The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had an immense impact on all businesses worldwide. For the Ruder Finn UK team, working in the communications industry means that the biggest change that we’ve experienced is working remotely, rather than from our vibrant office space in the City of London.

We quickly adapted to working from home and many of us found that we were more productive. A recent study agreed with us too, with it being reported that a third of UK employers think that working from home has boosted productivity.

Despite this, it’s clear that most of us are craving social interaction – 61% of people working in London want to return to the office. While we’ve used video calls to communicate with each other, we’re missing the buzz of the office and face-to-face interaction. I personally miss the spontaneity of chats in the kitchen and making the most of the British sunshine (while it lasts!) with lunches on our rooftop terrace.

As well as being important for our wellbeing, being together makes it easier to brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other. It also helps us to work collaboratively and build relationships. Our team has grown significantly over the past year, but remote working means that we haven’t been able to meet each other in person yet!

In England, we are still advised to work from home where possible, but we are seeing more and more restrictions lift as part of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

If you’ve been to our office, you may have seen the striking wall art overlooking our brainstorming area that reads ‘Do what you’ve always done – you’ll get what you always got’. I think we should keep this in mind when we return to the office. Rather than subconsciously reverting to what we did pre-COVID, there are certain ways of working that we’ve adopted during the pandemic that I think we should continue with.

Creating authentic video content

Like other industries, we haven’t let the travel restrictions – which prevent us from being together to film in close proximity – hinder us from creating engaging video content for our clients. We’ve embraced online filming and recorded remote interviews with patients, healthcare professionals, and campaign ambassadors.

Filming interviews over an online platform or mobile device saves time and costs. But more importantly, seeing people sat in their own home, rather than in front of a green screen, often makes the content more authentic, personable, and relatable.

Hosting efficient meetings

There’s no denying the value of face-to-face meetings – 95% of people think they are a key factor in successfully building and maintaining long-term business relationships – and important meetings are certainly best conducted with everyone in one room. However, I’ve found that some meetings can be more efficient when conducted online.

The functions on offer from video calling platforms mean that we can easily share and present content on screen, allowing clients to feed back on materials live. We’ve also found that meetings such as advisory boards and messaging workshops work surprisingly well online. By using Zoom’s breakout room function attendees can be split into breakout groups at the click of a button, without the need to wait for people to shuffle chairs to different corners of a meeting room, notes can be captured on slides which can be saved down, rather than on cumbersome flip charts that need to be written up, and attendees can instantly be brought back into the main group to prevent sessions from over-running.

Delivering accessible events

A significant change to healthcare communications has been large-scale medical congresses, that traditionally see over 10,000 delegates attend, transform from in-person events to virtual meetings. At the start of the pandemic, we quickly transformed a traditional press event to an online version – with feedback noting that it was ‘seamlessly executed’.

We’ve since delivered several successful online events which have been well attended. Whilst engaging and newsworthy content is obviously crucial for journalists, being able to join a press event without the need to travel or take longer than an hour out of a busy schedule is a bonus.

The pandemic is inevitably going to have a lasting impact on the communications industry. But by using our newly acquired skills and not automatically stepping back to ‘doing what we’ve always done’, I believe that our much-anticipated return to the office will see us continue to evolve and grow as an agency.

If you would like to find out more about our capabilities, you can reach the Healthcare team at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.