A New Normal

Arriving in the office each morning, our MD unlocks his office, turns on the lights, then walks the floor and greets each and every one of the team who are in the office. This entails a quick chat to make sure his team are all ok, perhaps discuss golf prospects for Wednesday’s game, before heading back to his office to carry on his day. This was how it was pre-lockdown. I for one miss that.

For those of us that are typically office workers, it is likely that we have worked from home at some stage in the past. We found it hugely advantageous to get a task completed; providing that quiet thinking time and the ability to concentrate without interruption. We believe that our productivity increased as it took half the time to finish that document or project than if we were in the office. Working from home was set on our own terms, and it was only part time. 

Being forced to work from home full time has meant a rethink in our routines.  The “new normal” is under development, catering for distractions, changing workloads and how to deliver all the nuances that the office provided.  At Yorb, we are learning a lot. Be it through the questions our clients have asked, uncovering those things we take for granted in the office which we need to do differently, or experimenting with our own ideas that might or might not work for us, here is an insight to our journey so far.

Where are our workers and what are they up to?

Managing a team has changed. Our productivity tools are critical to make sure that we are capturing our efforts and to manage workloads across the team. We have regular online meetings with each of the teams to make sure that workloads are not overwhelming and that we all are contributing.  Pitching in to get things done that are outside of your normal day to day job is becoming the new normal.

Larger online meetings needed protocols to function well. To help with all of business meetings where there is in excess of 20 people participating, as you connect, disable your video and audio. If you need to ask a question or comment, use the Chat feature. Presenter’s monitor this and can pass over control if necessary. And yes, we still get the odd dog barking that comes through the audio or kids wandering into view…this is all good and the new normal.

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One big question that quickly needed solving - What’s the best communication tool currently available?  And the answer was not Outlook or the phone. It’s a coffee break. To keep our teams engaged, up sprung a virtual coffee break for all those that are missing their barista. Sometimes it’s a one on one Chat or Video call, sometimes it’s a small group. But either way it is keeping a line of communications open that we use to have in the office.  

Microsoft Teams Calling is major contributor to Yorb’s ability to successfully service our clients. The online telephony solution is a reasonably new offering in the market, and we happened to be an early adopter which has helped us during this crisis. This allowed us to pack up our laptops, head home, connect to the internet and carry on like we were in the office. We required some last-minute headset upgrades before lockdown – and we were not immune from supply issues! To date, our experience of Microsoft Teams Calling is positive, although we do recognise that this solution is not for everybody.  While we implemented this with some speed, it proved that people could adapt to change on the fly and that deploying technology can be “agile”.



Clash of Clans is an internal initiative we have had on for a while now.  The entire company is put into one of 6 teams, mixing people from all geographical locations. There are lots of challenges set that teams earn points for each and a winner is declared later in the year.  This is driving connection between offices and people you normally wouldn’t see every day. Now that we are all working remotely, we have added two Clan meetings each week. On Monday, it’s a 15min catch up to see what everybody got up to over the weekend (no work talk), and Wednesday is for a 15min chat about work and how things are going.

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Some of you may have business teams of one. Managers need to make sure that they keep in touch with all staff and perhaps realign individuals to a bigger team with similar delivery or function so that they are not unintentionally isolated.  And staff need to make sure they touch base with managers, including the CEO or MD. After all, the leaders of the business are people too so don’t forget to check how they are doing. 

Exercise is important so make sure you take time to get some. I know that we are all “walking to work” now but the 5 meters from the bedroom to the makeshift study doesn’t really equate to exercise. And we also have easy access to a pantry and stocked fridge. Several of our team are competing in online events such as triathlons and a few have dusted off those exercise apps and are completing against others in the office to see how many laps of the back yard you can do.

Water cooler chats and Social engagements.

Expanding Yammer with a new conversation dedicated to “Working from Home” has helped keep staff connected. Staff have contributed photos of their home setups and environments which has morphed into including pets, family members and some random office locations. This is helping normalise the situation and remind us that there is a human factor in all of this.

Friday night drinks was a regular office event and, like most workplaces, usually has 4 or 5 different groups of people sitting round the staff room with a drink, sharing war stories from the week. Using Microsoft Teams Video Calling to emulate a typical Friday night, we created 6 channels for staff to connect in and catch up with each other after a very interesting week.  BYO was the order of the day! The idea behind the 6 channels was to give everybody a chance to chat amongst small groups. Whoever got to the channel first, started the meeting and waited for others to join, and you could come and go as you pleased. Even though we were unsure how this would go, it worked well and gave those who normally wouldn’t stay due to family commitments, an opportunity to join in. 

To replace the office music, the last initiative we are trialling is the virtual DJ.  Each of us is creating Spotify play lists and sharing with the rest of the team. If ever there was a time to have a play list with “Don’t stand so close to me” or “All by myself”, now is it. Its too early to say how this will work out, but we will let you know.

So that’s a small insight to what we are doing. We are using the tools and trying novel ideas on how to keep connected.  We’d love to hear how you are using the tools available to your teams. And if you need some help to set any of this up, please give us a call on 0800 600 606