Creating opportunities from challenges: edge vs COVID-19

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In this article, edge takes a moment to share the story of how our team is dealing with the challenges and new opportunities we find ourselves tackling during the Coronavirus pandemic. Ever the optimists, this is our take on a brighter view of these unforeseen and difficult times.

Put your money where your mouth is they said… and so we are now truly living life on the edge. This global pandemic has changed the ways that we are all used to working in. Perhaps this is an unprecedented opportunity to create change through experimentation and innovation? We believe that by sticking together, collaborating and thinking outside of the box, all of us can come out of the crisis with new flexibility and stronger resistance.

 

The roller-coaster of 2020

The edge approach is built upon sharing ideas, being creative together and promoting interaction with our team and our collaborators. Before we all boarded the roller-coaster of 2020, we were a team of two – Hannah and Sarah, yin and yang, working together and building and growing edge with passion and vigour. 

2020 has been a big year for edge. With our company growing from strength to strength, we moved into our new office in February and frantically got it ready for our March arrivals. At the beginning of March, we were super excited to welcome Greta and Tereza, our new employees who joined us in the office, now our official edge home.

Now located in the town centre of Thame, a vibrant market town with an amazing High Street full of diverse shops and places to explore and enjoy (an article on this topic can be found here), we were having a ball! Lunchtimes consisted of visits to local independent flower shops, chocolatiers, home stores, kitchen wonders and amazing art dens to accessorise the office with pink – which quickly made our new offices feel cosy, welcoming and friendly – fully embracing our edge brand. Arriving at the office every day was a pleasure – all four of our newly formed team being truly excited to come to work. We hosted our first meetings at our new meeting table, welcomed our first bottles of champagne, and were planning big for the immediate future (don’t worry, we are still planning big).

Overnight, COVID-19 happened. Like for our friends and colleagues, everything changed immediately. Our new pink oasis in a desert of grey had to shut its doors, with only our plants keeping it alive. At this moment, we were very grateful that we designed a business that is young, fresh, always on its toes and ready to adjust quickly!! We immediately began working from home and transferred all of our communications online.

For a design team who loves to communicate and collaborate face to face, this was a huge change. Hannah’s favourite quotation is that to live inside ones comfort zone, means that nothing new grows. With CHANGE, comes CHANCE.

 

So how did we adapt?

Here is how we are transforming our business to thrive in quarantine:

1. We set a STRUCTURED work schedule

From #day1, we set ourselves precise times in the day when we would meet up remotely. Each of these meetings has a different purpose, and it is crucial to us that these are not merely catching up on progress with projects. We haven’t let physical separation prevent us from connecting. 

Each member takes responsibility for leading a different social session. At 9:30 am, we have breakfast led by Tereza. We share pictures of our meals and Tereza challenges us to bring an unusual breakfast beverage to mix things up. At 11 am, we go for a walk with Sarah, video-sharing our surroundings, or enjoy a Swedish fika – to put it simply, coffee and cake. At 3 pm, Hannah prepares a social, with games such as “Would I lie to you?” And at 5 pm, our wellbeing session, Greta does a workout for our edge team. 

This way, we make sure our day is structured and never dull, and we feel more motivated and productive as we work. We believe that being apart can make us stick together.

 

2. We are KIND to ourselves in times of change

To be able to work at all, one needs to be able to focus and be productive. That’s easier said than done, as we all are in a situation that could become overwhelming and frustrating. Functioning under lockdown on a daily basis makes our mood swing like on a Corona-coaster: one minute, we are loving it but suddenly bursting into tears. Lots of our friends are stressed because of the uncertainty COVID-19 brings, depressed because they cannot leave their households and we all have to deal with changes in our home lives on top of a significant change in our work routines.

edge made it clear from the outset that for this transition to be successful, we need to overcome any potential anxieties and fears first. Relaxed and happy, we knew we would be able to get our work done more effectively. This is one of the main reasons we invest time into a daily routine such as the one described above, especially at the beginning of our transition from working at the office to working at home. We have always promoted frank and open communication, sharing our worries and concerns. 

It is ok not to be ok.

 

3. We keep our HEARTRATES pumping

Whether it’s PE with Joe, yoga with Richard Stacey of Evoke, workouts with Greta, or a brief stroll down the road during our 11 am coffee break, we get up from the desk and make sure that we move our bodies. This is essential for making our work schedule sustainable in the long run and for clearing our minds. With less physical activity in our lives, exercise, relaxation and mindfulness must become a priority to encourage the build-up of serotonin in our brains and to keep the chemistry of our bodies balanced.

 

4. We experiment with new ways of COMMUNICATION

Now is the perfect time to become experts in virtual communications. The Guardian recently published an article on a possibly permanent shift towards home-working (link to the full article) which highlights four tools for remote working that we think work really well. These are:

  • Slack – which can provide the ever so needed in-person chat we used to have in the office.
  • Trello – which is an excellent tool for project management. It allows teams to assign and arrange tasks and track project progress.
  • Zoom – video conferencing to make the process easy and less frustrating.
  • Tomates – allowing you to track The Pomodoro method and break up your work into chunks with regular quick breaks. 

At edge, we are currently experimenting with Microsoft Teams for work calls and our team meetings, Zoom for video conferences, WhatsApp for informal chats anytime we feel like it, and we share all of our files using Dropbox. For better concentration, we are testing out Tomato Timer, and we use apps like Slack, Notion and Evernote to help organise our to-do lists, notes and resources. 

We have set up an efficient system for remote communication that will make us work better and more efficiently in the future. Sharing less in person means we are learning to share more authentically with one another.

 

5. We keep building our KNOWLEDGE

We are using the opportunity to catch up on things that have been piling up on our to-do lists for a long time. Now is the perfect time to write articles, to draw and sketch, to think about new ideas for our business, to read and keep up to date with recent reports, articles and relevant books. Hannah is polishing her Procreate skills. Sarah is becoming a home teaching master. Greta has baked every Lithuanian delicacy in her repertoire, and Tereza is growing her blog with new sketches and articles and attending webinars. Tereza also highly recommends the 99% Invisible podcast offering a fresh view on design and architecture.

We are convinced that strong brand, marketing, knowledge and expertise are crucial in this time of challenge.

 

6. We keep growing our NETWORK

Now is the time to be in contact with inspiring people- our friends and colleagues. We continue to expand our business network, to build connections on LinkedIn and to socialise with our business collaborators.

Each week, we meet up on Zoom with members of two like-minded businesses, Evoke Transport Planning and Arrow Town Planning. All of our teams spend an hour playing games and socialising. This allows us to keep in touch, bond and work together collaboratively.

As we test our newly formed quarantine working habits, we are considering which of the changes will create the most significant impact in transforming edge in the long-term. While some businesses speculate on whether they need an office at all, at edge we are advocates of working collaboratively and together. Being face to face is a great part of our culture. Following the lockdown, we will go back to working together in the same space and we are excited about the FLEXIBILITY and NEW OPPORTUNITIES that our newly formed working methods will bring us in the future.
Remember, with challenge comes opportunity, and this will make us all stronger as we continue to work together, grow and prosper.

 

  

Co-authored by Tereza Kadlecova and Hannah Smart.