In a world of large advertising titans, S&D Marketing | Advertising is the David going up against Goliath. For 20 years, this Denver-based, 100% woman-owned company has been providing its clients with a range of business-development services, including marketing, branding, strategic development, and public relations.
“For us, our entire presence is through the internet and always has been,” says Lorie Sadler, president of the company. “If we lose that connection, it would cripple us. The internet is our highway.”
When COVID-19 arrived in March, S&D Marketing | Advertising was faced with the need to harness the internet in a new way: not only to communicate with its clients but also, due to social-distancing measures, with each other. Could the highway be converted into the collaborative space of an office?
Layering Tech, Like a Lasagna
Due to its work with long-distance clients in the U.S. and abroad, the S&D team was already accustomed to using Zoom for conference calls with clients. Since COVID hit, “we’ve been layering on more apps and tech as we go, like a lasagna,” says Sadler. Today, their tasty mix of tech includes:
- Microsoft Teams: A digital workspace that keeps S&D staff connected “all day, every day.”
- Slack: A popular communication platform used both internally and externally with clients.
- Workamajig: Project management software used for billing and other tasks.
- Adobe Suite: Software package for design and other project work.
“It’s amazing how we’re layering it all in,” says Sadler. “And even with all of these apps we’re now relying on, our Wi-Fi has totally held up. The internet is the backbone for any business today. I kiss the ground that [Comcast] Xfinity walks on!”
Unexpected Benefits of WFH
One unexpected side benefit of everyone working remotely is that S&D’s internal workflows have become both more hands-on and efficient. “We are doing more work in real-time,” says Sadler. “Before, we’d give our designer feedback, he’d work on the project alone and then re-submit. This new process allows for real-time design changes while we’re screen-sharing together, and it’s actually a lot more collaborative.” The team also finds itself moving at a faster pace. “We are removing some of the layers in our work processes that were getting in the way – processes that we didn’t even know were there,” she notes.
Three Key Challenges
Of course, the move to full-time home office has not been without speedbumps. But as with its technology needs, S&D has approached challenges creatively and collaboratively.
- Camaraderie: A widespread challenge during this crisis has been to maintain connectedness while working in physical isolation. To that end, S&D has launched a series of initiatives, including funny hat days, online birthday and happy-hour celebrations, and spirit weeks. In addition to maintaining team unity, the initiatives have been shared with the wider community on social media, producing interactions and positive feedback.
- Burnout: With the internet always on and no physical space to walk away from at the end of the day, it often feels as if there is no “off” button to a virtual office. In order to help create some necessary space, Sadler has reminded employees not to answer emails after 5:30 PM and, whenever possible, to get some alone time outside. “Sometimes, you just need to walk away and adjust to a different environment,” she notes.
- Juggling Home Life: Working at home with family members and roommates can be challenging, with multiple people competing for private space and home Wi-Fi bandwidth. Thankfully, with the entire Denver area wired for high-speed internet, connectivity for the team has not been an issue. In addition, a third of the staff at S&D have young children at home, which required its share of multitasking during school months. “As a business owner, you have to be more flexible,” says Sadler. “We’re not saying ‘you must log in at this time and log out at this time.’ We’re trusting people.”
Broadband Is Our Office
Based on the positive feedback she has received from staff regarding the home-office arrangement, Sadler concludes there is not much they won’t keep when it is time to return to the “new normal.” As their current office lease is set to expire, S&D is even looking at moving to a hybrid situation: a smaller set of office space along with an ongoing home-office presence. “The truth is that broadband is our office now,” she concludes.
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