With news in April that the British economy has shrunk by 20.4%, several business owners became concerned about the recovery of their business and what the “new normal” might look like. Pete Reis-Campbell, CEO and Founder of Kaizen, discusses how he has navigated the pandemic and why remote working is the future for many companies.

It’s been difficult, almost very surreal. We were planning to move into our new office in May, due to our old office’s contract ending. Luckily, just before the lockdown, we were able to find a space that reflected our growing team, but just before the renovation began, COVID-19 delayed work, and we were unable to move into our new office. It felt strange, as I had to put everything in storage, register the office to my home address, and had thoughts that if COVID-19 negatively impacted my business, we might not be moving back into an office space at all. 

I’ve found it a lot harder to manage productivity and efficiency, especially with less face-to-face meetings. It’s been harder to collaborate despite all of the online tech and tools available. However, we’ve been able to get work done and keep the business running — a massive testament to our team. We’ve also had time to streamline several processes and change things we’ve wanted to address for many years. With this extra time, the change hasn’t been aggressive or disruptive, as people have been more open to change. Ultimately, I was worried about the business, and making the right decisions made these decisions difficult, but they were also essential to keep us afloat. This ranged from cutting costs, streamlining the organization’s structure, making the most of capacity and resources, and making use of government aid.

Remote working has made us realize the importance of hiring and the value of employees. As a business owner, you need people who are proactive, passionate, respectful, and willing to collaborate. I was worried about tracking and monitoring employees, but because it felt excessive and controlling, I decided against it. If you hire the right people, you’ll always have a productive workforce, no matter where they are. While we’ve found it harder to be collaborative and creative, we’re looking at ways to get better at it. 

Having a space to collaborate, meet with clients, and make group decisions is essential, and I think we’ve all missed that during this time of lockdown. During this time, an office seems like a Draconian concept, so I’ve decided to move towards a hybrid model of working from home and office. Employees can come into the office when they want, work from home when they want, or use coworking spaces if they prefer. As a business, we still have a central place to be social, collaborate, and see each other, but everyone is now also autonomous and independent in how they’d like to approach work.

COVID-19 has changed my perspective as a CEO. Overall, it was terrifying as I was worried about losing the business and had no idea what the future would look like. I decided to arm myself as best as I could. I asked for advice. I started reading, crisis management, and planning for the future. No one is motivated by making difficult decisions and cutting costs – but if I didn’t make these decisions, things would have spiraled out of control, and the long-term outlook would have been worse.

After comparing our year-on-year results, this might be the first year that we don’t see any growth, which can certainly stifle motivation. However, what made me turn the corner was seeing our team putting in 120% effort, and asking me about my mental health. I realized that it wasn’t just me going through a challenging time, everybody was. Fortunately, we’re starting to see an uplift, and now we’re able to start hiring again and move into the next part of our business plan. As CEO, this time opened my eyes to flaws, and how we should all conduct ourselves in the future.

Pete’s top 3 tips on working from home:

1. Have a shower and get dressed 

This might be a no brainer for some, but staying at home might make it feel more comfortable not to get ready for the day as we usually would. It’s essential to establish that routine, so getting up, having a shower, and sitting upright can make all the difference.

2. Get the right desk set up

I’ve created a desk space that makes me happy; I play PlayStation at lunchtime, which I’d never usually do, or even think about doing. At the end of each day, I put all my office equipment away – it’s essential to restore the concept of home.

3. Do what makes you happy, and then invest in it

Being at home means we have a lot more time to engage with the things we love. Growing up, I wanted to create video games, and this has meant I’ve been able to spend more time playing games and learning how to create them. This time has allowed me to get back to my grassroots — why I wanted to create content in the first place and to teach those around me.