When COVID Hit, Ceisler Media Was Prepared to Respond
When the pandemic hit in March, its virulence caught everyone by surprise. But at Ceisler Media, it did not catch us unprepared. Thanks to changes we’ve been making toward remote work in recent years, we were able to quickly adapt.
We have offices in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh, and teams that work collaboratively among all three. So it’s always been essential that our people be able to connect with each other – and clients – even while hundreds of miles apart.
And as the work world changed, Ceisler Media needed to be responsive. When I started here 10 years ago, everyone went into the office every day. That was what we did – it was our office culture.
But there are situations that arise – doctor visits or childcare needs, school schedules or eldercare requirements, home repairs, and the like. So, we made a conscious effort over the past few years to make it easier for our staff to work effectively and efficiently without being in the office.
There’s no doubt all of that has served the firm well over these past nine months.
A big part of the smooth transition was the existing conference calls already in place for many of our client meetings, which evolved into Zoom and Teams calls this year. I imagine I’m not the only one who joins a call dressed much differently than I would if I were going into the office.
A few years ago we set up the communication tool Slack, which connects the three offices in real-time. There are “channels” set up that enable team members in our different cities to stay in touch over ongoing client work. Others allow our 30-plus staffers to share a joke or a baby picture. These days, that informal sense of community is more crucial than ever.
I’ve read a lot on what impact the pandemic has had on those working remotely. There are substantial benefits, but there are also many people who are challenged with not being all together in an office. While technology like Slack and Zoom doesn’t replace a communal lunch in our Ceisler Media mini-kitchens, it does help create the opportunity to share news and see each other, while not face-to-face in person, at least we see each other’s faces.
We are in the process of migrating to Microsoft 365 – which puts everything in the cloud and makes working in this remote environment even more efficient. We can access our email and all of our files – everything from anywhere and on any device, as long as we have an internet connection. I’m amazed at how it works, allowing us to access our work, to collaborate on documents, initiate telephone and/or video calls, or share information with the click of the mouse. It certainly will help us to work more effectively, efficiently, and collaboratively – even from a distance.
Being apart also means we need to be better able to communicate with our employees; to let them know if they are meeting expectations; or for them to let us know if they have any needs or concerns.
A couple of years ago, Kate Wilhelm, our Chief Operating Officer, put in place a more defined reporting process so all of our team members would report to one of our directors. They meet on a regular basis, which helps with setting goals, from both a client and professional perspective, and also encourages working collaboratively across all offices and teams. This process that Kate implemented has proven to be even more beneficial to all of us during this time of physical separation.
It will be interesting to see how the business world adapts when this pandemic is in our rearview mirror. Certainly, work will be different than before. Not too long ago, we were planning to expand our office space. But our team has proven to be so responsible and effective in this remote environment that I imagine we will put those plans on hold for now and instead continue to be flexible within those confines – office sharing, for example.
As someone who has spent three hours a day commuting to and from our Locust Street office, and had already started working from home two days a week before COVID-19, I will continue to appreciate that flexibility.
There’s a part of me that looks forward to getting back to the office and seeing all of my co-workers. But I also have come to see that I can be just as, if not, more productive at home, where I know I won’t be interrupted. Well, except when my golden retriever puppy barges in.
Cynthia McCurdy is the Director of Business Operations in Ceisler Media's Philadelphia Office.