Flexible working: Why we’re having our cake AND eating it too

Okay. So remote working is nothing new. Skype popped up circa 2003 and since then we’ve had a whole host of technological advancements that means we can basically have holograms of our colleagues in the same room to host a meeting (we made that last part up but who knows what Elon Musk is up to now). The point is, working from home was never unthinkable pre-lockdown, but like most other businesses in the UK we hadn’t yet found the secret recipe for remote working.

And then we were all plunged head-first into it. Yikes.

Source: &Walsh

The good news is we’re coming up for air, and we’ve got a few things to say…

Like most of you, we began studying all of the thousands of resources out there sharing insights and words of wisdom to help organisations navigate through their new home set ups. And while there were some more helpful than others, we started to notice a pattern about how the fundamental idea of an office was changing. And we started (as we tend to do) to ask questions about it…

Do we need one? What is it there for? How do we use it?

The truth is, we bloody love our studio. In case you didn’t know, it’s right slap bang in the centre of Covent Garden, London. And apart from the slight issue of trying to ignore all of the lovely shops in an attempt to rescue our bank balances on our lunch breaks, it is hands down one of London’s best spots. Our studio is a buzzing mix of creative workshops and questionable Spotify playlists. It’s where we think about the different ways we can bring brands to life and how we can keep surprising our clients. We’ve been there for nine years and we like to think of it as our home of curiosity. And biscuits. Lots of biscuits.

But working from home has its perks. So what’s the right step forward now that we’re emerging from the necessary to the voluntary?

Benefits of working from home

People want to do it
It’s no secret that the entire British population has discovered that commuting sucks. In fact, 86% of people said in a poll that they’d prefer to work from somewhere other than their office at least once a week. There are of course, a lot of other benefits ranging from more family time to increased productivity. So, once you add all of this together, any smart business will need to take all of this into consideration.

The talent pool turns into a talent ocean
Remote working basically means you can have an unlimited amount of office space. And although most of them may not have a Pret nearby, it means you can pull in talent from all corners of the globe. This is something we’re not a stranger to – last summer we were jumping on video calls with one of our designers living in Spain for the summer (we weren’t jealous at all. Not one bit). So it’s pretty exciting to think we could be working with people from all kinds of time zones – hopefully that doesn’t mean calls at 4am though.

Flexible working means trust
One of the biggest apprehensions companies would have had against working from home before all of this was the issue of trust. It’s true, the responsibility to manage time and productivity relies on the individuals within a team much more so than in the office. But if you have a strong culture whereby everyone is working towards the same goal, this should be easily tackled. And if it’s not, then there are probably bigger issues to address.

No commute means no pollute
Okay, we tried our best to avoid that rhyme but we couldn’t help ourselves. Sorry. But you get our point – with less people clogging up roads and transport links, the planet should in theory have a bit more breathing room. Not only do our bank balances look healthier because of it, so too will the environment.

Benefits of working from an office

An office is the hub of culture
No matter how many funny Zoom backgrounds you can fit into one video call, it still doesn’t quite match up to the buzziness of a good office environment. From Monday morning all-hands meetings to Thursday afternoon Lunch and Learns (notice how it tends to revolve around food and drink) our office is the place we can really build our agency culture. Unfortunately, screens do get in the way of this when we’re all working from our bedrooms.

It’s where your brand comes to life physically

Aside from the famous Curious branded T-shirts we store in our studio, we also use it to host a whole range of activities from naming workshops to mood board sessions. Trying to do this all remote is possible of course, but we do miss our trusty Post-It notes. Not to mention our lovely Curious Wall of Fame (see photo above).

You get to see real, live people
…In case this wasn’t obvious, in an office, you get to actually chat in person! Mad right?! But it’s something we genuinely miss. Catching up over a coffee in the kitchen or enjoying a well-deserved drink at the end of the week is a lot better when you aren’t speaking to yourself.

Work is work, home is home
It’s a lot harder to relax and unwind after work when you’re sat on the same sofa trying to watch Gogglebox that you were sitting on when you did that important client phone call earlier. Entering the physical space of an office – and then leaving it at the end of the day – is a real signal to our brains to switch on and off.

So, what are we thinking of doing?

Here’s the thing. We know that it’s pretty difficult to plan for anything right now. But we do know that all of the above points need to be considered.

We definitely don’t want to lose any of the good bits of working from home that we’ve all enjoyed over the last few months. But equally, just because everything changed so dramatically as we went into lockdown doesn’t mean we have to rush to go back to a long-term plan. We’ve got time. We can really think about what options there are and what will work for our business. Because everyone is different and what works for some companies won’t work for others.

Building a hub of creativity

Our ideal scenario would be to see our office as a place we can come together to share and create brilliant ideas, and our homes (or wherever we feel most inspired) as a place to bring these to life. Creativity can happen anywhere, so we want to encourage that wherever possible, and at the same time provide opportunities for our team to come and share their thinking in a space specially designed for all things Curious. The best of both worlds, hopefully.

We’ll continue to adapt and learn from the things we test out, but our ability to create the best work possible for our clients will always be our focus.