What does future look like for agencies after lockdown?

Ben BushbyMany companies and industries are now starting to look to the future and plan how their business will cope with the next stage of the Covid-19 pandemic. We’re receiving regular Government updates and are finally starting to see the easing of some lockdown rules. While the route back to normal is not yet obvious, what does seem clear is that social distancing is going to be something we’ll be living with for the foreseeable future.

Like most businesses, digital agencies have felt the effects of the pandemic – clients postponing projects and cutting marketing budgets, the challenges of embracing the working from home lifestyle, and the struggles of collaborating with team members. However, they have remained resilient and adaptive to the situation we’ve been forced into. But what does the future look like?

Firstly, it looks like the return to the office is going to be a slow one, and even when people do start returning, it will be staggered. Most agencies have proven it is not a necessity to work in a traditional workplace in order to deliver great work. But what is missing is the fact agencies thrive off working together closely, through collaborating and sharing ideas. Of course, it is possible for us all to connect via Hangouts and Zoom meetings, but nothing beats getting round a table, scribbling on post-it notes and whiteboards, and creating meaningful digital experiences for our clients.

But the human need to share space and collaborate will always be present, and I, for one, can’t wait for the time when we can come together once again.

Flexibility has been key to success during lockdown. Many have had to integrate the role of teacher, carer, and therapist into their everyday working lives. The traditional “9 to 5” has already become a thing of the past (especially for those in agencies), and Covid-19 has strengthened the case for us adopting a more flexible working setup for the future.

In addition to this, the ability of digital agencies to be agile in their approach to building and maintaining relationships with clients at this time has been a learning curve. But it’s a challenge which most have taken in their stride. Agencies devote lots of energy to getting close to their clients, which has been challenging for everyone. In many ways the last few weeks have been a great leveller – all those glittering office buildings sitting empty while relationships are still being built on laptop screens at makeshift desks. And none of this would be possible if it wasn’t for the adaptability of our people.

Office spaces and places of work have been ghost towns over the past few months. And with social distancing measures here to stay for the foreseeable – at least in some guise – it seems the safest bet for everyone is to continue to work from home where possible. This does pose the question – “is the traditional office set-up really necessary?”.

The argument is that as an industry we have proved we can succeed without it, so as we evolve, the requirement of the office should as well. Businesses are already predicting that they will abandon up to a fifth of their office space and are exploring new ways of working which have seen increases in productivity.

Giving our team the ability to work in a way that suits them and gets the best results for our clients has always been the focus. In the future, we’ll continue to support flexibility and working from home but we’re also proudly a collaborative business and a lot of our best output comes when we get around a table together. With that in mind, we’ve set about building a new office environment that is less focused on individual desks and more focused on creating the best collaborative spaces.

It is clear that this pandemic already has and will continue to change the way in which agencies approach everything they do. Our people’s passion, innovation and perseverance has been paramount for getting us to where we are today, and will continue to be the driving force behind our success. While the future working space is going to change dramatically, the ability to be agile and the flexibility we possess stands us in good stead.

Ben Bushby is people manager at Organic

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