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How Agile Working could bring our teams closer together whilst working from home

81% of MediaCom’s people citied “the lack of social interaction” as the biggest disadvantage that comes from working from home. As we face into a long winter of working whilst physically distanced from our colleagues, we believe Agile working could play a big role in bringing our teams closer together.

The nation’s white-collar workforce is now facing into a winter working remotely: whether that’s something you’re relishing, dreading, or feeling ambivalent about, the challenge for teams to work together without the opportunity to share the same physical space continues.

To better understand how our people are feeling we surveyed everyone in the company and found that the majority of people are seeing some real advantages that come with WFH. 91% of people are positive about saving time commuting and 84% agree it brings more flexibility and is also allowing them to save money. On the flip side, the biggest disadvantage people citied was the lack of social interaction, with 81% agreeing this was an issue. It’s clear that, more than ever, our people need to feel connected and we need ways to support teams who are going to be physically apart for several more months.

Like many businesses, MediaCom have had to respond to the impact of COVID-19 by asking our people to go the extra mile to support our clients, during what has been an incredibly testing period of time. As we face into a winter with much uncertainty surrounding the health of the economy, we will need our people to be more effective, as efficient as possible and, more than ever, we need to live out our mantra of People First, Better Results.

MediaCom’s operation relies on teamwork. Very little, if anything, gets done by people operating alone, so if we want to be more effective and efficient and at the same time take care of our people, this can only come from more effective teamwork. Agile is all about teams, in fact, it’s pretty much only about better teamwork. What makes it especially relevant right now is that it doesn’t rely on people being together physically; Agile lends itself particularly well to remote working and I believe addresses many of the challenges that emerge from remote working. I’d go so far as to say that, with the advent of online tools, Agile could have been specifically designed for people working remotely. We asked our Agile teams to share their experiences of working in this way over the last few months and one team member summed it up by saying “while we’ve been physically apart, we’ve never felt closer together”.

This improved “closeness” comes from being focused on the people doing the work and how they work together. Agile’s methods create better communication across teams – regular check-ins (typically the daily “stand-up”) means teams communicate more often about the work they’re doing and the progress they’re making. This isn’t simply about talking more, it’s about focused and effective communication. Knowing who’s doing what, having the opportunity to ask for support and knowing when something you’re relying on will be ready, makes a huge difference. When done well, the daily stand-up ensures everyone is in the know and no one’s in the dark, which has a massively positive impact on the team’s outlook. The daily stand-up meeting also becomes a ritual. We know rituals can be significant and powerful in the workplace, speaking to our subconscious, comforting our fears and helping us connect emotionally to our colleagues. We’ve lost a lot of the rituals we had working in the office, we need to find new rituals and Agile can definitely contribute in this way.

One of the key principles of Agile is creating visibility of the work for everyone. It seeks to erase the negative situations that can occur when team members are not sure what everyone else is working on and how others are progressing with their tasks. Agile creates transparency of and visibility for every aspect of work the team is undertaking – it ensures that teams discuss, review and agree which tasks have the greatest value and deserve prioritisation. Whilst working remotely, MediaCom’s Agile teams use Microsoft Planner, an online version of a “Kanban”, which is a way of visualising all the tasks a team are collectively undertaking. This way the entire team know what they and the rest of the team are doing. This visibility of the entire workflow is a game changer for teamwork.

Agile is more than a set of techniques and methods, it’s a mindset informed by its values. Those values and principles provide guidance on how to create and respond to change and how to deal with uncertainty. Agile is people-focused, empowering teams to take charge of their own destiny and it’s intentionally not hierarchical. Agile encourages teams to be ambitious, to want to achieve great things together and to always seek ways to improve. This mindset would be beneficial at any time, but right now it’s more valuable than ever and at MediaCom we’re working hard to foster and support it.

Right now, when so many businesses are concerned about the impact COVID-19 is having on their culture, Agile’s potential to positively impact culture is especially exciting. At MediaCom, every day we try to live out our mantra of People First Better Results. We might not get everything right all of the time, but we do a lot of good things that work to build a positive culture. Many of these things are focused on creating a balance; trying to offset some of the stresses and strains that come with work, such as with Mindfulness sessions and our Mental Health Allies. But what really excites me about Agile is that it goes to the heart of the issue; it makes peoples working day better, it improves how they work. So rather than offsetting stress, it actually goes to the heart of reducing stress at the very source.

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