Notion – is it the small business saviour regarding the Coronavirus?

As regular readers of the Embryo blog will know, this dysfunctional search engine company from Manchester is in love with our ‘everything’ software, Notion.

I say ‘everything’ because it pretty much fits in to every aspect of what we do as an agency. For example, it works as our work and time tracking software, our knowledge base, our CRM, it’s our onboarding platform, performs client management, password manager, to do lists, is our ‘Trello’, and so much more – and even all of that doesn’t do it justice.

In truth, we couldn’t live without it. Should Notion decide to close down operations one day, I dread to think how we would manage, such is its necessity to the business. We often say internally that we wouldn’t have grown at anywhere near the pace we have done if it wasn’t for this platform.

The title of this blog depicts Notion as a potential saviour for small businesses, should the Coronavirus (or a future virus) become so bad that we couldn’t work in the office for a period of time. Why do I say this?

Well, having spent a lot of time a couple of years ago being able to peak at what the future holds for workplace collaboration, and how offices of the future will operate, I got to understand where things are likely to go in terms of how not only senior people in businesses will work, but also the ‘normal’ people, too. Simply put, not matter how many old-fashioned business owners and senior managers stamp their feet, remote working, working from home, and all that jazz IS going to be a thing – and as I say, not just for the ‘clever people’, but for all levels within the business. Companies such as Microsoft understand that collaboration is key for businesses of the future to be successful, which is why they have released tools such as Teams, and plenty more things are coming from them.

And because of the way that Notion works, it means that any small (or large) businesses that use it to the level that Embryo does are able to operate extremely well if such an emergency situation like a pandemic should happen.

For example, we have five main teams – a content team, a search team, a web design/development team, a social team and a business functions team. Each of these teams interacts with each other on a daily basis mainly through Notion, Slack, and email. Every action that a team member does for a client is recorded in Notion as a task, along with how long the task has taken, notes about the work, and various other fields are filled. Questions about tasks, clients, work issues etc, are probably mainly done through Slack, and more formal questions, requests, conversations (especially with clients) are done via email.

This means that for each employee of the business, a record of their work (probably to the closest quarter of an hour) is recorded in our system. We do this for client transparency reasons, but it also acts as a way for our operations manager to understand how the business operates and potentially improve. Because we have this tracking available, should an employee not be in the office, and work from home, then we can still easily account for what they are doing – and more importantly, know that our clients are being serviced properly.

Now, the environment at Embryo is really good, if I don’t say so myself, and is a big part of the fun of working. I have worked with a couple of companies where the staff are all remote, and while they are functional, they are not fun to work in, as isolation is not conducive to productive work in the long term. No number of video calls or chats can ever replace a buzzing office where people can quickly resolve problems and create solutions in a tactile way.

I would never want Embryo to become a company where everyone worked from home all of the time. However, as the company grows, do we spend a lot of money on more city-centre office space, or do we gradually bring in home working, knowing that we have a very solid way of tracking and communicating with colleagues? And in the case of a pandemic, such as the potential Coronavirus outbreak, this tracking and communication is also suitable for the expected period of a few days to a few weeks of mass isolation for workers.

Notion, as well as allowing us to grow at scale in a fairly trouble-free way over the past 18-months, has now also made me feel so assured that should such an outbreak happen, that we are in a really good position – probably better than 98% of businesses – especially small businesses – that do not have such a solution.

This is why I think Notion – or platforms like it (although I have yet to see anything even close to emulating what Notion does) – could well be the saviour of small businesses as the want/need/expectation/demand for better workplace collaboration and remote working increases, as it will over the next few years. It could well be the saviour for us in the next few weeks, too.


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