AdNews Perspectives - 'Would I be judged for the streaking toddler?'

Lauren Small, managing director, Carat Sydney Lauren Small, managing director, Carat Sydney
Lauren Small, managing director, Carat Sydney

By Lauren Small, managing director, Carat Sydney.

On Monday, March 16, when dentsu sent over 1,000 Australian staff home to work remotely for the foreseeable future, agency life was the furthest thing from my mind.

I was at home with an almost two-year-old, and a newborn, and our daily park trip with a lukewarm coffee had just been hijacked. So, there I was frantically googling "Swing Set delivery Sydney" and praying for a miracle.

The impact of COVID-19 on my career didn’t even enter my mind until my first day at Carat Sydney in early October. After a quick temperature check, I walked around the especially quiet office, collected my technology, set up my VPN so I could work remotely and thought what is this Teams thing everyone keeps referring to?

So much had changed in the space of eight months, I suddenly felt like I’d been out of the industry for years. As much as remote working wasn’t new to me, remote working with two children under two certainly was, add to this the pressure of a new job and 100 new faces to get to know, I was nervous to say the least.

What I quickly came to realise is the industry had taken a huge progressive leap forward, it had been forced overnight to let go of legacy, truly embrace flexibility and provide autonomy to each and every person regardless of level, tenure and experience.

This new found flexibility came with its own set of unique challenges for me, and fear definitely crept in; would I be judged for the streaking toddler in the background of my call - a small human constantly attached to my hip during a forecast review or needing to drop everything to take a feverish child for a COVID-19 test?

It turns out these were my hang up’s and preconceptions. Dentsu’s Be The Best You approach provides all of our employees with a framework that’s both consistent and flexible, giving each of us the opportunity to determine the right mix of remote and office based working, with each team finding a unique rhythm that delivers on our customer, team and personal priorities.

There will never be a one size fits all solution, in fact the typical working week will never look the same again, but we do have to provide flexible guard rails and an aligned set of behaviours to ensure we continue to deliver on our customer’s business outcomes and our peoples’ happiness and growth.

As a leader, 2020 has re-enforced for me how important it is to leave loud and proud at 5pm for dinner with my children, and demonstrate flexibility through behaviours, not policies. 

When thinking ahead to 2021 we need to be led by the data we have, listen to our teams and customers, and respond accordingly.

The recent Mediai results in part made for uncomfortable viewing, with 41% of agency talent declaring they were experiencing high levels of stress and 39% are feeling highly anxious. I can’t help but wonder if the isolation of 2020 has exacerbated this?

As the lines between work and home have become blurred, we’ve missed out on the incidental learning and coaching opportunities that come with physical presence in the office and lost some of the human engagement that we all love this industry for.

I for one am looking forward to more physical connection next year, more kitchen chats over cups of tea and regaining some of that magic we’ve lost amongst the craziness of this year.

And in case you were wondering, I’m the proud owner of a very well used swing set…

Originally published on AdNews here.

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