At the start of 2020, we knew that this pandemic would happen and so we were very well prepared….said no one ever! Luckily our whole team is pretty good at adapting to change and so the day we told everyone that we’d be remote for the foreseeable future, everyone just took their laptops home and that was that. Transition to remote working complete within 12 hours, not bad. ‘Nothing has changed much for us’ I would tell clients and friends. Sure, we were at home and it was a bit weird not seeing everyone every day but a couple of funny Slack channels later, it felt almost the same and we barely missed a beat. But as time went on, we realised we needed to do something more drastic to keep the Ninety spirit.
As innovators, we see that where there is a problem there is opportunity and so we set about creating a new framework for our way of working that would not only react well to the changing situation, but would put us back in control. In the methodology we use with clients, we always ensure we speak to customers to get the best insights. Even for our own internal innovations, we ensure we stick with these principles. In this instance, our staff are the customers of our ways of working and we knew that we had to ask them the hard questions first. A short survey and some one to one chats later, we started to form a picture of what was working and what wasn’t.
The origin of ‘flow’
We heard from our staff that they loved the freedom of home working, but it had it’s drawbacks. They missed the team, the feeling of togetherness, the ability to just catch up over a coffee. We also found that everyone was finding their own rhythm but that some people were really struggling with their home environment. Our staff also told us about all of the positives they were experiencing, such as more time with family, as well as less time wasted on commutes. It was clear that we needed to have a flexible hybrid model to allow that balance between collaboration and solo focus time. Just as important was going to the name for this new style!
When we stumbled on this definition of being in flow we thought it perfectly summarised what we wanted everyone to feel: “A flow state, or being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” And so, Ninety Flow was born!
Now we had an awesome name, but before defining the structure, it was important that we identified the mindset pillars that would keep the team on track.
- Transparency: Lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required of collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.
- Community: A team of interconnected people that have to move together to be most effective, rather than islands of individuals jockeying for position.
- Clarity: Being clear and easy to understand without extensive explanation.
- Trust: Mutual belief that you will do what you say you will do.
Then we moved onto the practical elements of the framework. We called these the Flow Enablers.
The first Flow Enabler is Structure. This covers things such as diary management and document sharing but the biggest and most transformative change has been creating a company wide weekly structure. Having a common rhythm to your colleagues is massively helpful and so the Ninety Flow Week was created and it goes like this:
- Monday – Wednesday: Spotlight on collaboration where you are encouraged to meet up with your colleagues for valuable co-working. Gone are the days of sitting next to someone in the office for the sake of it, this is purposeful and valuable.
- Focus Thursday – all internal meetings are banned. The whole team had been feeling the strain of long and frequent zoom meetings which were a huge time suck. On the flip side, we were hearing how productive and motivated people felt when they could just get their head down and focus and so now we can capitalise on this.
- Friday company wide home working – having a hybrid model can quickly create a void between the remote workers and the people that crave an office. Basically FOMO. Having a designated working from home day gives us, and the team, protection against this.
The next Flow Enabler is Culture. This is something we are particularly proud of at Ninety but with all things you cherish, it needs to be nurtured. During the whole pandemic we had been running regular team activities, such as quizzes, coffee mornings, yoga as well as a weekly newsletter to keep everyone updated on what we were doing. But even with all of that, there was still a challenge of getting people to connect beyond their immediate team. To begin to break down some of these barriers, we introduced Donut to our Slack to connect random team members together for a virtual coffee and catch up. We are also committed to continuing our transparent approach with regular company updates given by the Management Team as to business performance.
The third enabler is Environment. Although the switch to home working was pretty easy for us, not everyone’s home environment was working for them. And so we have given everyone a budget to buy equipment to make their home workspace more comfortable. We also give staff a monthly allowance to book co-working spaces so that they can have some variety.
Our final enabler is Communication. Again, as a close team, lack of communication has never been a problem however we feel it is useful to realign what counts as good communication. The biggest takeaway here is about mindful messaging. As a chatty team that uses Slack, we all suffer with message fatigue occasionally and so we encourage everyone to be mindful of the timing, content and expectations on their messages.
So that’s our plan for how we’ll not only weather the current covid-shaped storm, but how we’ll come out of it even stronger with a happier, more motivated and super productive team. That isn’t to say we’re all perfect and we have solved all of our problems. Ninety Flow is an example of innovation and that we are all living and breathing. Like all good innovation, it may pivot and change but we are sure we’ll come out of it in a better place.
After all, something can’t flow if it isn’t flexible…and something can’t be Ninety if it isn’t innovation!