Like many of us, I work in an office and I like it. I like the shoes I put on, the coffee I pick up every morning, the moment of quiet before people arrive, the clients, the creativity and the urban view of London rooftops from my window. There’s a routine and a structure.
Then lockdown happened and for the first time in my 16 years running an agency I’ve found myself working from home. It’s still a work in progress, but in some ways it’s making me a better CEO.
Working from a distance has given me a different perspective on the business – an opportunity to stand back and think about who we are, what we stand for, what makes us special. And with that, comes a shift in focus – a different approach, different priorities.
I have always believed that the people in the business are the business but in this surreal and extraordinary situation I can really see it. Rather than thinking in terms of teams, projects and job titles I’ve found myself looking at individuals and how we can best support them so that we can ride the storm together.
It’s also in some ways been more personal. The technology we are relying on to connect with each other is giving us an insight into the way we all live: the pictures on the wall, the barking dog in the background, the books on the bookshelf. It’s intimate and it’s personal and it’s shining a light into people’s lives outside of work that you don’t always gain while they’re sitting at their desk.
I’m also learning from this experience too. Learning to step back and let people get on with what they do best without interference. I’m learning to take advice from other people in the business I usually wouldn’t have. By seeing how everyone is dealing with this crisis in different ways - including our clients - I hope it’s also giving me a better understanding of human nature.
The future for every business is uncertain. It’s going to remain challenging; the structures and foundations we once relied on are no longer stable. But, it’s a chance to take advantage. The rulebook of ‘how to do business’ has been torn up. See it as an opportunity to do it differently, to do it better and to focus on what really matters.
Paul Houlding is CEO of creative agency isobel.
Image credit: NurPhoto / Contributor via Getty Images.