Working together, apart.


March 16, 2020

Last Sunday, after the President’s announcement, we jumped on our ARK WhatsApp group and had a chat about the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on Kenya, what we were doing about it and how we’d approach the week. We’d seen the news out there and knew this may just be the tip of the iceberg.

We had a choice to make – Balancing responsible citizenry with business/situational pragmatism. We chose the former.

Being in the service industry, it’s an easier call to make. However, not all of us can easily earn a living working from home. Working in manufacturing and supply chains just isn’t possible through Skype. Quarantine in a single-room household with a large family isn’t tenable. People with roommates and bouncing toddlers may find it hard to take calls or find a space to focus. Capable devices and good internet connectivity need to play a big part too.

For those on the fence on whether to hammer on with business as usual, or step back and work from home… we totally understand that it’s a tough call in an already difficult business environment, but here’s a quote that might help you:

“In the end, we may never know if we overreacted and did too much, but it would be quite apparent and devastating if we did too little”
This has been our first week with the full team working remotely. It’s not been easy, but it’s definitely had some positives. We’d love to share a few of our learnings with you.

A lot of our day to day design and innovation work involves collaborative sessions (often with clients), strategy workshops, creative ideation and periods of quiet focus.

The independent work that needed focus excelled. The remote workshop collaboration however needs some more fine-tuning.

Tools we were already using (G Suite, Slack, Asana, Keynote and Figma) are getting a lot more use and becoming central points of reference. We also find ourselves writing more, possibly overcompensating for the in-person subtleties we’re missing. Conversely, while messaging has become more in depth, interactions have been reduced to the essentials (some of those meetings really could have been emails).

We picked up a few new ones too that we’ve started trying out (Jamboard, Mural, Groupmap, Gomoodboard).

We found more sector-specific remote tools & processes to support our clients in Education, Hospitality, Manufacturing, Engineering & Construction.

We also managed to keep our routines going, with our daily morning huddles on Hangouts. Where possible, we keep our video on – it helps us “read the room”… and who knew pajamas and morning hairdos could be so funky! We also found lots of online WFH tips to help us stay healthy and balance work-life when work comes home.

Finally, you know how much we love our Friday gaming sessions. We had to figure out a way to keep the good laughs going, and stumbled on – Hello remote Pictionary!

Week 1 for our (newly) remote team

Serendipity and by-chance encounters are where a lot of our creative sparks ignite.. chatting about yesterday’s game at someone’s desk, walking out to lunch together, outdoing each other on who has worse dad-jokes.. we miss this, we miss the unstructured chaos and in-person interaction that makes us tick.

All in all, there’s still a lot to learn and get used to, but we remain confident that we’ll push through well, and continue to do what we love for the clients and communities we care about.

Next week, we’ll explore how distributed work can allow creativity and collaboration to flourish. We’ll definitely share what we find out.

We realize not everyone has the opportunity to work remotely and many people on whom our economy and indeed our lives depend on, may be at risk during these times. We thank them for their sacrifice and bravery. Asanteni.

Stay safe.