As with so many other businesses, Clarkmcdowall found itself in a sudden transition to a home-office environment. Catherine explains how leadership nurtured this transformation in both a deliberate and spontaneous manner. “In the deliberate bucket, when we started going remote, we had very casual things like breakout coffees between just a few people, Friday afternoon drinks, and town halls,” she said.
As an anecdote, Paul mentioned the story of a new team member (who Bamboo Crowd placed with the agency) who recently reached out to Paul to ask for a 30-minute conversation. She had never worked in the studio -- her experience to date has been entirely remote. Paul’s immediate thought was, oh, no, what’s wrong? But turns out, she wanted to establish a cadence of communication to interact directly with Paul outside of normal project work, he explained. And during that first call, she assuaged Paul’s concern when she discussed how much she enjoyed the work and culture of the company.
“She played back basically everything that Catherine and I have tried to do over the last 20 years, unsolicited,” Paul said. He told us that she talked about how Clarkmcdowall collaborates both externally, with clients, and internally, with the team.
She also asked how the team can keep this culture going, remotely. “In a remote or hybrid situation, beyond virtual coffees and other deliberate activities, the question is, how do you make sure that the specialness of your agency, which is your culture, holds true,” Paul said. It’s something he and Catherine look forward to protecting and building going forward.
Clarkmcdowall, like others, is doubling down on the right platforms and tech to enable remote work, such as shifting project management systems to Google Suite, refreshing its brand identity, “and, literally, changing every corner of the agency, from the way to do finance to the way we do time sheets,” Catherine said. What we hear in this is an innate openness to embrace change. What we also hear is that it’s vitally important right now -- not just for Clarkmcdowall but other peer agencies -- to attract the right talent that can roll with these changes, especially those people that are “energized by that sort of momentum as well,” Catherine said.
To foster team connection and culture, there are many clear, natural transitions from past office activities to virtual renditions. For example, with welcome lunches, new employees and others now get food delivered to their respective homes and then share a virtual lunch, together. But Paul and Catherine are also open and realistic about long-term shifts to work preferences. “I think that when it comes to the space, at some point, some people will go back and some people won't. Some people will just move out of the city altogether,” Paul said.
“We don't want this to be a compromise situation, when, in fact, it opens up opportunity. We are allowing people to move or to do whatever they need to do with their life. We anticipate there will be a core number of people who will still live in New York City, and so we'll still have a space,” Catherine said. Clarkmcdowall is exploring new roles for the space, perhaps as less of an office and more as a space for imagination, collaboration and unity.