Remote working: a temporary situation or the future of business operations?

Working from home has had the reputation of only being adopted by young, ‘millennial’ companies. Flexible, remote working options were previously seen as a luxury for many, but today, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the UK, even the most traditional businesses have found themselves having to adapt to this modern style of operating. 

Sara French, Junior Account Director

Countless businesses are now, rather successfully, working remotely. This includes everyone here at OneAgency. Luckily, we already had a number of team members – particularly our London team – working in a flexible, remote way, meaning we had experience to build on. We also had a range of remote operational systems and programmes already integrated into our everyday working life, from the use of key communication platforms like Slack, through to integral scheduling software, such as Wrike. This has ensured that the foundations were already in place for an adaptable transition to working from our homes.

It is fair to assume that this period of understandable, enforced isolation is going to change the way people approach working environments and operations in the future. Though we are seeing many benefits from remote working, it is also revealing some challenges. As businesses plan for life after this tragic crisis it is these lessons that are going to prove so important to their development and how quickly they can get back on their feet. Just reverting back to old ways may no longer be an option, as employees adapt to new ways of getting the job done.  

There is no time like the present for some honest reflection, so as we head into another new week of remote working we asked the team here at OneAgency what has been beneficial about working from home and what challenges they feel have been most significant. 

Communication

“Everyone has made the effort to communicate and check up on each other and that sense of community and coming together as One is lovely”, says office manager Jessica. Despite difficult circumstances, the morale at OneAgency is high. Team huddles happen every morning, video calls and virtual catch ups are scheduled throughout the day and whatsapp channels are full to brim with memes. Easy and regular online communication means we are constantly in touch and the collective focus is strong. 

However, the lack of face-to-face time is proving a challenge. It is a collective feeling – we all miss seeing each other. While virtual communication is a suitable temporary solution and one we are using to the best of its abilities, we know some of our best work is achieved by our in-person dynamic. Integrated account director Liz confessed, “I think the conversations that I am having with the dog may not be as constructive as they would be with my proper work colleagues!”

Key lessons: 

– Face to face contact is integral to nurture the best ideas and technology doesn’t always support large-scale remote meetings

– The routine of these regular ‘remote’ meetings can be implemented into everyday office life too to positively impact team focus

Routine

For many here, working from home has given them extra time to dedicate to personal health and wellbeing. No more commutes mean longer mornings to grab an extra 30mins in bed or squeeze in some exercise. Designer Rachael and integrated account manager Philippa have both found that time to exercise in the morning has positively impacted their productivity and creativity. Having more flexibility to create new routines has been really beneficial. 

Working from the comfort of your own home however does present some challenges. Account director Ash has admitted it is difficult to switch off in non-working hours, “a commute or even medium-length walk home marks a change from one environment to another which is a signifier of work being over – that is now missing.” Some here are finding it difficult to unwind in the evening.

The balance of good and bad habits is a tough one to refine when adjusting to a new routine. We have found it takes a great deal of self awareness to stick to good habits – eating healthily, not sitting all day and stopping work for the evening are all part of a successful work-life balance. 

Key lessons: 

– Flexible, adaptable routines means people can work in a way that is best for them, contributing to their overall wellbeing 

– Having a central base away from home is important when it comes to managing a work-life balance 

Facilities 

Though working from home has a number of benefits, it’s clear that everyone at OneAgency is missing the filtered water tap and the bean-grinding coffee machine. Despite having to drink standard tap water (at the detriment to our levels of hydration!) and make do with regular coffee, at home we can all personalise our space. For some it has been beneficial to choose our own lighting, chair and area to work. However, it is not always easy to find the perfect place to get work done. While PR account director Rosie has found the change of scenery good for copywriting inspiration, her biggest challenge was finding a quiet space to work in a bustling family home – something many can relate to at this time. 

Having an office facility to host our workforce does ensure we can work as effectively and efficiently as possible. For example, working from internal servers can present issues when it comes to remote working, as access can be challenging to set-up and implement. Having adequate time to plan and prepare suitable remote solutions to integral working processes is important – something no business has had the luxury of in the current pandemic. 

Key lessons: 

– Flexible working spaces can aid creativity – choosing the right space, light levels and even furniture for the task ahead can have a positive impact on productivity 

– ‘Work comforts’ are important and employees really appreciate these perks (and feel their absence!)

We are taking it day by day and the lessons learnt during this time are certainly not going to be wasted. It’s incredibly valuable to take note of what is working well as we navigate this different way of working and use it to influence positive businesses developments in the future. OneAgency’s managing director, Mark, is impressed with the team’s ability to quickly adapt to these big work life changes, “Well, I have to say how proud I am of the team and the way they’ve all adapted to WFH. It’s one thing to talk about major overhauls around a boardroom table but quite another to implement a brand new system in record time and maintain profitability. I’m amazed at how well we’ve maintained our core values and kept the quality of output up to where it is.”

Remote working has many positive qualities and everyone at OneAgency has made a success of it. However, it is clear having an office space – though perhaps not in a traditional sense – is still an important element of working life and OA HQ is somewhere we will all be glad to come back to when it is safe to do so. We are in a fortunate position to own our own building in the heart of Norwich’s city centre and as our workforce continues to grow we can adapt the facilities to meet the needs of employees and their new agile ways of working.

What can we say? Watch this space! 

For more OneAgency soundbites on working from home, head over to our Instagram page. 

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