Q&A with Lori Rosen, Founder, Rosen Group
WFH: The Most Popular Acronym in 2020: How One Agency Executive Adapted for the Long Term
You’ve had a public relations firm for 35 years—and like most PR agency executives, have been working from an office. How has the shift to Work from Home (WFH) been?
When we left the office on March 12th, we all thought it was temporary – initially a few weeks, maybe a little longer. Then the goal post consistently kept getting pushed further back. First it was until the Easter holiday; then the Governor said the end of May. When it was obvious that schools would not reopen, we all routed our mindsets to going back to the office after the July 4th holiday. The incremental time extensions helped ease the blow. Fortunately for us, last summer we started a WFH option on summer Fridays. Everyone was very pleased and receptive to the idea. It worked without a hitch, so we extended WFH Fridays indefinitely. When the quarantine hit, we were already set up to work remotely making the transition relatively seamless.
However, there were a lot of protocols we needed to put in place:
- • Full team zoom meetings: We started these early on—first three times a week and then we shifted to twice a week. Initially we just chitchatted and went down the list—how is everyone’s health, family, routines, concerns, comfort levels? Then we morphed into a more formal agenda when we realized this was not a brief moment in time and we were in for the long haul. We soon introduced icebreaker questions to get everyone engaged and that’s when the meetings really evolved. The staff’s unique creativity smarts and irreverence all came through. I was so impressed with everyone’s input. After another three months passed, I started delegating one colleague each week to take the lead on zoom meetings. We have had two staff-led meetings and they have been great. The icebreaker questions are thoughtful and fun.
- • Slackers: During the quarantine, we started using Slack as a communications tool, which has quickly become a crowd favorite. There are all kinds of Slack channels and we are all full-on converts.
- • Technology and home offices: Though everyone was already set up to work remotely, working from home once a week is different from full time. Over the last month, we began delivering better desks to staff; made sure they had all the right routers and servers, and will continue to do whatever is needed.
When are you planning to return to the office?
With the uncertainty of the pandemic and its lasting and lingering effects and contagion factor, no one in the office is ready to go back anytime soon—particularly in 2020. Most of the team use public transportation to get to work, which of course is a major obstacle. So right now our WFH protocol is indefinite.
As a creative industry, which requires lots of impromptu brainstorming, group meetings and quick decisions, how are you adapting?
We are speaking with each other on the phone a lot; having multiple mini zoom meetings; and sharing a lot of collective information on our companywide zoom calls. On the one hand, we are more communicative and collaborative, since prior to this, we didn’t have this many full staff meetings. I know no one misses their commute so that is one enduring benefit from Working from Home, however the daily human interaction is definitely missed. When the time is right we will figure out team gatherings in person.
How are the clients reacting?
Our clients are in the same pandemic boat as we are. Our work is as productive and collaborative as ever and we are able to onboard new clients via a video conferencing platform. Though nothing can substitute for in-person meetings and creative exercises, that day will come. In the meantime, we will soldier on with vision and passion to meet and exceed client needs and expectations.
What are your short and long term plans for the office?
It depends upon your definition of short term. We initially thought the WFH arrangement was going to be short term—two weeks, a month at the most. That timeframe has extended to the end of 2020, and then most likely a few more months, depending upon the status, efficacy and viability of a vaccination. The time frame is daunting – to say the least – however, we will maintain our WFH model, continue to come up with innovative zoom meetings for internal engagement, create our social activities and keep our eye on the long term, post-pandemic world.
Lori Rosen is founder and president of Rosen Group, a boutique, results-driven firm, headquartered in New York. Rosen Group provides its diverse group of clients innovative ideas, trustworthy counsel and campaigns that encompass media relations, special events, social media and strategic consulting. Clients include media companies, business services, cannabis companies and non-profit organizations, among others.