From an Open-Space Office to Shelter in Home: What I Learned About Our Team

By Craig Mattes

The timing for a global health crisis is never great, but when your team is on track to have one of their biggest months EVER, you know you’re potentially headed for some serious disruption.

The feeling at our Phoenix office the week of March 10 was absolutely electric. Our team was one-third of the way through what was forecasted to be a big month for us, and it had been “all hands on deck” since March 1.

While we all have varying work styles, we share one common trait: passion for what we do. Being together and working toward our common goals pushes each member of our group to elevate their work on a daily basis. This energy was setting us on a course to be bigger, better, and faster than ever before.

And then we all left 3131 Camelback with monitors, laptops, and other office equipment like a bunch of looters.

It’s a virtual world

Initially, I had a lot of mixed feelings about our temporary virtual work from home situation. Selfishly, I thrive on collaboration and feel that there’s no way to overestimate the importance of being surrounded by really smart people. Advertising is the ultimate team sport, and our team was being dispersed.

From the first day, there were some surprises.

The good: surprising productivity and ability to focus, and really enjoying the in-home inspiration I get from my wife and kids.

The bad: it’s sometimes difficult to get a grasp on office morale if everyone is in different places, and you can’t see everyone together.

That said, there are some key things I learned about my team from this current virtual working situation.

We can meet less

Through the life cycle of one job, we will generally have up to seven meetings. Working from home has forced us all to review things in our own way, on our own time, and I see some of the work getting elevated. My thought is that we are each taking our own time to mull, consider, and influence pieces with real depth and without the distractions of what’s going on in the room.

Additionally, we’ve condensed some of our reoccurring check-ins into one morning alignment meeting. This has helped us all get our marching orders and then complete our tasks in our own way. I’ve learned to trust everybody’s working style and pace, and I feel less like I’m constantly checking in on progress. I’ve also never been as pen-to-paper productive.

We walk the walk

After we got settled and determined which calls were best to have on Slack vs Zoom vs GoToMeeting, we got busy thinking about how we could best support our brands during this unique time. I was very pleasantly surprised to see our team thinking about the end results of our clients’ work: affecting patients’ lives.

I’ve always been proud of our industry, but I don’t know that I’ve ever been prouder. Pharmaceutical companies are focusing on limiting disruption in adherence to medications and, in the end, making sure people get the medication they need to stay healthy.

While the physical location of where we are serving our clients may have changed—from sitting in an open office to sitting in our home offices—it’s clear to me that our dedication is 100% unwavering. The solutions we’ve proposed and executed over the past month have shown that when we say we are dedicated to serving the world of healthcare, we mean it. From amplifying patient access programs to creating social media outlets for concerned rare disease sufferers, we’ve focused our creative energy on finding new ways to support the important work our clients do every day.

We really are a family

My partner in crime is our account services lead, Kristie Troy. Kristie and I have had numerous conversations about the type of office environment we want to build in Phoenix. We’ve set out to lay the foundation for a creative workspace that encourages positivity, collaboration, and relentless dedication. Both of us truly believe that life is too short to go to a workplace every day that you don’t enjoy.

It’s hard when we’re in the thick of things to determine whether or not our team is succeeding. But working from home has shown me that, at least to a certain extent, we are. Our team supports each other, and we know about each other’s lives. We know who is finding our current situation stressful and who is thriving, and we’re stepping up to support each other any way we can.

While we do miss each other’s company, weekly Zoom happy hours have kept us all connected, and virtual staff meetings give us a chance to celebrate milestones big and small.

Success doesn’t come from a building

Remember that electric feeling I mentioned earlier? It didn’t just turn off when we walked out of the office building. In fact, it got stronger, and it was a great foundation to build off of during this unusual time.

And that record-setting month? I am happy to say we met, and exceeded, the goals we set out to hit. It’s shown me that distance doesn’t matter when you’ve built a strong, cohesive team that works well together.

On a personal note

I hope that these months of working from my dining room—giving my team a glimpse of my personal life and trying to keep my game face on when my son and daughter attempt to make me laugh during conference calls—will make me a better leader.

But I also hope it will make me a better dad and husband, allow me to set a good example for my kids about how to stay positive in the face of adversity, and show them what it means to be an empathetic teammate.

Craig Mattes is the head of Fingerpaint’s Phoenix office.