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An update: Our return to the office dilemma

In common with most businesses, we spent the first few months of 2021 debating whether we should force the team to return to the office or offer flexible working.

As we wrote about back in May, we decided to ask the team for their views. That exercise led us to allow permanent homeworking if that’s what someone wanted. Alternatively, our team can work permanently from the office or split their time between locations that suit them.

We’re three months into the new way of working, so we thought it was high time we provided an update. As a management team, we feel it’s gone well (mind you, we did have 12 months enforced practice!) and it has certainly aided recruitment. However, we wanted to bring you an insight from the Yardstick team. So, we asked Robyn Davies, one of our Digital Copywriters for her views.

Here’s what Robyn had to say:

Lately, we’ve been hearing countless stories of how the UK’s workforce will return to “normal” as we all emerge from Covid-19 restrictions. From the city centre businesses (and politicians) calling for necessary office returns en masse, to those who have switched to permanent remote working (Slack, Shopify and Twitter, to name a few), it’s still pretty big news.

Here at Yardstick, we made our decision as to how we’d proceed as a post-pandemic business a few months ago – and I wanted to share my perspective as an employee on how it’s going and what it means for me.

A digital agency in post-Covid times

Our founder Phil Bray wrote an article a few months ago about how we tackled the return to the office dilemma that many businesses have faced. The answer? We decided for ourselves. The freedom to choose how we wanted to continue as a business in terms of logistics was one that was welcomed across the board by our teams. While some chose to work from home full time and some chose the office, others opted for a more hybrid approach – and importantly, everyone was granted their request.

The benefits of such a policy have been widespread. For those with families and young children, it’s been a lifeline in terms of managing care and school runs. Those who’ve struggled with unsuitable home-working conditions have been given a similar lifeline by being able to come into the office whenever they choose. This has ultimately meant happier employees, and higher quality work produced as a result.

It’s also meant that we’ve been able to expand our reach when it comes to our team. Location is no longer a barrier to finding the right person for the job, and as a result, we’ve acquired some of the best talent in the country (and beyond!). Casting the net wide means we can bring the kind of unique experience and skillsets on board that would otherwise be unavailable to us.

Why it works for me

As a digital copywriter, my role is very much client-facing. A significant amount of my time is spent speaking with our clients, often in workshop environments that can span a few hours. The immediate benefit of remote working is that I can do this from the comfort of my own home, where background noise and interruption is minimal (a big plus when meeting rooms aren’t always available in the office).

It means my clients can do it from their homes, too – no more travelling hours for the sake of a meeting. As a result, I work with clients based all around the globe, from Edinburgh to Bournemouth, Hong Kong to Australia. It’s genuinely nice to be able to work with people around the world and deliver the same kind of service to each one.

On a more personal note, Yardstick’s policy has also allowed me to pursue some of my own goals in a way I’d never have dreamed of a year ago. Having always wanted to spend some time living abroad, next month I’ll be flying to Malaga in Spain to live and work for three months – all I need is a good internet connection and to remember the one-hour time difference! It’s a brilliant opportunity that I otherwise would not have been able to take, and one I’m grateful for.

Aren’t there any downsides?

As I mentioned in the intro to this blog, some people are quick to shout up about the supposed disadvantages of not returning to the old ways, citing everything from sky-high office rents to the tragedy of abandoned workplace culture. While I can’t speak on the former, I can share some insight/opinion as to the latter.

I’ve personally become somewhat wary of the aforementioned ‘workplace culture’ – too often it’s used as a synonym for unhealthy work habits and relationships. I’d prefer my employer focus on employee wellbeing and satisfaction, rather than office-based gimmicks designed to persuade people to work longer hours (like pool tables and free snacks). By giving people the choice, a business shows that it values its staff in a context that suggests it knows how to get the best from them. And by listening to employees and taking their desires on board, overall morale is only going to improve.

That’s not to say I don’t sometimes miss the social interaction a full office used to bring. It’s why we’ve been sure to keep up on social events as a business, regardless of where people are based – from Zoom quizzes and drinks that have carried on long since lockdown ended, to our much-awaited ‘summer’ party (happening in September, but after such rubbish weather this year who will even care!?).

The final verdict

Flexible working won’t necessarily be for everyone, but I can firmly say that this is the way forward for me – to the extent that I doubt I’ll want to revert to a full-time office-based role in the future. I also believe that any digital agency which claims it can’t operate in these circumstances is being somewhat untruthful, and in doing so risks deterring great potential candidates from joining their ranks.

It’s time to adapt to the changing times, and here at Yardstick, we’re doing just that. We’re continuing to meet our internal targets and meet our clients’ expectations – and that has nothing to do with where we physically are Monday-Friday, but everything to do with great communication and a team approach.

Want to be part of something great? Join the team

If a flexible work environment sounds like your kind of thing and you’re seeking a new challenge, you’re in luck! We’re currently hiring for a couple of roles within our content team, so if you think you could be a good fit, we’d love to hear from you – just send us a CV, portfolio of work and a covering letter telling us why.

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