How Does Where We Work Impact How We Work?

Date
Written by
Jody Mulvey

Each fortnight we ask professionals to dive into a different theme about the creative working world. In this week's focus, we’re exploring how where we work impacts how we work.

As COVID restrictions have come to an end in the UK, conversations and questions over hybrid, remote and home working continue. So we spoke to Koto, Notepad, Nonsense and SuperHi about what working style brings the best out of their teams.

James Greenfield, CEO & Founder of Koto

Why did you decide to work four days in the studio and one optional day WFH?

Nothing that Koto produces is the work of one person. All the brand and digital work we make is a team effort, that requires a lot of iteration, discussion, dissection and thinking. We can do this in our own homes, but it isn’t as productive, enjoyable or successful. To make the world’s best brands requires a lot of effort and part of that effort is sacrificing home comforts for our very lovely studios and a commute.

How has the transition from studio to remote (or vice versa) been?

The pandemic forced many people to have to react quickly to big change. We got ourselves all set up working from home very seamlessly. We have often worked globally in clients offices so we were totally prepared IT and workflow wise. Once restrictions were lifted we came back to the studio and then back to home as we had to.

How has this decision to work 4:1 impacted productivity and creativity?

There’s 65 people that work at Koto full time and I am sure they would all give a different answer to this, but overall as a company we have better productivity and creativity in a studio than at home. We get in the zone and flow working together, there is less disagreement and more energy. Branding is hard work, it requires constant reinvention and a lot of that is working with clients that don’t often do it.

Do you have any advice for companies wanting to be a 4:1 employer?

My one advice about all of this is be consistent. All the way through the pandemic we have been clear we would be returning to the studios and that WFH was only temporary. We have kept the studios, in fact we have upgraded two of them, and made sure people see the vision for why we are so bullish on this being the right way to work in our corner of the creative industry.

Overall as a company we have better productivity and creativity in a studio than at home. We get in the zone and flow working together, there is less disagreement and more energy.
James Greenfield, CEO & Founder of Koto

Naeem Alvi-Assinder, Managing Director and Founder at Notepad

Why did you decide to work as a remote-first agency?

Before founding Notepad, I worked at branding and advertising agencies across London and Oxford. During this time, I noticed that the industry was pretty broken and many agencies often don't get the work-life balance right. High-stress levels, screen-fatigue, sleep-deprivation, and pressures of presenteeism are hugely detrimental to mental health and general wellbeing.

At Notepad, we want to create a different type of agency that offers support and flexibility to the team, and ensures good employee mental health. Being a remote-first agency is one way in which we try to give our team a better balance between work and personal life. It also allows us to recruit talented people who may not be local to Notepad’s Birmingham-based studio, and who can then work from where they feel most productive and where they work best.

How has this decision to work remotely impacted productivity and creativity?

It has hugely impacted productivity by allowing everyone to work where they work best. During busier periods, we have found that most people like to keep their heads down and work from home. But, for more collaborative sessions, we are all in the studio brainstorming and bouncing ideas around which massively helps with motivation and creativity when developing successful branding campaigns.

Throughout the pandemic, work has been an immense source of stress for many, as well as struggling with maintaining a work-life balance. For us, we have noticed that the productivity and creativity has been through the roof in the pandemic and during the lockdowns. Especially in our industry, creatives often do need that contact time in the office to collaborate, but people also need to be able to make free decisions about where they work best and when. We’ve found a balance that works.

Do you have any advice for companies wanting to work remote-first?

Our main piece of advice would be to trust people to manage their own time; this is hugely empowering to employees who may be used to clocking in and out or being watched over. It is also important to allocate days where everyone is working in the same space to collaborate on campaigns and projects together-- this allows us to build a great team spirit and office culture.

Being a remote-first agency is one way in which we try to give our team a better balance between work and personal life. It also allows us to recruit talented people who may not be local to Notepad’s Birmingham-based studio, and who can then work from where they feel most productive and where they work best.
Naeem Alvi-Assinder, Managing Director and Founder at Notepad

Nick Armitage, Managing Partner at Nonsense

Why did you decide to close your studio, set up a Clubhouse and work as a remote agency?

