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2020 Round Up

2020 Round Up

News 
18 December 2020

At the start of this year we spent time as a team reviewing our company culture. Knowing how important it is to have a well looked after and motivated team, we introduced industry leading perks such as paid paternity leave and increased our number of holiday days (back when we still thought we’d be able to go somewhere).

But then March came and the pandemic hit, causing massive disruption to all our daily lives and our businesses – and the ability to adapt quickly became essential. The biggest fear from change is uncertainty and depending on business sector or structure, we were all dealt a completely different card.

Our last client workshop from the studio was for PerfectDraft – a home draught beer system by ZX Ventures (part of AB InBev), and although we could see they had a tremendous opportunity as we headed into lockdown, the horizon for many others including Robot Food, had never been more unclear.

Three big new projects were cancelled and I started preparing for the worst. We had enough existing business to tick along for a couple of months, so that’s what we did – thankfully only having to furlough three members of the team whilst we weathered the first wave of the storm.

But then after six weeks the phone started ringing again. The cancelled jobs were back in and new jobs followed. New clients came knocking and an old one even returned – and then so did our three team members. The enquiries didn’t stop and neither did we, so we had to put the feelers out to enlist some freelance support too. We were busy. Like really busy.

That was the start of the busiest six months in Robot Food history and each team member, not only had to adjust to new ways of communicating while working remotely – but had to make sure we didn’t drop a ball.

Everyone, without exception, stepped up like never before and did whatever was needed through their own initiative. I’d always thought that to be our most productive, we all needed to work from the same place. Thankfully my view hadn’t just been challenged, but completely smashed.

It was at this point I realised that Robot Food wasn’t so much a creative studio, but a mindset shared by a talented bunch of determined people.

And surprisingly, I found there were some benefits to this new, socially-distanced way of working. Video calls, as draining as they can be when you’re on them back to back, actually make meetings more efficient. You can get straight to the point with little small talk (which suits me as I hate talking about the weather) and people tend to be pretty relaxed when you can see right into their home.

So with that in mind, we invested in laptops for the design and production team with two monitors each, to help us all be more flexible in the way we work from now on. We started to introduce a rotation system in the studio so small groups of people could meet to work. Lizzie, who joined us the first week of lockdown, was able to meet some team mates for the first time in person. We hired a new Account Manager, Emma who also managed to meet a few of the team.

Then before we knew it, we were straight back into lockdown just in time for the arrival of our third employee of the year, Ryley, a junior designer who relocated from Luton to acquaint herself with four new walls.

Not forgetting our three lockdown puppies. Martin, Steph and I finally caved and got our own four-legged friends to add to the RF family.

Now as we get ready to round up the year, it goes without saying that I’m relieved there’s an end in sight to this pandemic. But despite the hardship, I’m grateful for what 2020 has taught me. As an agency, we’ve always believed that you produce the best work when you do projects you’re passionate about, with people you get on with – and this year has proved to me just how important that is.

I realise how lucky we’ve been, in that many of the brands we work with have been largely unaffected by the events of this year (some have even benefitted from them). We managed to win the two paid pitches we took part in, donating the fees to charity, and have been able to keep busy with work we really enjoy. A key factor in keeping us all sane, so a big thank you to all our clients.

And although we started the year on the right path, I’ve realised now more than ever how much I value the strength of my team and the importance of making sure they feel valued in return. It’s our enthusiastic and committed people who have made navigating this uncertain time a joy, not a chore.

No doubt 2021 will come with its fair share of challenges, but after the year we’ve had, I’m confident we’re in great shape to deal with anything it has to throw at us. Bring it on!

Simon