Virtual kitchens and meditation time: how to stay sane working from home

As WFH becomes the new norm, Campaign gets some advice and tips from industry professionals on how to get the best out of it.

WFH: adland's top tips
WFH: adland's top tips

Many see the recent rapid change in our working lives as an opportunity for more innovative ways to interact in and out of work, with "virtual kitchens", "virtual pubs" and "virtual running clubs" popping up as a few examples of how we can make long-term WFH more feasible than we had previously imagined. 

But it's sometimes just a question of getting dressed and turning up in front of your screen. As our meerkat friends from Comparethemarket.com would say: "Simples."

Justin Pahl, chief executive, VMLY&R London

I believe that human connection is what will get us through. We've asked our people to look after each other. Heads of department and team leads are checking in personally over the phone or video call with their team as often as possible. We're encouraging people to take breaks and to have a clear beginning and end to their day. We had a couple of new starters on Monday and I called them all personally to say hi and welcome them as would happen usually. 

Create virtual places where people can bump into each other as they would in the office. We’ve created a virtual kitchen where people can log in for a cup of tea and a video chat with whoever happens to be there at the same time. 

Have fun and don't worry about all the tech challenges. We're going to launch a "best frozen screen" competition. Globally, we are also sharing the best remote working set-ups and at the same time enjoying discovering everyone’s kitchen!  

Let's be positive and laugh through this unprecedented situation as much as we can. When we hosted our first company-wide huddle on Microsoft Teams, we had some technical issues and the side comments were comedy gold. 

Mark Coltart, creative director, Oliver

Have a simple agenda ready for every video call and a timeframe to match. This will allow you to cover all the important points and not veer off into random conversations. Capture the minutes of the call, otherwise important conversations will be lost. You can record or ensure someone is typing notes. There should never be a "what were we saying on the call" conversation afterwards!

It’s very important to stay connected throughout the day, but too many calls can be counterproductive. If your role is creating content, then it’s up to you to manage a sensible split of briefing and team calls versus creating the work. Feel free to shout if you want to make a call shorter or dial in for the part that is most relevant to you. 

Don’t feel guilty for having the odd important break from your screen. Plan your daily calendar accordingly. 

Nick Suckley, digital partner, Goodstuff Communications

One question to ask yourself is: how hard do I have to work? This covers what I call the WFH paradox. In the office, there are all sorts of distractions and interruptions which can distract you from the actual process of doing work. WFH removes these distractions so the question becomes: when should I stop?

My solution was to ask myself: have I earned my money today? Some days it might mean making a couple of calls. On others, it might take hours. The point is, by focusing on quantifiable achievements, you’re able to judge just how much work is enough. So rather than saying "I’ve worked lots today", you can say "I’ve earned my money today" and stop to take a break.

Carrie Morley, audience and evaluation director, MediaCom

I’m leading our newly formed "virtual social committee" for our Lloyds Banking Group account. We are just about to open our very own virtual pub, The Black Horse, although that name might change!

We also have other virtual initiative ideas, including daily emails for mind and body, the next online concert, intuitive ways in which your team members are keeping positive, a playgroup for our littlest family members, a treasure hunt between your team members and a LBG buddy system where you get paired with someone and look out for each other.

Stephen Martincic, chief reputation officer, Europe, Grey

My husband and I walk our two mini-schnauzers early in the morning and another two or three times during the day. Going out really makes a difference, just to walk, be in the moment and breathe. We do 10-20 minutes' meditation to start the day (with the Headspace app). It really helps to re-centre and be more focused. Then, 20 minutes' morning yoga on freeyoga.tv with Stephen Beitler helps wake us up and a workout using Fitbod. We’ve started the 16/8 intermittent fasting and we drink coffee, tea or water in the morning.

Reading or listening to books is very helpful when you are at home working and easily distracted. I’ve just started The School of Life by Alain de Botton and I’ve just listened to the Goodfellas podcast on Indistractable by Nir Eyal. Last but not least, I’m trying to get on video calls with at least four or five friends and family members a day; it is super-important during this social isolation to keep in touch.

These aren’t rocket science, but can be very helpful for getting through the day and the weeks to come.

Misty Booysen, marketing executive, SMLWRLD

Firstly, you need to ensure that you have a professional set-up. Your home office will generally include a laptop/PC, a phone and an internet connection, and you should check with your employer that you have all tools necessary for you to carry out your job.

Make the most of the communication tools that you have will help you and your colleagues maintain an efficient and productive workday. 

Ensure that you aren't overworking, as it’s not sustainable, and can be harmful to mental, emotional and physical health. People’s lives can be complicated – particularly in current circumstances – and sometimes work has to take a back seat.

Use tools such as video calling to speak to your colleagues regularly and be vigilant and supportive if you notice that someone is not doing so well.

The biggest hurdle for people to overcome when working from home is the social aspect. Aligning the times that people communicate, and establishing regular online meetings, will maintain a sense of team and ensure no-one is left feeling isolated or forgotten. A camera-on policy will further improve communication and provide a sense of human interaction and support. 

Don’t be afraid to speak out when you're struggling. Be upfront if you need to ask people to improve their communication. Likewise, if you just want to catch up with a colleague, then do it! A friendly catch-up with someone can be mutually beneficial.

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