How MCD Partners Is Managing the Process of Reopening

Wasim Choudhury on the plans and precautions

Is your agency or company managing a reopening process? We'd like to hear from you about what your plans are.

With all 50 states easing restrictions on at-work activities for non-essential businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, Muse is checking in with creative companies to hear about their reopening plans.

Today, we speak with Wasim Choudhury, partner at MCD Partners.

Muse: What's your broad plan for reopening the agency?

Wasim Choudhury: Over the last few months, we have proven that working from home works for us, and as it continues to be the safest option for our employees, we are not in any rush to get back without making sure our people are safe. We are continually evaluating our plans based on the CDC guidelines and directions from local authorities, but being in New York and Chicago, I suspect we may be one of the last places to open. That said, nothing will be official until we complete our employee survey to determine the thoughts and expectations of each employee about returning to the office. Once we have their feedback, we can work toward a more holistic plan.

What specific precautions are you taking?

We had already taken certain precautions before the shutdown, like changing door knobs to levers, placing hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the office, and replacing our hand dryers with paper towel dispensers. Moving forward, we intend to place plexiglass shields on our reception desks and do more thorough cleanings every day. We'll also create separation between work areas, and sofas will be converted to single seating with six-feet separation between each. We'll work with our HVAC company to ensure air is not recycled and encourage biking to work with the creation of larger bike racks. We intend to designate corridors in one-way directions and place floor markings to indicate the direction. Of course, other signage will remind employees to wash hands often.

Do you expect a portion of staff to keep working remotely?

Based on our initial employee survey findings, we anticipate half of our staff will work from home for the foreseeable future. For those coming into the office, we envision a staggered schedule and work starting earlier or later than typical rush hours. As we all know, the situation is changing daily, so above all, we all need to continually assess and respect the impact to our employees and how they're feeling—understanding that their own thoughts and expectations are likely changing, too. 

When do you expect production to open up that will allow you to shoot again? Will it look a lot different than it used to?

We don't know for sure when production will open up again, as production itself could look entirely different in future. But will it look different? You bet. What isn't going to look different than it used to? 

What other limitations will the agency have to deal with that didn't exist pre-pandemic?

Travel is a big issue we're anticipating for the months ahead. We're considering when it will be safe to send employees to other cities, for them to use planes, rental cars, car service, hotels. Will clients have different policies around visitors? On-site contractors? Our industry doesn't move without them, so a lot of us will be looking to them on their expectations.

What have you learned from WFH that you'll retain as an agency going forward?

WFH does work. We quickly adapted and never missed a beat in delivery. Our agency culture and teamwork have propelled us forward during the quarantine. We've brought all of that home with us. So, like many companies, we're rethinking the role of being together in physical spaces moving forward.

Have any particular processes, tools, platforms or services proven useful for the agency during quarantine?

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy pushed us to move to cloud-based solutions. We had migrated to Google Suite backed up by AWS sometime back. That, along with having laptops for all employees (including interns), allowed us to work remotely without a hitch. 

Now, we use Google Chat to keep in touch with each other. Depending on the project or the client, we also use Slack, Microsoft Teams and a myriad of other connectivity platforms. Of course, GoToMeeting, WebEx and Zoom are used all the time as well.

Broadly speaking, what kind of work are your clients asking for right now, and how will returning to the office help you deliver it? 

Our clients continue to be great partners as we work together remotely. A good concepting session in a room can produce great results, but we are learning new, virtual ways of producing these successful results and will ultimately emerge stronger with new skillsets.

Broadly speaking, our digital experience work is largely the same while our marketing work is more Covid related. While we've continued to deliver results while working from home, some employees have expressed that they prefer working from the office. Our goal is to accommodate what works best for each and every employee. There, perhaps, lies the solution—a team that can seamlessly work both in close proximity and remotely. Ultimately, getting the best creative output is our goal regardless of where the work is produced.

Where do you see the industry and its creative output in 6-12 months?

Six to 12 months seems like a lifetime these days, but the need for good quality creative work is still there. The work will likely look different than we are used to, and the briefs may change. Creativity, after all, is always about constraints. Right now, I wouldn't expect anything to look too much like the way things were. But that's agency life, right? If you expect things to look like the past, you won't be around for too long.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and the founding editor of Muse by Clio.

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