Three lessons learned from restructuring a company in a time of change
It took two years to build an office for my marketing consultancy, and now, my team might be out of it in a few months. If this seems like an extremely quick pivot, that's because it is.
But what I’ve learned as a CEO (and in life in general) is that it’s important to always stay nimble. This is what I’ve done in the past to be successful, and this is why I’m making the decision to pivot the way my company operates now and transition to operating remotely 100% of the time as we move in the direction of a post-pandemic landscape.
The status quo
Since I started Hawke Media six years ago, we’ve come out of the digital marketing gates hot. Moving to our new headquarters less than two years ago has really helped us push employee performance and satisfaction to a new level.
At the time, I saw that open-floor office plans were growing in popularity, and I wanted my business to be one of the first digital marketing agencies on board. After much research, my team and I decided to eliminate cubicles to create a better sense of community and foster employee cooperation, innovation and creativity.
While collaboration was important to us, we also wanted to create rooms around the open area for breakout sessions, meetings with clients and offices for executives, all with clear glass windows. This left us with a happy medium between open-air office space, closed-off cubicles and executive areas.
But when the pandemic hit, we needed to shift our business model quickly. Within two days, stay-at-home orders were in place, and my employees were out of the office and working from home. I instructed employees to do what they’ve always done: Act as a voice of reason for our clients.
While my team has stayed close and in sync thanks to daily video calls (and, let's be honest, by having multiple calls per day), today's workforce is facing great uncertainty. You’re lying to yourself if you’re denying that there’s a lot going on outside the workplace. We in the middle of not only a global pandemic, but also a large social movement.
It’s important to keep teams healthy and together and to make work and life as easy as possible for them right now. This is why I’ve been encouraging my employees to take mental health days if needed and foster deeper discussions during this time. This is also why I've been working on restructuring my company so that it can continue operating remotely permanently. Here's what I’ve learned along the way:
Let your people decide what's next.
I’ve discovered even more about open-air office spaces in the past few months and years. Not only do open workspaces present new challenges to maintaining social distancing, but they also aren't the be-all and end-all of productivity. In fact, there's been a 20 percent increase in productivity at my company since employees have been working remotely.
With this in mind, my team is working on answering the same question many other companies are facing right now: Do we stay in a traditional office space or modify our approach in the new work-life paradigm?
Employees are our most valuable asset, so I decided to ask my team their thoughts. It turns out that 80 percent of my employees want to continue to work remotely in the future. This was important to learn because it helped inform my decision moving forward. It’s important to listen to employees as you work together as visionaries to ensure your team can grab new opportunities as they arise.
Consider what the future of a post-pandemic workspace looks like for you.
Twitter and Facebook might have been the first large tech companies to announce their permanent work-from-home status, which I see as groundbreaking for the tech industry. If you work in a different field, you might think you're not able to make the shift. But you can still make waves within your own industry if your company is considering going remote. To me, there’s certainly a benefit to being groundbreaking in your industry, both for business coming in and company morale.
For example, regarding my company, a medium-sized, full-service digital marketing consultancy, our competitors haven’t announced whether they’ll permanently work from home, but that didn't stop us. I'm now considering how we might be able to expand the business into other cities across the U.S. and add options for small spaces throughout the country to collaborate and bring clients in, if necessary. Depending on your current situation, think about what types of changes you should be making as you navigate the post-pandemic workplace, and don't be afraid to be the first to do it.
Invest back into your people.
In the case of my company, saving money on rent by operating remotely gives us the opportunity to invest more money back into our employees. We'll help them build out their home offices. We’ll have money to throw better in-person events, both internally (think retreats) and externally (think events), once we’re able to do so safely. Ultimately, taking steps like these will help keep company culture strong and maintain the aspect of human connectivity and collaboration.
I wanted to do what makes sense for my company in a post-pandemic landscape, and because we have proven we’re able to do our jobs well completely remotely and keep the culture intact, I’ve taken what my employees have said to heart and once again evolved the way we operate.
While you have to do what makes sense for your company, I encourage you to reach out to your most valuable asset — your people — and to think ahead and stay on the cutting edge. And don’t be afraid to take risks.