There have been a few blogs flying around saying what we are experiencing at the moment is going to mark the end of homeworking.
It’s a neat idea: by the time we are all allowed out of quarantine, we are going to be desperate to get back to the office. We will positively embrace our crowded commute and enjoy queuing at the kettle to make our cups of tea.
Except that it’s not true. Or it doesn’t seem to be true from my perspective and that of my colleagues. OK: we are in the early stages of the lock-down, and I am already experiencing the Bill-Murray-Groundhog-Day-style feeling on wake-up. But once the day gets going, once I’ve had my tea in my kitchen and the video calls start happening, normality starts to assert itself in its new way.
Home working, flexi-working, remote working, call it what you will, has of course been around for a long time. Clients of ours, as diverse as EY and Heineken, have embraced it for years. To be honest until now we’ve never quite got it at Wardour. We have always believed that creative sharing appears in the gaps between meetings as well as in the meetings themselves – a chance view of someone’s screen, or an overheard conversation.
To an extent I think that probably holds true, but what the last few days have brought home to us is how far the technology has moved on to allow you to replicate these chance encounters: chats online as opposed to meetings, shared screens and whiteboards, video one-to-ones that you couldn’t easily have in an office face-to-face. And on top of that, video conferencing has now moved on so far as to be utterly intuitive and straightforward so long as you have decent bandwidth. It’s only now I realise what we’ve been missing.
Given this new knowledge I don’t believe our team’s desire to remote work will go away. Obviously, when Boris allows us to roam freely again everyone will want to make the most of it and there will be the natural desire to all be together at the office and relive the war stories of the weeks just gone.
But once the dust has settled? I’d be really surprised if most of our people didn’t want to make more use of their home offices as the norm.
In some ways this is not about an either/or scenario: what people will want more of, me included, is flexi-working. The chance to work remotely when it makes sense and the chance to be part of a face-to-face team when that makes sense too. This will suit some people more than others, not least if you don’t have a private place to work at home the office will likely feel better.
But in the main - who wouldn’t want flexi-working? Who wouldn’t welcome the chance not to have to commute every day, to save time and money in so doing?
At Wardour we are currently in the process of planning where our next office will be and how much space we need. Fortunately, we have not yet signed up to a new five-year lease (we came very close the week before lock-down). While it’s still the early days of quarantine and our views might change, our suspicion as a board is that with the technology for remote working going so well, why on earth would we need a building the size we currently have in the future?
And when financials like that coincide with what people enjoy, you can be pretty sure of the outcome. Flexi-working has just passed a tipping point as far as we can see.
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