By Erin Hatch
Combining a love of marketing and communication, a degree in Interior Architecture and a passion for photography, Erin continues to surprise Weber Thompson with her hidden depths. As Marketing Director and resident photographer, she is intimately involved in every project in the office from early conception until well beyond completion.
Do you remember January 21st, 2020? The day the first confirmed Covid-19 case touched down in Washington State? So much uncertainty, fear, and anxiety…and then, the lockdown. I think most of us anticipated we’d be back in the office chatting with our colleagues by the water cooler in April. Little did we know our lives would change forever.
Several months before Covid-19 hit the U.S., I applied to my firm’s internal grant program, The What If? Program. The premise was simple: Submit an idea for a research or design project for the chance to receive $1000 of funding and 40 hours of paid work time. My submission: ‘What is Creativity?’ was selected in January – I was thrilled! But when our world was turned upside down, the premise no longer made sense and I had to retool my proposal. After several weeks of noodling, I had it. I’d try to answer the question: “How has working from home impacted our ability to collaborate and be creative?”
Through two rounds of online surveys distributed to A/E/C and adjacent industries I collected 87 response with loads of juicy qualitative and quantitative data. Sifting through the data over the course of a few months I started to notice patterns and trends. By the time I was done making sense of it all, I had amassed a 92-page presentation.
Boiling it down to the most interesting tid-bits, I began to share the findings with the participants and my colleagues. Within Weber Thompson, the research has been the perfect springboard for an ongoing series of discussions around culture, communication, and collaboration. Despite aiming the sessions at our firm’s project managers, we received so much interest we opened them to everyone; some sessions have attracted nearly 75% of our employees. Clearly this is a topic we’re all yearning to discuss.
While I could certainly take readers on a tour of the 92-page report, happily I’ve boiled it down to six recommendations for keeping the creative spark alive while working remotely. I summarized the findings in an article for the Daily Journal of Commerce’s A+E Perspectives issue, published March 4, 2021.
Weber Thompson supports the quest for knowledge during this everchanging time. The What If? Program is just one of the ways that employees can seek questions to the answers that plague them. Other research projects last year included R&D for a self-watering balcony planter that captures rainwater, a look at applying passive house principles to high rises, and a documentary film about stormwater. Stay tuned for reports from the people behind these projects in the coming months.
Until then, stay curious!