16 Aug, 2021

On The Road Again

Nearly a whole year since we closed the office fully after a fleeting semi-re-opening last Summer, I’m pleased to say our team are back in the office. Back on the commute (being honest, living between Leeds and York this typically meant a 1+ hour drive, each way, every day; something I’ve not missed), back with the pool table and back with the whiteboards.

On LinkedIn, on the news, even in the pub – I’ve heard lots of people putting forward their opinion on the demise or rise of the office following on from Covid. You have the hard-core “Why would I ever go back to the office, I’ll refuse to” brigade and on the opposite side the “We need all our employees back in the office or how do we know they’re working” team (the fact they still have a business 18 months on probably indicates they are working… but let’s not go there).

I thoroughly believe in the benefit of both – working from home is better for work/life balance for me personally, I save two hours a day commuting as a start, I see more of my family and I spend all day with my dogs. For others though – work life balance is better in the office; living city centre by yourself can’t have been the most socially entertaining way to spend the past 18 months. I find certain jobs are better done at home too, locked in the home office with no distractions; invoicing, writing up proposals, UAT etc. Being solo helps hone in that concentration.

The office though, especially for agencies like us, is a key part of our process. A website takes a number of specialists to deliver. We can’t silo them; the best work comes from collaboration of all our experts. Sure Teams/Zoom is great – but it’s not like putting 4 or 5 of the brightest minds I know in a room, giving them a problem and watching the sparks fly – that’s why we do what we do.

I also believe greatly in learning (or problem solving) by social osmosis. If you compare the learnings/progression of a new or junior team member sat at home by themselves or sat next to seniors in their role in the office, I’m sure it’s pretty obvious who’ll progress the most. Talking things through is easier too. A team member vocalising an issue out loud will immediately get help from across the board on something they might mull over for hours at home.

I’m not going to get into the trust issues around working from home; for the most part its old school crap from some Lowry inspired vista. I know there are many sectors where working from home doesn’t work – industrial, manufacturing and construction to name just a few. But if you’ve got the right team, if your work is more service/IT based, if you’ve put in the tools/processes your team need to work remotely in place – then trust is not even something that should cross your mind as a reason to force the office everyday.

We’d never done working from home before and were forced to jump to it near enough overnight; we’ve also just had our most successful 12-month period ever. That speaks volumes to me about the team we have here. So what will be our position going forward? We’ve balanced it all up – the pros, the cons, the feedback, the issues and the successes.

And, ultimately, the balanced approach is what we’ve gone for. On top of flexible start/finish times, our team can now choose to work from home up to 3 days a week. We’re not in a place to get rid of the office, it is needed for collaboration, for our team culture, for client meetings and for being close to Kirkstall Brewery for a Friday lunch pizza. But also we don’t need to be here 9-5, 5 days a week.