By Ramzi Moutran, founder and CCO of Do Epic Sh*t
It used to be a real pain in the backside to go sit in a virtual meeting. So boring. So awkward. Plus the tech never worked. I never felt virtual meetings were constructive.
Fast forward to COVID times and we all had to adapt to this ‘new normal’. And it worked. Well. But why?
I believe it’s because we are all doing it together, all on our own screens and everyone is equal. It’s eliminated the bad habits of traditional meetings like arriving late or micro conversations on the side. Even those personalities controlling the room over the people who bring quality thinking have been eliminated. Being virtual has made meetings more efficient, more effective. However, deciding to go virtual needs to be done for the right reasons.
If you want to have a virtual company, you must consider it to be a pillar of your organisation, not a tool with which to manage it. I never set out to design a virtual agency for the sake of just having one or trying to be modern and cool. I designed an agency to benefit the work, the clients and the briefs. It was a part of our business model and having the right creatives for the right projects, no matter where they sat in the world.
Over the past 2.5 years, since Do Epic Sh*t started, I have ridden the wave of what it means to be a virtual company. Some things I’ve done really well and others maybe not so well. But if you’re going to be a virtual agency, you have to be fully virtual. As my father would say ‘you cannot be kind of pregnant’. If you’re going to do something, do it wholeheartedly.
Being virtual has enabled us to tap into a global network and get the best creatives whenever we need them. Simply put, it added value to everything were doing. If the best creatives sat in LA, we used them. If the best post-production team sits in SA, then that’s fine. If my favourite producer moves to Bali, then I can work with that too. It meant we weren’t restricted to the best talent only being in the same city, sitting in the same office. Now, I’m only restricted by who is in my network and how I can get in touch with them.
Trying to do both a virtual and a physical agency will kill the culture of a company. This was one of my first learnings. Our new agency, with two offices globally, working together with virtual creatives meant they always felt left out. They never felt part of a community, the tribe. They always felt like the outsiders.
I soon realised there is something neutral when everyone is sitting within their own screens by themselves vs a whole team sitting together and one or two people sitting within their own frame. It broke the dynamic of what a virtual based team is and how it works. Difficult to comprehend at first, this is what COVID proved – that virtual companies do work.
Company culture can be lost when you work virtually. You have to encourage everyone to be involved, to be transparent and grow a new virtual culture. Have your open-heart moments. Ask the question ‘how are you feeling?’ and mean it. Create a space to allow people to talk about this. Culture is one of the most important elements to keep, even when you’re virtual.
Even though COVID has proven we can all work virtually, it needs to be done for the right reasons. All the companies that are thinking they’ve cracked this virtual and digital office working with half of the staff going back to the office and the other half not, it’s not that simple. I can guarantee when this starts happening, workdays will be less efficient, less effective and they will lose their culture. You can’t be kind of pregnant. Either go virtual or don’t.