Spiral Media vs. the Beast From The East
When the ‘Beast From The East’ hit Lincoln on Tuesday 27th February, we were ready, and as a result, experienced very little disruption to our operations.
We are very fortunate to be within an industry that can cater for flexible and remote working quite easily, but it still takes a lot of work to make sure everything is set up, maintained and continually fine tuned so we can react quickly to times when one, or all of us, can’t make it into the office.
I certainly recognise that a lot of businesses need to be fixed to a single location for one reason or another, but hopefully there’s at least one thing in here that sparks a new idea towards a more flexible working arrangement.
The culture we have at Spiral fuels our passion for continual improvement; and I can truly say the effect of this became evident once more when I watched how smoothly we all passed through three days of isolation whilst not dropping the bar on our service delivery standards:
– We’re passionate about using technology in the right way for us, and to our advantage
– We love a process, and put a lot of energy into making sure they are clearly defined, understood and with no ambiguity
– We have complete trust in one another to do the right thing, at the right time
At 06.15am on Wednesday, people and their cars were moving very, very slowly. On witnessing the problems about to happen, Operation Snow Day was called into action and everyone was sent a text advising them to stay at home.
Here’s an overview of the key things that helps us continue and run as smoothly as we did.
1. Smart Use of Technology
We all operate from laptops, plugged into larger screens when at our desks. Laptops support our flexible working culture but also allow us to adapt to situations like this.
On the Monday, we asked everyone to take their laptops home just in case the worst hit. Tuesday only prevented one of our colleagues making it in, but Wednesday we were all blocked out (or in, whichever way you want to look at it).
ii) VOIP phone system
We’ve always opted for VOIP i) for the cost of calls but ii) because you can often download a mobile app that allows you to make, receive and transfer calls just as if you were in the office.
This helped immensely because when a client called, we were still able to answer and provide the fast support we aim for. On a typical day at Spiral, it’s usually our service managers that call out the most, so we just kept the call handling with them through the mobile app.
iii) Cloud Software
We are avid believers in the concept of the Cloud and have used it for many years now.
Having key areas of our business on the Cloud is arguably the biggest reason why we can operate flexibly, so long as we have an internet connection.
Internet is as available as oxygen these days, but should we be stuck without it, there’s always the option of turning mobile phones into Hotspots to access the web using 4G.
2. A Continual Focus on Thorough Planning
We know the saying; “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.
A key responsibility of our Management team is to make sure the platforms we use to plan our tasks are accurate and being used in the correct way. If a task doesn’t go to plan, then the first thing we look at is ourselves and how we planned it:
– Could it have been made clearer?
– Did we leave an instruction open to interpretation?
– Did our team have everything they needed?
It all starts with a solid plan, as well as an idea of what your contingency looks like.
The platform we use at the moment to hold all our task data and schedules is Redbooth. It allows us to add the detail needed for a successful delivery, attach files and include reference links as guidance.
When the Beast arrived, our colleagues could load up their dashboard and see what needed to be done that day. Any questions were handled via @mentions within comments, but overall there was nothing preventing our progress each day. And that’s the result we wanted!
3. Swift and Painless Communication Channels
As well as being able to communicate through our project management platform, we also use Slack as a centralised instant messaging system.
Slack is fantastic; not only can we chat and arrange video calls with one another, but we also have channels set up that monitor things such as server connectivity as well as any missed call notifications. When something happens, we all know about it, and in this instance we also knew who the first responders were.
Each morning, our teams have stand ups to discuss the plan for the day as well as any potential barriers that may block progress. Whilst working away from the office, they used Google Hangouts instead which proved another big success.
4. Remembering to have Fun!
We look to enjoy ourselves whilst in the office, so working remotely should be no different.
Whilst on a Snow Day, it’s only right to have a bit of fun because no one expects someone to be sat in front of a screen for 8 hours solid – we are realistic, and people need breaks.
So below are some photos taken by the team whilst in between work, to help break their day and not go mad.