Opinion

A view from Claudine Collins: The potential of the new normal

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Theatre

I recently went to the theatre and it was like a bit of normality had come back to London. Not only was it powerful but it was incredibly emotional seeing how these talented people had been denied not only their craft and something they loved but also their livelihood - and I was so happy to see the theatre full and the actors, actresses, crew etc so grateful to be working again.

Also now the summer holidays are over I am back in our office at least 3 days a week, which has been energising, fun and reminds me why I love this industry.

It led me to think about how it’s been so long since we’ve been able to work face to face in the way that we traditionally have.

We have been amazing in adopting Teams and Zoom calls during the pandemic, and there are advantages, of course, to using these technologies. At the beginning of the first lockdown, I honestly wasn’t sure that it would be possible - but what quickly emerged was that we could do it: we could connect and we could maintain, and in many ways even deepen our relationship with clients.

We deepened these crucial relationships in two ways:

Our clients told us we showed true partnership – when they were going through pain, we were going through pain with them, and we tried to do everything in our power to alleviate their pain

And secondly, we saw each other in the most intimate settings possible with children, pets, partners interrupting serious meetings - and this definitely led to more empathy and laughs in quite serious situations.

If you had asked me at the beginning of the pandemic what would happen at the end of it, I would probably have said we will go dancing and skipping back to the office and old ways of working - and grateful to do so - but clearly that isn’t the case.

A combination of two ways of working is, as I think most of us now know and agree, going to be the best approach.

MediaCom are empowering our people with hybrid working in line with our People First philosophy. However, we are a very much client-led business and so the way we will work in the future will be the way that our clients want to work, and the way that we will collaborate with them in the future is the way they want to collaborate. So far, all of our clients want to work in the same way we do.

I actually find it ridiculous now to think we would have an hours meeting for our clients in our office and expect them to travel for example, two hours to get here and two hours to get back when we can do it just as effectively via video conference.

However, for me personally I will always favour real-life encounters. And I believe that we have to have a certain number of face-to-face encounters to keep the relationships burning. When Boris Johnson lifted some of the restrictions and we were allowed to eat out, albeit outside in the wind and rain, I emailed about 15 clients asking if they wanted to go out for lunch or dinner expecting maybe three to say yes. All 15 said yes, so - apart from putting on a stone and damaging my liver – that proved to me that our clients also value face-to-face relationships.

But I know its different for different people and what we have now is an opportunity to create a better working experience for those people who really appreciate the benefits of working from home. Even an extrovert like me can see the benefits of not having to travel, say, two hours in either direction for a meeting lasting only an hour.

We will make the transition carefully and learn as we do so. Someone said to me “it’s a dial, not a switch” and I think that’s a great analogy.

If we manage this carefully we should end up with a better working experience for a greater number of people.

In this way, diversity in the way we work will contribute to inclusion and diversity in the wider sense in the business and this will be a positive outcome from a very difficult time.

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