The lockdowns and restrictions induced by Covid-19 now seem a distant memory but they have left a deep impact on working habits. A legacy that, at the start of 2023, businesses are still navigating.
Whatever your job, the seismic shift in the working landscape has been of such magnitude that almost no occupation has been untouched in some way.
Those who work in offices have perhaps seen the biggest permanent difference. Some companies have closed their offices for good, with staff now fully remote. Others have enticed their teams back to their desks full-time.
For people who took new jobs during Covid that were miles from where they live — or for those who enjoy the short trip across the kitchen to their laptop — the prospect of a daily commute is an uneasy one.
Likewise, those who now work permanently from home can find that cabin fever and productivity are rarely good bedfellows. They yearn for the workplace human contact they once had, as they sit in their home offices with ever-shrinking walls.
For the past year or so, Tank has had a definitive — and very successful — hybrid working policy. As a way to let the team have its collective cake and eat it, it gives us the best of both worlds.
What hybrid working actually means for us
In practice, it means you are free to work from home for half the week on days you choose, while spending the other half in the office. It’s the flexibility of this that seems to be the key to its success. The ability to choose how and where you work best and to juggle life commitments at the same time, is of more importance than ever.
“Having a balanced approach to hybrid working has made a huge difference to my working week. Being able to plan my time so I can tackle more challenging or creative tasks in a quiet space at home, while also getting important face-to-face contact with the rest of the team in the office means I can be much more productive.
“Hybrid working has also made a massive change to my work-life balance. I don’t have a massive commute but being able to work from home gives me a few hours back every week, which is great for sorting life admin, walking the dog, or going to the pub!”
The financial considerations go a long way too. Amid the ever-deepening cost-of-living crisis, it’s important to weigh up the cost of travel against heating a home around the clock when deciding where to work for the day. To do some of each mitigates some of the cost.
Culture isn’t just a recruitment buzzword
Since the pandemic, and even through it, our team has grown. Although we did all we could to welcome those who joined us remotely in the depths of lockdown, there is no replacement for meeting people face-to-face.
For those graduates and apprentices we welcomed during Covid, some had never experienced an office environment before. Workplace etiquette is one of the most important but undervalued stages in taking a step into the world of work and becoming part of a team.
Those kettle conversations are something all of us missed during our days of being barricaded in our homes. Hearing your peers chatting on the phone, sharing ideas and working through challenges is the best way to learn.
Tank’s team culture is a very specific and unique one, which has been honed over the last decade. For all the cliché of that statement, it’s something that genuinely sets us apart. To preserve it over the years, as the team has grown, has taken a great deal of care.
When we recruit, we’ve always been meticulous in building a collection of people that actually like working with each other — not just superficially. This is a vital component to our success as a business and a key reason why it’s important to have people in the office for at least some of the time. Keeping our culture alive means actually being in the building and sharing desk space with the team.
“There’s no substitute for being in the same room as people, even if it’s to discuss the finer points of post-apocalypse escape plans. Ideas often come from the weirdest of conversations.
“On the other hand, working from home the rest of the time means I can concentrate on longer or more complex projects. I can work in a way that’s comfortable for me and can eat as many biscuits as I like without judgement.”
Fitting the work to the location
For any agency that does creative or intense work, it’s important for people to have the freedom to let that blossom. Many of the team find that days working from home are best saved for tasks in which they can become absorbed with fewer distractions. It’s one of the lessons from lockdown that led to hybrid working, rather than a full-scale office return.
Another was mental health. The freedom for people to walk their dog, manage personal errands and generally have a bit of quiet is something that everybody appreciated, and we felt it would be a step backwards to reverse that cultural change.
It does bring an extra challenge though — how to spot if someone in the team is struggling, if you only see a snapshot of them on your screen. As a mental health first aid responder, I’ve worked hard to make sure everyone knows how to support each other, and that works so much better in person.
“The three days in the office give me the weekly social interaction I need to stop me getting cabin fever, but the days at home help me manage my home life a bit better – which then makes me generally happier.”
Tank HQ is a beautifully restored early 19th century building in the centre of Nottingham’s Creative Quarter. Although it can be tempting on office days to spend more than you planned in the shops and cafés on your lunch break, the freedom to enjoy the city centre delights is a draw. As is having time at home to go for a walk or catch up on the latest television series over lunch.
“I like being in the office because I love the walk to work, being in town and running errands, grabbing a coffee, or meeting pals at lunch to break up the day.
But I also like having the option to stay at home on some days. Some mornings, that walk to work I love so much just doesn’t seem as appealing. If I can just crack on in the comfort of my home, I’ll have a much better and more productive day.”
A hybrid approach is working for us — as well as for our clients, who have enjoyed meetings in-person again. By giving our team the freedom and flexibility to decide their own working week, they stick together and preserve our culture, even better than before.
For businesses with staff who want to go with one option or the other, I urge them to give it a try. It could bring more benefits than you thought.