As one of the largest outsourced adviser support services, we found (pre-covid) that one of the things that drew people to us was that we were office based. Not their office (so none of the headache of office politics or having to pay staff benefits) but our office. And what an office it is. A vibrant space with a diverse range of people who spent a lot of time collaborating, innovating and knowledge sharing.
We always had the flexibility to work from home. We use laptops and clouds and had secure VPNs in place already, however we found that our team rarely wanted to. They spent the odd day at home if they really needed to “get their heads down” but it certainly wasn’t the norm.
Covid flipped that on its head, and suddenly, we were all at home. All the time. Collaboration was done online, via Zoom. Initially, knowledge sharing was more difficult and team meetings inevitably started with “does anyone have the link for the 9am meeting, I’ve lost it amongst all the other messages”.
So, it took some adjusting. We worked through the foibles of online meetings and what to do if your Mac died and the IT guru lived 30 miles away… The hardest part was the culture shock. Put simply, people missed their friends, their colleagues, their mentors and the office (I’m sure nothing to do with the free wine fridge).
Early on we took the decision to interpret the wording of “work from home if you’re able to” to mean that if people were struggling mentally or logistically with working from home, then we would do all we could to keep the office open for them and we did, albeit with a few more rules and a lot more cleaning. Most people came back to the office most of the time.
We then agreed, full time, to adopt a hybrid working policy, half of the time in the office, half of the time at home. Office time for the collaboration and to get those innovation syntaxes firing, and home-working for when you need peace and quiet and hourly doggie snuggles.
Also, more flexible working hours because no one misses a commute. Absolutely no one.
For us, it works and is the best of both worlds but as we continue to grow and pivot, I’m sure the company, culture and how people want to work, will also evolve so we will stay open to change and look forward to the future, however that may look.