At FourFront, we operate in several communities. We are a work family serving a valued network of clients. We also share the Wayne Junction neighborhood with a growing community of businesses, all of whom identify with the rich history of the greater Philadelphia area. Like most companies, we were forced to make a sudden shift to working at home due to COVID-19. This not only impacted all of our relationships, but also reminded us of how valuable they are.
Before the pandemic, our team gathered every morning around a pair of beautiful farm tables to share achievements, setbacks, field intel, and other news. We laughed a lot and planned our day together. These tables served as a community anchor (we ate lunch there too) and a strong reminder of our city pride. You see, they were created by a local woodworker who crafted them from vintage wood salvaged from a demolished rowhome. There is no doubt we miss their beauty and the old-world feel of our office. We look forward to gathering there once again in whatever form that may take.
That said, we have also noticed a positive side to remote work. We banter more as we view each other in our home environments and see aspects of our community that were hidden before. A cat walks across a keyword and a baby fusses in the background. A spouse can be heard on a work call. A roommate strolls past. We check in on each other more and we linger a bit longer. On Fridays, our scrum comes bundled with a theme and a social media photo op, such as Halloween costumes, vacation backgrounds, favorite hats, Broadway characters, and embarrassing teenage photos. Last week, as Philadelphia prepared to re-open, we proudly donned our face masks. After 15 weeks, creativity continues to unite us.
There has also been the unexpected benefit of video time with clients. We are accustomed to conducting conference calls, but the new norm of sharing video has strengthened the personal side of working together. We have enjoyed getting to know our customers in their home environments and checking in on them as people.
As we make plans to slowly re-populate the office, we are excited to see our local business friends again. Our building is shared by Attic Brewing and Deke’s Garage Roadhouse BBQ, each of which was open for only a few short weeks before the city went into lockdown. We have supported them by purchasing takeout and gift cards, but nothing replaces the in-person “hangout.” Two of our other neighboring businesses—Wayne Mills and Philly Bread—have also worked overtime to continue their operations. Philly Bread will soon add a retail component and we will proudly stand in line—socially distanced, of course—to support this new venture.
Finally, there is one more community we are compelled to acknowledge. Our office sits in the center of a predominantly black neighborhood and we are very proud to be located there. During our time at home, we once again witnessed events that articulate the urgent need to end racism. We are committed to advocating this goal and doing whatever we can to become better citizens and neighbors. For right now, we have made donations to Philadelphia’s Bread & Roses Community Fund and Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity. As for the future, we will remember that change takes time, attention, dedication, and stamina.