Everyone is saying it but the world really has changed forever. The acceleration that has happened through COVID, meaning 5-10 year advancements have happened within a year. On the whole for the better. It has also changed the future of flexible working in an agency environment forever as well. I have to admit that even as the owner of a content agency for almost 15 years, our comfort zone has been pushed to the extreme.
All the cool and innovative elements that it stereotypically brings (digital environment, using video calls, unlimited holiday, team days, using new technology first and putting a work/life balance above all else) we actively encouraged. However when it came to flexible working it was very much a no-go. Working from home with a small/mid-size team just didn’t feel right, especially when most employees live within 30-40 minutes from the office (and we start at 10). However we were more setup than we thought to deal with moving to WFH quickly.
After much consideration for this piece, here are some recommendations and some predictions for the next couple of years.
WFH will become the norm
As we have all shown, internet speeds, technology and culture has provided the perfect platform to do everything you would normally do on a day-to-day level, but remotely. What were we all scared of! Numerous studies show increases in productivity across the board. Apollo Technical state a 13% increase; 23% in the HR Magazine and Bloomberg say that the productivity in the US economy will provide a 5% increase. These are numbers that we all thought could be true but very few had the guts, to take the risk.
So our thoughts now are much more relaxed, everyone is set up to WFH and so by ensuring that the office space is flexible and allows for hot desking. This will allow the best of both worlds.
How many days?
The future of flexible working in an Agency environment will also create in the short term at least the question… how many days in the office? You have seen it across the internet, where the average seems to be 2 days in the office. This will be really interesting to see.
Will everyone have to come in on the same days? Or not? On the days in, is that when you will do most of your team building and creativity? Or will they just become another day? Just becoming ‘another day’ will probably be the risk. Managers and senior teams have to push hard to ensure that there is a reason to come into the office, beyond just, ‘you have to’. So perhaps think about having one team day a month, to use the sense of togetherness.
Ensure that you have creative ideation sessions to make the most of something that is missed the most when everyone is remote. Also encourage for everyone to have lunch together and make the most of each others companies. However managers that just bring people in because they are scared of not reverting to the norm, will find themselves with a demoralised workforce, with high turnover.
Recruitment will change
One of the greatest changes in my opinion is the fact that the diversity and ‘fairness’ that WFH more has given is quite startling. Now regardless of where you live (in the same country most of the time due to tax issues), you will have a fair chance of getting a job. This will be without having to be drawn to live in a big city, where rents are high and disposable income is low. This leads to a lack of happiness and contentment and could result in bitterness.
Being from Luton, there is no-one more passionate than me on social mobility. Given the opportunity, you grab it with both hands. It doesn’t matter ‘who you know’ or ‘what your background is’. If you are skilled, conscientious and have a curiosity to improve then you have got just a good a chance of getting the job. As long as you can travel into the office on a semi-regular basis every month then great. This opens up so many opportunities and is so exciting for everyone.
Flexible Office Space
Of course in the next few years at least there will still be office spaces available. These office spaces need to be there because we can’t forget, not everyone likes or can WFH. If you are dealing with large file sizes, you need fast internet and a fast computer. Fast computers are normally large and you might not have the space at home. Also your personal circumstances might not allow for you to enjoy working from home. This could be elements such as the distractions of children or events outside of your control. Also for mental health and meeting people outside of your comfort zone. These are all things to consider and will mean that an office space will be needed in one capacity or another.
This is also going to be another really important element. This is both on a positive and a challenge side for the future of flexible working in an Agency. When you work from home and aren’t the boss or owner, you almost have to think like a boss. You are basically working like an entrepreneur. So making sure your space is set up correctly is important. As well as making sure you set yourself the time to work… and then to switch off all screens and not work.
However not getting complacent is important. Ensuring that you do keep your productivity up. You don’t take for granted. We are the first generation that has ever been able to properly work from home. Make the most of it!
On the other side, the real positive is the fact you can speak to clients from 4 different countries, 5 different timezones and completely different projects. All in the space of a couple of hours!! It is incredible isn’t it? So keep your discipline and if clients do want to meet face-to-face, ensure you say that a video call will more than suffice. Your productivity will continue to be sky high, unlike your travel costs! Now everyone has a video call platform (and no-one can say that ‘they ‘had a Skype a few years ago but can’t remember it, so shall we meet in person’). Use that and make the most of it!
Ensure you care for people
Remember it is going to be an anxious time for most going back. Ease back in, don’t expect it to work and be ready to blend the mix in the week up and down, depending on how it goes. Think about the reduction in sick days, the less lateness, the more deadlines that have been met, working from home. Ensure that you give a real reason for people to come back in and keep everyone in the loop. No-one has done this before. So go easy on yourself and if you work for someone else give them leeway that we don’t all have the answers.
However remember it is your staff that make the company that it is. If you sent out surveys and most people want to WFH them find that right balance, Your balance sheet will thank you in the next few years when you look at the future of flexible working in an Agency.
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