Ahh COVID:19 welcome to our world. Predicted by many, ignored by more.

Yet here we are. As most of us get to experience some form of lock-down (bless you, NHS and all who care for us), bean counters everywhere are updating spreadsheets asking why do we invest so much in team spaces. Us mortals are asking why do we need the commute, I’ve so much of my life back. I’m spending more time with my family.

Meanwhile wellbeing experts and corporate HR teams are insisting we all need to collate ourselves into a shared space each day because of our culture. We won’t be the same if we’re not all together. We can’t brain-storm. Team-work makes the dream work.

Etcetera.

As a company Altaire has from day dot communicated via online chat/video and we’ve always supported flexible working. It’s quite normal here (in most roles) to go travelling and work. We’re pretty strict about the reponsibilities you have whilst you’re away, but not much changes, we’re still on chat. One Altariian asked if they could travel and work and didn’t come back for over 2 years yet still delivered some of the best strategy we’ve seen. For some, flexibilty and clarity of mind creates great ideas and you just don’t get that on demand, in a busy office.

Creatives all have their own methodologies, their own way to get into ‘the zone’, yet we ship them in on trains and stick them in glass boxes. Yes, we can buy green sofas and buy art for the walls, even play disco music in reception to get them in the mood each morning but really.

Let them be. They already found their happy place why rock that boat, and they’ll likely come up with better stuff if we allow them that freedom.

For many companies being together all of the time is essential. We believe most prople think about work in a Victorian way, which is work is a destination – I’m going to work – when in reality work is an activity. In reality, working flexibly is about choosing the most appropriate location for the work that we’re about to do,

The idea of a completely remote workforce is not new to us. In fact, we promote the idea and freedoms this brings so much there have been days where our London and south coast offices have been almost empty.

Yet, we still need to get together, some of our best work is during those vibrant times when the stars are aligned and creativity just flows. We’ll also meet regularly some teams weekly and some teams more frequently but that doesn’t mean it has to be at a designated office. As we’ve discovered many times, there are plenty of interesting and inspiring places to meet and some of them are free. Bean-counters rejoice.

There’s another, major, benefit to this approach. Let’s say you have an office in central London. As you recruit, you need to attract talent that’s willing to travel each day into town by 9am to start work. For many of those people that’s a 6am start and an 8:30pm return home time at the very best. Think about what that’s doing to the mental welfare of those people and their families. Think of all the talent around the world you have no access to because you insist on them being in your office.

Another consideration was purely commercial. We invest a significant amount of our revenue in our office space. We do all the right things, fancy modern workspaces in enviable locations but on this point the bean counters are right. It’s a simple fact if we didn’t have that expenditure we could offer even better value to our customers.

And so we asked all Altairian’s to vote. Could this actually work for us. All of our staff know too well the responsibilities they hold and the day-to-day pressures and pace we experience supporting some of the worlds best organisations get through their day. The conversations we had were squarely focused on things like what is the best balance for you to be able to excel at your job and help your colleagues grow.

The results weren’t a surprise, and it was pretty opportunistic on the management’s part as it’s been on the cards for a while. COVID:19 just made it the right time for it to surface as a real option.

The result was unanimous, and we’re going to do the following:

  • No-one’s expected to go back to our offices now or after the lock-down is relaxed. They will remain closed
  • Individual teams will meet weekly in a location of their choice. More often if required (up to permanently) and we’ll monitor how that goes
  • We announced a new meeting budget which should allow for some fun days (lots of places are free, but high quality offices like ours are expensive)
  • We will have monthly all-team meetings either in rented day-office space or in places we just feel like hanging out in, like the beach

Our mornings will still start with a hundred hello messages on chat, just like they always have (it’s rare everyone’s in the same place). But at the end of our working day, we’ll already be home.

We will retain our offices for the time-being, just with locked doors. As a team we hope they’ll never re-open aside from eBay’ing the things we’ll leave behind. Until then, cheers to testing a better quality of life.