David Johnston founder at Accept & Proceed
In the last year of remote working we all missed each other. We’re a small team of 30-people who never had Slack pre-Covid. We didn't need it as we were always huddled in the studio in constant communication with each other. This wasn't replicable, so rather than try to recreate our studio culture 'online', we encouraged explorations...We introduced a nine day fortnight, so our team can dive into new worlds and bring back fresh thoughts. No strings attached, no reports, just close our building every other Friday, put aside commercial work and encourage everyone at A&P to explore.
Since becoming a B Corp last year and reevaluating every aspect of our business, it's also made us zoom in on the individuals that run it and what makes us happy. What drives us. How do we feel recognised and rewarded, and what we value collectively. Happiness is the crux of good work, so we are working on happiness.
The last year has really made us question, what is a studio? What is a business? Not – as our changing times reveal – the buildings we work from, but a collective of minds physically apart but working together.
With change comes opportunity and we have used our skills to reimagine our physical hub in Hackney, our home hubs too, and ask ourselves can we become a studio which transcends geographical borders; a studio that becomes part of the world, and lets the world become a part of it.
Erica Routledge, operations director at Accept & Proceed
We're going for the hybrid, flexible working model because we feel it's what will work best for our team who've spread out across London during the pandemic—some have found home to be most productive and some have sought the studio for sanctuary. We don't believe there is an either-or solution here but what we can do is make both options extremely attractive win-win situations.
To plan for hybrid working this fall, we've commenced Studioflex, an entire redesign of our studio in Hackney to anticipate and accommodate a flexible workforce. We've engaged an interior design consultant, Sandra Flashman Studio, to survey our team's needs, wants and happiness, and create a new environment that will meet our current and long-term ambitions.
Anoushka Rodda, co-founder and managing director at TEMPLO
Since TEMPLO's inception we've always been quite flexible about where and how our team works so when the pandemic hit it wasn't a huge culture shift for us to work remotely. Pali and I always found forcing designers to sit at their desk from 9am - 6pm every day really counter intuitive to the creative process. You need to be in the world to allow ideas to flourish. Our remote working approach was also born out of necessity due to the type of clients we collaborate with; we've had to plug into the United Nations infrastructure during projects to ensure the utmost confidentiality for example.
As a working mother to two young children I have also always been passionate about having flexible working in the DNA of our business from an inclusivity perspective. The pandemic has validated what women have been trying to convince employers of for decades; you can absolutely work effectively from home.
From a creative output point of view, we've found that everyone consistently working remotely has improved the output of the studio as designers have been able to focus more and so the work has become deeper. We will continue to allow people to work from where they feel most inspired and comfortable. We still have our studio space in Shoreditch and will carry on getting together for catch ups, brainstorms and meetings when we need to.
We've found our team and our clients really craving face-to-face contact now that it's back as an option. There is definitely a natural fluidity to ideas sharing that can only happen in person and everyone seems pretty burnt out from back-to-back Zoom calls. So we will continue as we have always done; offering a blended hybrid of both in-studio and remote working for our team and clients.
Matt Baxter, creative director at Baxter & Bailey
We've learned a huge amount over the past 18 months. And not just how to stockpile dried goods. By being required to work remotely for periods, we learned that our studio is very important to us and that the things a studio facilitates – dialogue, debate, energy, space, professionalism, fun – can make for better work and a more creative, collaborative, joyful process. In short, we love our studio. But! We also learned that we have a strong agency culture and a strong sense of personal accountability across the team. Which has meant that we can work remotely, rely on one another, support one another, deliver great work and win new projects, all from a series of geographically disparate kitchens, bedrooms, back rooms and gardens.
I've seen a lot of debate about the return to work among my industry friends and peers. Some are going for a hybrid approach, but on fixed days. Others are getting rid of their studios entirely. And some are heading back to the office en masse. Our future is flexible hybrid and we think it will work well for us. Those key ingredients I mentioned above – a strong agency culture that everyone believes in and personal accountability – are key. We've always embraced flexible working, and this is simply an extension of that. Crucially, as long as communication across the team is really clear, so that we all know where and how we're working on any given day or week, we'll continue to work in and out of the studio.
For a supposedly creative industry, we can be collectively very slow to change. Innovation in working practices often occurs in other industries first. Up until March 2020, the 'bums on seats' approach to creative agency life was still dominant. But the good news is that the past 18 months have forced change to happen much quicker than the small-c conservatives would perhaps have liked. We love our studio, we feel lucky to have it and will continue to use it. But we're also now confident that we don't all need to be there all the time and that, in fact, our work, processes, energy and focus will benefit from a more varied working week. From what I've read and from the conversations I've been part of, I suspect that will be the case for the industry generally. The future's flexible.
Tom Rowe, head of design at Otherway
One key learning for us from this period of remote work is that it is very possible to all sit in our own houses, flats and bedrooms and still do really great creative work. It might not be as easy or as fun as before but at Otherway we’ve definitely done some of our best work whilst working remotely. On the other hand, not being able to spend time with the people you work every day with and enjoy their company beyond zoom calls seriously affects company culture and makes everything a little more boring.
For three days everybody is in – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The office atmosphere is way more enjoyable when everyone is in – no one enjoys a half empty dance floor. It means we can focus all our client meetings, creative reviews and company presentations to times when we know everyone will be present. It avoids having half the people in the room and the others on the screen. Then Monday and Friday everybody has the freedom to work from wherever they want. We think it’s a good approach but time will tell.
We think there’s always going to be a role for meeting up in person and sharing ideas together. Whether we call it an office or not, we believe creative companies need a place for people to hang out together without awkward waiters getting in the way. What’s more the most creative people are naturally restless people who can’t sit still which means getting out the house, meeting up with people and exploring the world is always much needed.