Working from home. What if SC&P had to deal with Covid 19?

/ March 21, 2020/ Advertising, Advice/ 0 comments

Self isolation and working from home are now trending. To avoid spreading the Covid 19 virus people are working from home. At first glance this is what a lot of us in the agency business wanted. The ability to “work from home” removes a lot of the stress of doing creative work. What can go wrong you ask? A lot and most of it has to do with communication. So let’s look at a scenario. A what if this would happen?

What if Sterling Cooper & Partners had to deal with Covid 19 I wonder? If you are familiar with the AMC series, you know the kind of business we are talking about. So what if Sterling Cooper & Partners existed in the modern world of the internet email and Zoom? What if they all had to self isolate? The results would be interesting. Based on my experience it would probably work something like this.

Don Draper laughing
They think they can escape the office.

“Peggy where’s that email you sent me two minutes ago?”

If SC&P employees were suddenly told to go home. Don Draper would be the first. However he’d be constantly harassing Peggy Olsen about copy that he didn’t get. Mind you Don Draper would probably get so many emails from everyone, (since in this day and age, rarely do Creative Directors have secretaries anymore) that he would undoubtedly miss a few. This is the first thing a person working from home as a manager would have to deal with. A deluge of emails. Using filters and priorities settings in your email app can help manage the deluge. It’s not foolproof but it helps. Compartmentalising messages into groups of discussions manages changes and requests.

Don is unhappy with the new social media content posts Peggy wrote. He calls her on the phone and she doesn’t pick up immediately. This worries him. He calls Stan, the Art Director, to call Peggy. Stan, already under pressure for a deadline for Sal Romano, forgets to message Peggy. This is a breakdown in communication. Set clear lines of communication. If Peggy doesn’t answer, WhatsApp, text, or send another email and above all “don’t panic.”

Peggy refers to an older email Don sent for a brief. He clearly wanted to say this about the clients product. Don forgot, for in trying to answer the million emails he just said “Fine go ahead.” Reading emails and understanding what they mean is very important. You don’t have to be out of the office to know this one. But Don blames Peggy’s not being there in the office so he can personally “tell her” why she messed up. The power shifts from the office dynamic to a more level playing field of “I’m in my space and you are in yours.” There is very little ability to power play outside of the office. Office politics disappears.

You didn’t read my email. . . did you?

Meetings in the Virtual Verse while working from home

Pete Campbell insists that everyone have a status meeting every morning. He creates a virtual room using one type of software, However, Cooper has no idea how to use this and chaos ensues. Inability to login, connection issues. It’s a nightmare for Pete. Sterling calls the IT guy and he sorts everything out. Before everyone goes off to work from home: set up standard means of video and team sharing. This will enable a smooth transition from office to offsite. Those companies that don’t do it will lose more productivity to mismanagement than to Covid 19. There are so many options, someone needs to take charge and say: everyone use THIS, whatever “this” is and stick to it.

Bert Cooper sings his goodbye
Bert says goodbye to the old ways

Working from home can work, using discipline

In the end the work gets done and sent to the client. All is well in the world of future Madmen. How the work gets done is entirely up how you do the work while out of the office. It’s still a nine-five job but at home. The issue is in the case of Don Draper, he has a home office he can lock himself in and not disturbed by his kids. Peggy doesn’t in her small one room apartment. Stan has to use the office machine, since he doesn’t have a computer of his own, and what if it’s stolen? or breaks?. These are all some of the pitfalls of working from home for owners of companies as well as employees.

Some jobs need you to be at a physical location. This is the job. But some do not, those that can and are able to work from home should. The requirements to do so is important. You need a space, a quiet space that you can separate the house from the work. Those with kids cannot both take care of kids and do work. This is just impossible. These are the pros and cons fo being a stay home worker. Under normal circumstances if you have the ways and means to successfully work from home then do so. If not don’t ask your manager to let you do so, this does a disservice to you and the work.

With Covid 19 and “working from home” this is no longer “business as usual” the world has turned. Those companies nimble enough to rise to the challenge will do fine. In fact, it seems to me, that companies who pivot to this new way of working it will benefit the society at large. There will be less commuting, less traffic, less pollution. It’s a win-win situation for those that wish to work from home. Yet, keep in mind not everyone can work from home. When they finally tame the Covid 19 virus, we’ll all wonder why we hadn’t tried this before?

Michael Ginsberg distrusts the technology. Thats a real fear some have. And no, we won’t all be turned Homo. 

What will happen to SC&P with a Covid 19 future?

In the actual series of MadMen (spoiler alert!) SC&P eventually disappears into the conglomerate that is McCann Erickson. Nowadays smaller more nimble agencies have out flanked the old lumbering agency model. Like the entertainment industry these next few months will show who can make it. The old SC&P with their old way of doing things could change gears, update and change, but this takes time. Now Covid 19 is asking agencies and companies in general to rethink their model.

Employees also need to retrain themselves to work from home. This is no mean task, being outside of a support network and not having access to people you can bounce ideas is difficult. Yet there are things that replace these things, we need to move fast in our flipping of thinking. Get into the habit of dressing for the job when home, set your work hours and break times. Manage your time yourself and show your managers you can do the work from home.

Managers also know that its not business as usual. The Pete Campbells and Don Drapers in the agency world love to micro manage sometimes. This is because they don’t trust employees to do the job. I say if you don’t change your mindset from now you will find yourself on the wrong side of history. The world has moved to a more flexible way of working facilitated by the use of technology. Its time for both employees and employers to make the change and trust each other.

Don Draper in his office. Everyone has gone to self isolate.
Don Draper after everyone goes home to self isolate

In conclusion

Working from home is not for everyone. It requires discipline. You only get this if you treat the work as work and not an “afterthought” while you watch Netflix or play a game. Giving yourself a priority list, dressing for the job and scheduling your work helps. The issue for me isn’t working from home. Since 2017 I’ve been home after working for 20 years in a 8-5 job at McCann Worldgroup. The issue is the people who you work for who don’t understand what working from home entails. In this market the mentality is micromanagement. We have grown out of the “plantation” society way of working with a team in a field under the whip of an overseer. Thanks to Covid 19 this has now changed. Change of the habits of both employees and employers is inevitable. None of us in the market can say, we can’t allow an employee to work from home. The benefits of “working from home” post Covid 19 are clear

I hope you enjoyed reading this and are currently self isolating, or maybe considering working from home then leave a comment below. If you’d like to get in contact email me here.

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