire to continue working from home. We’re all focused on staying healthy and safe during the pandemic but as a company, it seems we are also embracing the improved work-life integration (more family and personal-development time, less soul-sucking commutes, etc.) and added flexibility that comes with WFH. We're also not reaping any of the negative side-effects that businesses have dreaded for years.      

By that I mean we have seen little drop in productivity. Business is good, and our team continues to deliver for our diverse range of clients, giving the same level of energy, effort and expertise they always have.  

I mentioned this to a close friend recently and she suggested that perhaps the nature of our business prepared us well for the pandemic. As born communicators, our people were already old pros at developing these “new” virtual relationships with our clients, media, influencers and partners.

Additionally, our four offices in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver have long leveraged a wide range of video conferencing and collaboration tools to work together seamlessly and pull global expertise from a FleishmanHillard network that has 85 offices in more than 30 countries.

So, yeah, maybe we were born for this. Either way, I’m proud of our employees for coming together in crisis and finding flexible solutions that work for our family and theirs.

This unexpected level of performance has inspired us to explore whether the WFH model could be the future of our practice. To find out, we’re launching a pilot project that will see our Ottawa employees work from home from here on forward. With our lease in the nation’s capital soon expiring, we viewed it as the perfect test case to move away from office-centric operations.

Our Ottawa team is an eclectic mix: leading public affairs specialists who have their finger on the pulse of government, shrewd digital and social experts, a skilled creative team, and even our Chief Operating Officer Katherine Fletcher, a founding member of FHR’s digital practice.  

With the help of the best digital collaboration tools, appropriate in-person activities to keep everyone connected, and a healthy stipend to ensure their home offices are as ergonomic, comfortable and productive as possible, we fully expect the talents in our virtual Ottawa office to continue to thrive.    

While this is happening, we’ll also be embracing WFH in our other offices across Canada until our employees tell us they’re ready and willing to return to the office. And in that spirit, we are expanding our “presence” in Canada to also include Alberta and Nova Scotia; after all, is it the office that defines your location or where your people are situated that matters most?  We in agency life have never been accustomed to standing still, so rather than wait around for a return to normal that may never come, we’re excited to embrace the good that has come from this experience and to try and define our own new normal for what the future of work will look like. Over the coming months our Ottawa team is committed to sharing their experience as we learn from them and decide how we will adapt to the new normal in other markets, too.

It’s fair to say we’ve all learned a lot about ourselves during COVID-19. Many of us miss our colleagues and friends in the office, but we surely don’t miss those early morning and late afternoon commutes; some of us have realized we’ve spent way too much money on coffee and lunches all these years; and if they didn’t already, parents now recognize daycare workers and educators for the true heroes they really are.

While this grand societal experiment has been forced on us due to a global pandemic, FHR has been regularly surveying our employees across Canada to stay in tune with how everyone was coping with the “new normal”, and in our most recent surveys, we broached the subject of returning to the office.  

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, our employees expressed an overwhelming desire to continue working from home. We’re all focused on staying healthy and safe during the pandemic but as a company, it seems we are also embracing the improved work-life integration (more family and personal-development time, less soul-sucking commutes, etc.) and added flexibility that comes with WFH. We're also not reaping any of the negative side-effects that businesses have dreaded for years.      

By that I mean we have seen little drop in productivity. Business is good, and our team continues to deliver for our diverse range of clients, giving the same level of energy, effort and expertise they always have.  

I mentioned this to a close friend recently and she suggested that perhaps the nature of our business prepared us well for the pandemic. As born communicators, our people were already old pros at developing these “new” virtual relationships with our clients, media, influencers and partners.

Additionally, our four offices in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver have long leveraged a wide range of video conferencing and collaboration tools to work together seamlessly and pull global expertise from a FleishmanHillard network that has 85 offices in more than 30 countries.

So, yeah, maybe we were born for this. Either way, I’m proud of our employees for coming together in crisis and finding flexible solutions that work for our family and theirs.

This unexpected level of performance has inspired us to explore whether the WFH model could be the future of our practice. To find out, we’re launching a pilot project that will see our Ottawa employees work from home from here on forward. With our lease in the nation’s capital soon expiring, we viewed it as the perfect test case to move away from office-centric operations.

Our Ottawa team is an eclectic mix: leading public affairs specialists who have their finger on the pulse of government, shrewd digital and social experts, a skilled creative team, and even our Chief Operating Officer Katherine Fletcher, a founding member of FHR’s digital practice.  

With the help of the best digital collaboration tools, appropriate in-person activities to keep everyone connected, and a healthy stipend to ensure their home offices are as ergonomic, comfortable and productive as possible, we fully expect the talents in our virtual Ottawa office to continue to thrive.    

While this is happening, we’ll also be embracing WFH in our other offices across Canada until our employees tell us they’re ready and willing to return to the office. And in that spirit, we are expanding our “presence” in Canada to also include Alberta and Nova Scotia; after all, is it the office that defines your location or where your people are situated that matters most?  We in agency life have never been accustomed to standing still, so rather than wait around for a return to normal that may never come, we’re excited to embrace the good that has come from this experience and to try and define our own new normal for what the future of work will look like. Over the coming months our Ottawa team is committed to sharing their experience as we learn from them and decide how we will adapt to the new normal in other markets, too.

Angela Carmichael
President
With over 20 years of communications experience, Angela leads our talented FleishmanHillard HighRoad team and plays an integral role helping our clients through issues, crisis management and corporate reputation initiatives. She inspires her teams to produce compelling programs that are insightful, creative and drive business success for our clients.
Angela Carmichael
Présidente
Avec plus de 20 ans d’expérience en communication, Angela dirige notre équipe de professionnels doués chez FleishmanHillard HighRoad et joue un rôle essentiel en aidant nos clients face aux enjeux, en gestion de crise et dans leurs démarches pour la réputation de leur entreprise. Elle inspire ses équipes à mettre en œuvre des programmes efficaces démontrant une grande pertinence et créativité, tout en contribuant à la réussite commerciale de nos clients.