A wise advisor, someone I admire and respect, once said to me “Strategy is What Happens, not what’s Supposed to Happen”. What Has Happened to our offices is, perhaps, just such an example.
In 2020 we made the decision to close our small London office, amidst the drama of the pandemic and lockdowns. This week we have said a final goodbye to our head office in Melton, Suffolk.
Riverside House has been our home for just 5 years, 2 of which have been lost to the pandemic. But we have always had our head office in Melton since 2004, so this is a big change.
We have opted to make working from our own homes our default mode, with flexible hours to boot, but we are aware that this will have consequences, so we see this as an evolving story.
The abruptness of the pandemic jarred so many businesses into adopting, at scale, remote working practices that have been in place for years. In Infotex, as in many businesses, we had already been working for a long time remotely with clients and staff across the world, on Hangout, Teams, Zoom and Skype, with all of the benefits.
Scaling this up to become the default taught us about new positives. For our staff who have always worked remotely from “the office”, having everyone on the same level has resulted in a new closeness within the business. Our daily chats mean that all of us see and hear more of each other than we used to, and our teamwork has improved through the flexibility of being able to make up teams so flexibly (although we tend not to use Teams, preferring Google Meet for its immediacy).
Having overall responsibility for the business, I feel more connected to all of our team of 25 than I ever have. Maybe that’s a damning indictment of how I was doing things before! Or maybe I am deluding myself. Certainly, this sense of connection has made me eager to find the ways and means to spend more time actually together. So far, we have had three 2-day “gatherings”, where the whole company works in one location. These have all been enjoyable, and constructive and important for our business. Now that we no longer have our building, we are free to roam. Our next gathering, in June, will be in Portsmouth. This is a welcome relief to our minority “Staff in the South”, who are relieved not to have to journey to Suffolk this time. It will no doubt invoke a nautical theme, and plans are afoot to visit the historic dockyard.
In the meantime, like so many other businesses, we are free to meet with one another and our clients in a variety of locations, many of them regulars. Serviced offices and workspaces offer the ideal answer for providing us with stimulating and enjoyable working environments when needed. For some of us, having somewhere to go is beneficial and needed, so this option always remains available to us all. But not being constrained by a rigid structure is an important step forward and feels like a step forward.
Propelled by events, we are following a new strategic direction, which is modern, flexible and resilient, and fills us with confidence. But it wasn’t supposed to happen.