By James Rix, Founder and CEO, Crowdify Global
We’ve all become accustomed to working from home (WFH) over the last 12 months – and everything that comes with it. I bet we’ve all had our fair share of Zoom interruptions; whether it’s the toddler screaming in the background, the dog jumping up and licking the screen on a very important new business call, the ‘ding ding ding’ of the Ring doorbell when the Amazon delivery driver drops by or that crucial moment when your WiFi lets you down and your screen freezes at precisely the wrong moment.
We’ve all got our own WFH story blunders to tell – some are comical, others a little less so. Either way, we had no choice but to embrace the WFH culture that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns forced upon us. And hats off to those who made it out the other side.
Ah, the other side. It’s an interesting time right now and for many business leaders, it’s crunch time as they face the question of what the future office will look like: Do we really need to spend thousands of pounds each month for that trendy office space when we can carry on working remotely and replicate that environment via Zoom or Microsoft Teams? Can our teams still reach peak creative and performance levels sitting in their pyjamas at home?
If you’re working in a call centre making calls all day long or in a role that has you darting around all over the place to various locations every day, I’m sure you can do your job without having to trek one hour each way to and from the office each day. But the idea that my bank manager is going to work from home and that’s just going to be his life from now on, makes zero sense to me. How are you not going to be involved with the business? If you’re working on IPOs, how are you not going to their site, looking at their business and meeting the owner?
WFH is just not as productive as being in the office. Not in our world, at least. But as a business owner with multiple businesses operating in different ways, it’s not one-size-fits-all.
Yes, our experiential agency, StreetPR in the long-term will probably have 80% of the team working from home – after all, they are super busy, always on the phone, ringing staff and booking shifts. At the end of the day, shifts have got to be staffed. I don’t care how they do it, when they do it, as long as they get it done. When your team is motivated like that, I know they will make it happen.
But for our digital business Crowdify, which thrives on technical know-how and creativity from multiple experts, I’m determined to have 100% of the team back working in the office. The difference being that Crowdify is all about creative brainstorming and collaboration between individuals. I don’t disagree that you can still be creative over Zoom – I’m sure you can – but personally, I feel that you can so easily miss context and the process is a lot slower.
Can you jump on a call in 10 minutes to talk about this client? No sorry, I’m on another call about this client or that client. Okay, so eventually we’ll book that in for Thursday next week. But that’s too late. It’s more about the arrangement of the creativeness – and I believe that we are much more motivated and productive in a collaborative environment.
Another part of this is the problem with staff. I’ve found that it actually takes a lot longer to discover which team members aren’t pulling their weight – which of those are rolling out of bed at 08.59, grabbing a t-shirt and sitting on Zoom in their pants? Which of those are dashing back into the kitchen to make their second breakfast of the day as soon as they hang up the video call? In the meantime, everyone else is going to work. As a manager, you have no real idea, do you? It also makes it extremely difficult to onboard staff and get your teams in the right mindset to create the vibe and sense of camaraderie for new starters.
As businesses across the UK start to embrace the official return to work, it’s important to do what’s right for your teams and your business to keep your teams motivated to carry out their best work – just make sure it’s not at the peril of creativity and collaboration.