Lessons from Remote Working #1 – On Face Value

Written by Salonee Gadgil

For a few years now the creative industries, particularly here in the UK, have been talking about flexible, borderless, digital-only ways of working. And we’ve been smug about it. Priding ourselves at being able to hot-desk, dial in, track changes, screen share and Slack our way to producing creative work.

Now, we’ve had a pandemic pull the office floor from under our feet. We’ve had to learn to walk the talk, overnight. No time for test and learn, it’s been do and learn. At Stand, we were in a pretty good position to begin with, in so much that we already had systems in place – all our data lives in the cloud, our workstations move with us, and so on. But up until last week remote working had been an option, for some a way of managing their responsibilities and for others of a way maximising their creative output. For the past week it’s been the only option. It will be a while till this remote way of working feels normal, and as we go along there will be lots we learn. Here’s what I learnt this week…

Video helps you listen better

Video calls are very unBritish, because they make us confront our own double chins and we’d rather not. But there’s something fundamentally different about a voice call and a video call, and it’s a difference I don’t think I had stopped to think about before. I hadn’t thought about face value, and how much we rely on reading faces to feel bonded, to understand each other and consequently to produce better work.

Doing a video call also means you put on your face – brush your hair, put on something that doesn’t have ketchup stains on it and sit up straight. You’re unlikely to be a slumped on the sofa, if only for the fear of confronting that double chin. Either way, the result is a more engaged and turned-on conversation, whether that’s with your own team or a client.

Even if you’re not in the best of moods, you’re more likely to smile when you say hello on a video call. You’re more likely to spend a couple of minutes exchanging pleasantries and taking an interest – or feigning an interest – in each other’s wellbeing, instead of getting straight to business. You learn things about the person you are working with and see them more than just a job title; they’ve just got back from a run because they’re training for a marathon, or they live with a cockatoo called Jack or they still have an Oasis poster up on a wall, in the year 2020. Either way, whether the initial politeness was forced or not, you learn something you may not have on a phone call and the actual work-related conversation which follows is invariably less clinical.

Here’s my advice; if you’re going to go weeks without face-to-face conversations with your clients, I would highly recommend swapping some voice calls to video conferences. It turns out, you listen better when you can also see who you’re talking to. And most good work usually begins with listening, really listening, to what someone is saying. In the process you may also befriend a cockatoo.

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