How A+E Networks UK moved to remote work in just 8 days

Reception desk at 7FiveFive

Image courtesy of 7FiveFive

By Byron Wijayawardena

Posted on 11-17-2020

Entertainment has always been a bright spot during uncertain times. Take the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With global quarantines shutting down venues like cinemas, theaters, and stadiums, and keeping viewers at home, people have been firing up their own screens, big and small, to pass the time and take a break from disconcerting news.

This, in turn, has led to a spike in demand for high-quality content, and it’s presented A+E Networks UK with a major opportunity to fulfill that need. The good news was it was already ahead of the game: TV media company A+E Networks UK had begun to set up its London-based staff for remote work well before the coronavirus lockdown, bypassing the mass scramble most organizations faced when they suddenly had to send their employees home.

“Despite occasional challenges around internet bandwidth, our editors were able to quickly shift to working remotely,” says Matt Westrup, vice president of technology and operations, A+E Networks EMEA. “The whole team adopted remote workflows seamlessly, and there was no learning curve because it mirrored the on-premise setup we were used to.”

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Time to hit the accelerator

COVID-19 put new pressure on A+E Networks UK’s Creative team, which suddenly had to edit online and access large amounts of content entirely from home. With deadlines looming, the team needed to continue delivering a high standard of output, regardless of their home-working setup, and to do so quickly.

A+E Networks UK enlisted the help of systems integrator 7FiveFive, which it had worked with previously to install remote access workstations and proceeded to virtualize its entire editorial workflow. Together, they accomplished the job in just eight days – a full six months ahead of their original schedule.

“The initial stage of our work with A+E Networks UK was about increasing capacity to give them more flexibility, but with everyone working remotely under COVID-19, we needed to expand the project across the business,” says Tim Burton managing director of 7FiveFive. “A+E Networks UK managed to virtualize an entire team in practically a week without a ripple. Their VP of creative was delighted and said the quality of work has gone up these past few months.”

In fact, A+E Networks UK’s entire production team can now access the software and machines they need to deliver their work from home as seamlessly as they would at the office. Not only have its editors and creatives adapted well to remote work, some even prefer it.

The broadcaster also took advantage of virtual workflows in creative software, including Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Team Projects, to ensure the team could collaborate remotely, make quick edits, and avoid version-control issues. It used Premiere Pro for editing, Adobe After Effects for graphics users, with some Adobe Photoshop in the mix too. Plus, plug-ins for media access management also let A+E Networks UK create a single repository for all of its media assets and centralized the editing process.

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“A+E Networks UK puts the health of its employees above all else,” Burton says. “With the heavy demand placed on its UK production team, A+E Networks UK leaders made a point of using software to align the creative process while respecting social distancing. Adobe’s suite of technologies was ideally suited to the task.”

Adapting to new ways of working

Maintaining a productive workforce was only half of the story for A+E Networks UK. With the whole world adapting to a new way of life, the company’s HR team was (and remains) steadfast that its employees had the headspace and flexibility to manage their personal needs, as well as work.

As Westrup explains, he worked closely with the company’s HR director through A+E Networks UK’s transition. Together, they moved away from rigid processes and towards a more fluid approach, trusting employees to manage their deadlines based on their individual circumstances. The shift in strategy paid off, resulting in a team that is both more productive and more engaged in their work.

“Between people living in shared houses, taking care of families, and home-schooling their kids during the pandemic, it’s not easy to separate our professional lives from our personal responsibilities,” Burton says. “The virtual network A+E Networks has set up is as much about meeting their obligations to customers as it is about tailoring the work environment to their employees’ needs.”

According to Westrup, it is important that business leaders find balance in the way they manage their teams.

“The key is to take a step back and be pragmatic,” Westrup explains. “No company was fully prepared for [COVID-19 lockdowns], nor did the situation reflect any of the business continuity plans we’d explored previously. All we knew is that our approach needed to be people focused. There’s no point implementing solutions that don’t take your team into account.”

A+E Networks UK’s work is not finished. Operating under the mantra “reduce, replace, and rethink,” Westrup’s team continues to re-evaluate their priorities and seek ways to further improve their virtual working environment. By his own admission, while the company’s current infrastructure has lived up to expectations, anything can happen to on-premise servers, which is why A+E Networks UK is eyeing a full cloud migration.

“A+E Networks UK is keen to strengthen its disaster recovery environment, and this next phase of its transition is now under way,” Burton says.

Lessons learned

Since the onset of COVID 19, A+E Networks UK has worked hard to prepare their office to be safe. Everyone on Westrup’s team is welcome to go back to work (guidelines allowing), or work from home. This flexible work option is an extension of the company’s mission to tailor the work environment to their employees’ needs.

A+E Networks UK has always considered their London office to be a hub for their corporate culture and a source of creativity for the team. This environment has advantages when it comes to working with on-premise technology.

“Our aim is to get as close to an environment where work can move with our talent, and they can decide where they do their best work. Ultimately, we still see our office a key component to the success of our company. But we also understand the tremendous value in the remote video production workflow we developed in 2020. Now we have it set up as a go-to resource whenever needed but more than that it has become a part of the fabric of how we work.”

Topics: Customer Stories, Insights & Inspiration, Media & Entertainment, Creative Cloud, COVID-19, Productivity, Creativity,

Products: Creative Cloud, Premiere Pro, Photoshop, After Effects