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Out of office: on

By Michelle Hallmark
August 2, 2018

“I’m not sure why you should let me, but I don’t think there’s a good why not...”

That’s the current cheery retort that my seven-year-old sings whenever he wants to eat chocolate, play football longer, avoid practising spellings – or anything else that makes him undeniably happy.

This glass half-full approach appears to have merit, according to my Master’s study on falsification theory (in short, you shouldn’t look for more evidence to show what proves you right, but hunt out what proves you are wrong). And the question ‘why not?’ has led our agency to an evolutionary leap in our 17-year history.

For around nine years, my personal and professional worlds have flexed like an elastic band. Diving from sports days to conference calls, working in client offices or the garden, or trotting from the school nativity play to a 7pm board meeting… it’s all part of today’s switched-on world.

Phubbing has become a commonly-used word in our house as tea and tenders blend – but in truth, technology helps me access far greater life opportunities than my parents were ever offered. Client feedback suggests they don’t care where I’m working, as long as they get the responsive, confidential service they are paying for. And my productivity and responsiveness has only increased.

So, with this experience under our belts, and associates already enjoying the same flexibility across the UK, the Creative Bridge leadership team has decided to leap into the unknown and ditch the physical office. Completely.

Bittesby House has served us well as a creative home. It gave us an inspiring creative space as our team got to know each other, and while processes were honed. But now’s the time to test that culture in a virtual environment. Armed with trusted staff and investment in new technology, our vision is to trail-blaze a new model of working for all employees.

Our clients are dabbling already with half-way home-working and drop-in physical spaces – and as a small, nimble business, we’re in a position to test what happens when you remove the walls completely.

It’s thrown up some challenges and difficult decisions – we won’t pretend everything has been easy. Early questions in the mix included:

  • Where will the post land every morning?
  • Does everyone have space and desire for a home office?
  • Who answers the main office number?
  • What would this mean for our environmental policy? (It’s all good!)
  • Who’s taking the ‘big’ printer?!
  • How do you lug around a Mac for urgent amends?

…and many more lines/challenges in a glorious technicolour spreadsheet. As you can tell, agile working requires some rigid thinking!

We don’t have all the answers yet – and are expecting to learn as we go along. But with improved IT accessibility, our vision is to maintain and even improve how we communicate with clients. We’ll make sure that our customers continue to have access to us when, and where they need it; and our current service standards will stay the same.

It’s business as usual. For example, press releases written at home are the same quality as their office counterparts; creative brainstorms work equally well at a board table or a coffee table (both typically involve doughnuts anyway); and Skype breakfast meetings are just as noisy as the ‘in-room’ option… being tens or even hundreds of miles apart doesn’t make anyone less participative!

Our calculations show that an ‘average’ employee (not that we have any of those!) will get back five hours a week thanks to reduced commute times – even when you factor in regular face-to-face client and team meetings. That’s five hours to learn a new skill, give something back, go to the gym or actually say yes to yet another round of football penalty practice.

We already connect the commercial and purposeful, now’s the time to bridge the gap between personal and professional for our entire team. Out of office? Why not…