Heading back to the office

24 August 2020 5 min read
Written by

Lorna Hopkins

With the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions and after a comprehensive programme to make the Mobas office secure, the Mobas team has begun to return to our Cambridge office. The new working week for Mobas consists of split days, Monday and Friday at home, Tuesday – Thursday in the office.  As we come to the end of our first month back, three team members share their opinions on the transition back into the office after 20 weeks at home and the five lessons we’ve learned along the way to help you reflect on heading back to the office. 

Lorna Hopkins - Head of Client Services
After such a long period working remotely, it’s been refreshing to return to some form of normality during the working week. As a team, we have adapted just as quickly to ‘the new normal’ as we did going into lockdown with little notice. Lockdown gave us time to reflect on ways to increase efficiency in our working day, review processes and push to be as paperless as possible - all things we’ve managed to maintain in our return. The split week of working at home and being in the office allows you to balance the needs of ‘quiet’ time and bouncing ideas off each other. As a manager, being able to sit face to face with my team has helped to refocus the mind, both on the business objectives for the remainder of the year and with their own personal development. The biggest change I have noticed is less ‘digital fatigue’ come the end of the week, hopefully we can see clients before the end of the year too! 

Carl Banks – Digital Marketing Manager
From my perspective, the positives to a split week come from the ability to manage your time better. You utilise the office-based days to cover your weekly meetings, creative brainstorms and general catchups, this leaves the home-based days to focus on your weekly tasks, client work and key reports. I’m someone who thrives in isolation where I can be analytical and focus on the data analysis side of my role, but I’ve found a level of appreciation for those days where I am back in the office and can enjoy the face to face meetings with my team and bounce ideas off one another. We all know that the world has changed in the last few months and new processes and ideas are coming through, Mobas is working to find that sweet spot that can build off the great work we’ve seen working from home, whilst maintaining our creative strength which comes from being together in the office.

Greg Bryant - Creative Lead 
For me, the transition back to having office-based days mixed with home-working has been a smooth one. I think it’s really important that, as a creative business, we spend time together as a team and start to have those creative interactions with each other. I’ve really missed personal interaction with people as I find that when my brain is trying to create something, and throwing around ideas I get inspiration from anywhere. Very often that inspiration comes from an everyday conversation with someone, or a phrase that someone says while we’re chatting. These are the things I’ve missed. The home-working days allow me to really focus on projects and concepts, but it’s also important to have the office days so that everyone can see those ideas up on the office walls and I can hear their thoughts or discussions about them. 

If you are starting to transition your teams back to the office, here are five simple steps to ensure a smooth transition. 

  1. Prepare the office 
    The real conundrum to returning to the office is how to address the anxieties of employees and give them confidence that coming back to work will be safe. To do this, take time to make the office safe. Put up clear signage, install hygiene screens and create space to ensure people are both safe and comfortable in their work environment. 
     
  2. Communicate openly and often 
    Rather than spring it on your teams at the last minute, business leaders should communicate in advance when they intend to bring employees back into work. This allows employees to plan for childcare alternatives. It’s important to remain understanding around challenges employees face as a result of the quarantine. For this reason, businesses should keep an open mind and be flexible to individual circumstances.
     
  3. Increase support for your workforce
    These are unprecedented times for everyone and, as a result, people are confused, need help, guidance and want to feel safe. Good advice is scarce so we recommend employers host health and wellbeing workshops and support employees’ mental health. Before opening the office, every Mobas team member was given a small group session on how to keep safe in the office and information on where they can get support and advice to support them and their wellbeing. 
     
  4. Ease your way back in 
    Going from working remotely 100% of the time to working in an office 100% of the time can feel a little jarring—and a lot overwhelming. Instead of jumping in headfirst, see if you can gradually transition into full-time office life. We opted for a phased return with three set days in the office and two at home. For larger businesses, it may be more appropriate to alternate team days to manage the number of people in the office. The key is consistency and keeping people informed. 
     
  5. Focus on the positives and remember why the office is a good place to be 
    A lot of people struggle with the shift from remote to in-office work because they’re concentrating on all the things they enjoyed about working remotely. But if you want a smooth (and ultimately happy!) transition back to work, it’s important to focus not only on the “why” that spurred your move, but also on all the positive opportunities that come along with your new environment.

    Take a glass-half-full approach to your new situation and consciously look for positives in your new day-to-day routine. Working in a creative business means that we are fueled by having likeminded people around us. This is clearly a big advantage to working in an office, however, irrespective of your sector there will be clear advantages that you won’t get when working remotely—and the trick to making the transition easier is to focus on those advantages while not losing sight of some of the benefits working remotely gave too. Take the time to review your working pattern and develop a programme that works for the business and the team.