I was chatting to a colleague on the phone the other day. We covered the average topics – how the team was, the latest client news, how she was feeling. But at the end of the call, when I said I hoped she’d have a good afternoon, she said something surprising. Her afternoon, it turned out, had a lot to live up to as she’d started her day by paddle-boarding on a tranquil lake as the sun came up.
She was staying by the coast with her family, miles from our Shoreditch base. Nobody had noticed any difference in her work - the only difference was she was feeling happier, healthier and more focused (bookending your days with paddle-boarding can do that, apparently). It’s not just Louise who has taken this kind of opportunity – as well as working from home and our wonderful offices, in the last few weeks I’ve spoken to colleagues working all over Europe
Getting to a place where this kind of remote working is possible hasn’t been easy. I remember the meetings back in March 2020. Along with the rest of the country we needed to work out how everyone could work from home pretty much overnight. I’ll admit that – while we had confidence in our ideas and everyone at RY - at the time we had no bloody idea how things would turn out.
The heartbeat of our plan was trust. We decided early that we would trust everyone to find ways of working that suited them, their colleagues and clients. Thankfully, that’s a pretty natural impulse for us.
So far, it’s turned out well. From COP26 and Ocado to Tesco and Johnson & Johnson, we’ve landed some great new clients. We’ve continued to do standout work that builds belief for the likes of Google, HS2, Heineken, Microsoft, GSK and WRAP, too. Ending 2020 well and making a great start to 2021 was purely down to how our brilliant colleagues embraced the challenge - not with trepidation, but with real energy. Thanks to everyone at RY who made the abnormal, normal.
What about the future? Now the lockdown has lifted up, shouldn’t we just go back to the way things were? I’d argue we’d be fools to give up the progress we’ve made.
That’s not to say we don’t believe our offices in Shoreditch and Birmingham will remain lynchpins for us. I’m convinced that sitting at the same table helps people work together and still holds real value in all aspects of our work. Opportunities for teams to meet up in person are invaluable, and particularly for newbies, interns and junior colleagues looking to learn from others.
But while office culture will always be woven into the fabric of RY life, we feel there’s no logic in asking people to be in the office five days a week. So far, all we’ve asked of the team is to live within a few hours of one of our offices, most of the time.
We can’t be sure what the future holds. No one can. The world around us is changing so fast. So why should we try and control it? As it was in March last year, for us the best approach is to work with everyone in the business to shape the way we work together. We’ll take it slowly and experiment over the coming months. We’ve started laying the groundwork by revamping parts of the office to help people think and create together. The new spaces will, we hope, liberate everyone to choose precisely how they feel most comfortable working, and offer a constant opportunity to work together in person when it’s needed and when it’s right.
The last eighteen months have proven beyond doubt that people work in different ways, and that giving ourselves space to choose how we organise work in and around our lives opens up great outcomes. So, if paddle-boarding before work is your thing, bring it on. And as for my dream - creating the best agency to work for in the world where the best work gets done – I think we’re taking one big leap forward.
Stay safe, Carl x