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Leading Through COVID-19 | Manager Spotlight PaperCulture

Leading Covid19 Paper Culture (1)

How one company is thriving during the time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has redefined life and work as we have all known it. 24 Seven is speaking with business leaders to learn how they are navigating the new reality and planning for what’s next. Yoram Wolberger is the Creative Director at PaperCulture, a contemporary, sustainable paper design company. Like many companies confronted by pandemic constraints, PaperCulture’s team found itself moving to a remote work arrangement suddenly – a significant departure for a design team accustomed to collaborating in an open floor plan office. Here’s their story of thriving in the time of COVID-19: 

24 Seven: Tell us about your team. How much of your team was already remote, or were you all located in the offices in San Francisco?

YW: We were all located in the offices. No one was working from home. Very rarely, unless in some emergency, people would do so once in a while. I never believed in working from home when it comes to a design team. That was my experience in the past. I always felt, and I think most designers would agree that when you're working on a team, it's easier, it's better to be located together. So previously, if someone needed to take time off or stay home, of course, we were very flexible. But there was no work from home policy before COVID. 

24 Seven: How did you manage the transition to the work-from-home model?

YW: Well, it was a bit of a shock at first. My team and I are very close, we're very tight. There's a general culture of giving real-time feedback and sharing inspirations, while at the same time goofing and joking around. We sat together in the same space, sometimes hanging out together after work. And suddenly we are apart, physically distanced. So, I was very worried in the beginning. How do you keep the culture, at the same time, of course, be productive and keep inspiring the team? But one of the things that I decided to do, and I think I was more extreme than other departments in the company, I decided that we would video meet three times a day online. When we started doing that the first week, we very quickly realized that is was a little bit excessive. Now, we’re meeting at the beginning of the day and in the late afternoon. We talk about the questions, the issues, or we share the work and get feedback. In addition to advancing projects, these multiple hangouts allow us to maintain our culture. We still goof around and share inspiration and talk about work. It’s an important way to keep continuity for both the work and for the spirit of the team. 

24 Seven: As someone who didn’t necessarily believe in remote work, what has surprised you about the work-from-home transition?

YW: Surprisingly, actually, I think we are more productive. We have all the processes that we put in place to make sure that we are productive. And we have tasks, and we have quotas we have to meet. Right now we are designing for the holidays and future weddings. And we are meeting all of our tasks and have managed to do extra projects related to the COVID-19 crisis. So, that means we are as efficient, if not even more efficient than before. 

24 Seven: Did you change anything in terms of your processes or procedures, or it's just a factor of people being distributed at their homes and working more efficiently?

YW: We have always been a process-oriented group, and we had several production processes in place before this crisis, and we constantly improve how we do things. So all the work we did on streamlining all our processes before COVID has actually helped us in working from home. 

 24 Seven: What tools do you think have made this transition easier for your design team?

YW: Slack and Google Hangout are our main tools of communication. Asana is our management tool. We are on the phone a lot and sharing our screens. I think it’s been a growth opportunity for me personally because I’m being forced to use technology and tools I avoided. That's because, as a manager, I preferred spontaneous face-to-face interaction. And now because I had to work from home, I had to learn a lot of the software and all its shortcuts and tricks, how to organize it and make it efficient. It’s been excellent for project management, and everyone’s professional development. 

24 Seven: The only upside of this situation is that this happened when enabling technology is available.

YW: It would have been impossible to manage a distributed design team even a few years ago. Just look at the availability of video conferencing. If we didn't have screen sharing, that would have been an extremely challenging obstacle for people in visual design work. The fact that I can see my teams’ designs as they're doing them, and we can collaborate in real-time is huge. 

24 Seven: What other positivity has emerged at your company from this crisis?

YW: Our leadership has been great and communicative, and there’s a lot of confidence in them. And it’s actually interesting to see – there’s excitement on the team too. Sometimes when in a crisis or we are not in our known, comfortable, everyday work situation, people are a little bit more creative and motivated to come up with solutions. How do we turn things around more quickly, create better products, keep our customers happy, or in PaperCulture’s case, think about how to help the planet? There's more creativity, there's more enthusiasm. I feel like we released a lot of productive energy. That's a great feeling. And the morale is also pretty high on my team. And this is life. We designers are inherently problem solvers. We usually learn and make the most progress when there is an obstacle. When everything is okay, sometimes we just sail along. But when we face a challenge, we have to find ways around it, summon new energy, or tap into creativity to get over it. That's what I feel is actually happening. There's a lot of adrenaline and innovation going on at the same time. The creativity within constraints is remarkable.For more resources and insights to help you navigate today's changing landscape click here.