Firstly, I feel the need to acknowledge that it's been somewhat embarrassing for most in our industry - us included - in that it took a global pandemic to force through more progressive and trusting ways of working as a team. For us especially, because operationally, we were already setup for remote working with the tools and file management processes in place.

So, when it comes to “Why” we did this, the only true answer is because the opportunity presented itself, and forced us to problem-solve in the way we normally do - by collaborating. We closed our office down in June 2020 (at that stage we had no idea if we’d ever need one again) and as we evolved and adapted together during the pandemic, we discussed as a team what the future for our office/remote setup would look like once things started returning to normal.

What became clear to us was that there was immense value in being in the room together... However, that didn't need to mean 9am-5pm, 5 days a week. We recognised that we each have different requirements to be able to do our best work, from environment and atmosphere, to daily/weekly routines. Combined with feedback from some of our clients as well as our global community of freelance talent and agency partners, who most also felt that they would value somewhere to collaborate with us and be creative IRL, we decided to launch the Nonsense Clubhouse.

Based on Redchurch Street, London, the Nonsense Clubhouse is a multi-functional space designed for use by our team, clients, agency partners and wider community of talent whenever they like. There's no requirement for our perm team to be in at all - it's all trust. It’s deliberately a simple and flexible space.

We look forward to using the space to showcase the various skills of people within our amazing community - through events, talks, launches, exhibitions and more. Our regular collaborators all have an open invite. For us, whilst we hope the space itself will be inspiring for people, its role is really to provide the framework to connect amazing talent and create great things.

What became clear to us was that there was immense value in being in the room together... However, that didn't need to mean 9am-5pm, 5 days a week. We recognised that we each have different requirements to be able to do our best work, from environment and atmosphere, to daily/weekly routines.
Nick Armitage, Managing Partner at Nonsense

Navya Dev, Product Manager at SuperHi

Why did you decide to work remotely?

Workplaces should be accessible. Limiting a company to one working location and one working style means you miss out on an immense amount of talent. Like our students and teachers, our team is distributed globally—our roles aren’t limited to one timezone or working style. A supportive and remote working culture allows people from different backgrounds, abilities, and neurodiversities to work together. This is why we’re a remote-first company and why SuperHi has been decentralized years before the pandemic started.

For those on our team who value being together in person, we cover the co-working fees. People in our industry face burnout at extremely high rates. Our responsibility is to center and listen to employees when we have conversations about working modes and workplace policies.

How has this decision to work remotely impacted productivity and creativity?

Creative work can't survive the same working modalities from the last 100 years. Remote work has evolved from not-so-great, in-person workplace structures, and the problem with continuing these outdated methods is that we’re ignoring what resources are most important when people experience burnout and need support. To combat the challenges of working amidst a global pandemic—and address the repeated issues around burnout that our industry faces—SuperHi implemented the four-day workweek. We’ve seen a distinct increase in productivity and morale, which has given our team the space to be more creative.

Workplaces should be accessible. Limiting a company to one working location and one working style means you miss out on an immense amount of talent.
Navya Dev, Product Manager at SuperHi

On our radar

Some further reading on the themes explored in this article:

Your checklist for the Great Return: Charter gives a checklist for making sure your organisation is prepared for returning to offices, whether you're a manager or employee looking to assess or support the progress.

Design an Office that People Want to Come Back to: In this Harvard Business Review article, Andrea Vanecko, Jonathan Ward and Robert Mankin discuss the lessons they learnt managing the Hana Bank project and advise organisations on how they can encourage their employees to work in-person.

Why work flexibility should be the standard, not a luxury: Drew Pearce argues that flexible working practices should become the norm in this Dropbox article.

A workplace is more than just a building: In this Dropbox article by Devon Murphy questions what workplaces look like now, what they'll look like in the future and whether we will ever want to return to our previous working practices.

Economists discuss the impact of working from home on productivity, job satisfaction, and women’s career progression: Romesh Vaitilingam investigates the impact of working remotely with economists for LSE Business Review.

The If You Could Jobs Journal is a space where industry leaders have the opportunity to share their unique vision and insight into the creative working world. We're always on the look out for company leaders, founders and hiring managers interested in writing opinion pieces our Journal. 

Want to add to the conversation? Get in touch with our account manager at jody@ifyoucouldjobs.com



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