The WFH Diaries - Justine Leong at whiteGREY

By AdNews | 11 May 2020

AdNews brings the stories of those working from home (WFH) in the advertising and media industry during the coronavirus crisis.

Justine Leong is client service director at whiteGREY.

Over the past few months we’ve collectively shared a new way of life and work. Ultimately, we are getting through it together. We’ve gone through stages of experiencing the novelty of WFH en-masse, the uncertainty of no end in sight, the rising boredom and tension as days pass, to the hopeful sign of light at the end of the tunnel. And we’ve shared a lot through it all; tips and tricks on ways to stay connected, online meeting room etiquette, virtual events, a lot of laughs (some tears), and we’ve even opened up our homes and families to our colleagues, albeit through a screen.

Yet we’ve also been impacted by it at a personal level. And what’s clear is you can change ways of working on scale, but we also need to ensure we are protecting the individuals, their working styles and also appreciate their differences.

Remember back to the days when a morning hello and chit chat was over making toast in the office kitchen? This is now replaced with a morning team video to see how people’s facial hair growth is tracking or what my dog’s OOTD is, and from there it’s virtual room to virtual room. For those that used to sit in the office all day wearing headphones, the constant collective need to connect and communicate can be challenging.

I try to remind people that whilst consistency to stay in touch is crucial, consistency to maintain our own personal style (whether you’re a meeting addict or often need a quiet corner to think) is just as important to keep getting the best out of ourselves. I often have to pry myself away from the screen as I don’t have a cab to jump into or another meeting room to find. And without those incidental moments of reset, it’s now on me to do it.

The intimacy of being in each other’s home has given us as a greater appreciation of people’s lives beyond work. There has been much emphasis on families, and parenting has had a lot of airtime during these times, but I also think there is a real need to highlight the individuals who have been far from their families or even live alone, and the things they have done to adapt to this situation.

A reminder for you all to call and check in on that person today.

Whether it’s a wellness series tapping into the culture of a Scandi auto brand, a partnership between a leading Mental health charity and a pain relief brand or helping people save energy using an interactive book/smart meter, I have seen creativity at whiteGREY thrive in this crisis. The diverse bunch of people behind this work, means we have also shared some diverse moments together. Canines and cats of Covid, Quarantrivia, Wednesday Workouts, Kids Storytime, Covid-Meme of the Day, GREYtest Spotify Playlists, and the list goes on. From the small and trivial things we do, to bigger online events, they are a reminder that our workplace is made up of the incredible and talented individuals we work with, not just the office walls that used to surround us.

Spontaneity is something I personally miss. Spontaneity of bumping into people, of seeing something random walking to work, spontaneity of discussions, of hearing different opinions (beyond the curated selection of people you invited to call). Spontaneity is often at the heart of the creative process and sparks thoughts and conversation. Spontaneity, for me is the one thing that I find hard to replicate sitting in the same space, in front of the same screen.

There is not a one size fits all solution to work from home or the office. WFH comes naturally to some and others crave the human connection, what we have learnt is not that WFH is possible, but that we collectively rose to the challenge.
It’s human nature to want what we can’t have and for me personally, that’s heading back to the office to see clean shaved faces, share dog pics on my phone rather than from my lap, and share a Friday drink - unvirtually.

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