They say that life happens in moments and a defining one in my life was when President Ramaphosa called his first press conference on the 15th of March and began to lay out his plans to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

I am a first-generation South African from Italian and Spanish heritages, and with all my family in those respective countries, this for me was a defining moment. I knew, from my family, that shutdown was inevitable and that it was time to set those remote working wheels in motion.

Our marketing team consists of 12 people, each with their complex portfolios and schedules. Interestingly though – maybe because we are used to working with technology, or as perhaps as South Africans we are just so robust – when my team and I decided to start working from home on the 18th of March, they didn’t appear terribly concerned.

The biggest worry from the team was naturally connectivity, and if our different ways of connecting would fail us in any way. We never doubted we could work from home; it was just about figuring out the HOW.

Technology is just a way of life and we’re making use of the following different sets of technology:

  • Skype – We have an existing channel that we all chat on for quick work-related conversations. We also use it to hold our stand-ups every morning at 8 am.
  • Vox Vobi – Not to sound self-promoting, but this is an awesome app. We all have softphones on our cell phones, and if we need to make business calls, we use that instead of our airtime/data. Nice and clean cut. Work is work, private is private.
  • Clarizen – We also use a project management software called Clarizen as our marketing collaboration tool. We track all our jobs and changes on each campaign element. We also monitor our hours, for the sake of transparency.
  • MS Teams – We use Teams to keep our all centralised documents. While we do our stand-up in the morning, our Kanban board is updated and everyone has easy access.

Things I have been surprised about:

  • Everyone seems so much calmer. Maybe it’s not having to sit in hours of traffic, for just being in the comfort of home. But there is a sense of calm.
  • The team is working longer hours. It seems like everyone is just more focused on fewer distractions. We have a mandatory lunch hour everyone goes on, but everyone is back before the hour is up.
  • With more focus comes a higher quality of work. I see how we give each other more detailed and better thought out feedback than before.
  • Meetings are SHORT!!! Everyone gets to the point so much faster. One-hour meetings have reduced to 30 minutes or less.

Things that are annoying:

  • We can’t hear you!!! I must be a real sight at the moment. At times I am entirely hunched over my PC screaming into the mic. The neighbours can all hear me a mile off, and they all think I have a frightfully exciting job. I don’t understand why each platform on which I communicate, my mic volume is different. It’s a mystery to me.
  • Getting comms from every direction: Skype, email, WhatsApp and phone calls. Can be a bit overwhelming at times. But I am learning to use the mute or closing certain things off to concentrate better.

All in all, so far so good. I was reflecting last night that thank goodness, I have my job to keep me busy and my team to constantly chat to. It makes long days go by fast and gives me the courage that we are going to be just fine through the shutdown period.

PS: I would take a picture of myself at my makeshift office, but I thought a pic of this young man is much easier on the eyes.

What has your experience been like? I’d love to hear it. Leave your comments below.