AKQA Launches Global Radio Station, WFH-FM, During Pandemic

Broadcasting hope amid COVID-19

We're working from home thanks to the coronavirus pandemic … let's start a radio station!

Staffers at creative agency AKQA in Melbourne did just that, launching WFH-FM (the WFH is short for "work from home," of course) on March 16. So far, in addition to Melbourne, offices in Sydney, London and San Francisco have contributed. Nearly 300 team members tune in each day on the web or via mobile browsers from Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the U.S., UAE and Oman.

A few weeks back, as it became clear employees would work from home, AKQA concierge Jessica Day developed the radio station concept with creative director Adam Grant. Promoting inclusion, social interaction and creative initiative, the pair serve as station managers, shepherding content into the rotation and ensuring everything flows smoothly.

"As humans, we strive to identify and have a sense of belonging in a community, and this has been a great way to stay connected," Day tells Muse.

She and Grant knew the close-knit Melbourne staff would embrace WFH-FM, but the response across the agency's far-flung network came as delightful surprise.

Bonding at scale, across geographies, has "definitely been one of the best things about this project," Grant says. "I've had so many conversations with so many fellow AKQA-ers over the past couple of weeks that I never would have had otherwise—both within Melbourne and abroad. This has become a great way for us to share and communicate in an entirely new way. No doubt this project will lead to many more collaborations and friendships."

Barnaby Matthews, the shop's barista in Melbourne and also a singer/songwriter, kicks off the broadcast day on "Mornings With Barnz" at 8 a.m. local time:

Felix Lawi, principle QA engineer in Melbourne and also a classically trained pianist, scored a hit on Barnz's show with his redefinition of Chopin's "Fantasie":

"He recorded himself at home—the love online after everyone heard Felix play was heartwarming," Day recalls. (A Slack channel accompanies the broadcasts, facilitating instant feedback and music requests.)

Here's a friendly reminder from lunchtime DJ Jacob Spaccavento, a media staffer in Sydney, about everyone's favorite pandemic pastime, hand-washing:

"We're currently broadcasting on a platform which allows us to easily on-board DJs and set them up to stream," says Grant. "Depending on what kind of content is being produced—live DJing, talkback content or interviews—there are different software packages available. Most of the software is free and relatively easy to use, so if anyone is keen to broadcast, we can usually set them up within a couple of hours. Some team members have studios at home, so luckily they can manage live shows with their own equipment."

Beyond the obvious advantages of morale boosting and making home-based agency work more palatable, Grant and Day believe the project has taken on a deeper and lasting significance.

"I can definitely see a place for WFH-FM in a post-corona future," says Grant. "These last few weeks have woken us up to the importance of community and informal exchange in the work we do. Even when we're all able to return to the same physical place, there's something about the spirit of radio that will be hard to walk away from. It's helped us all to know each other better, and given us a sense of purpose and community in a time where we need those things more than ever."

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