"Since Friday, March 13, 2020 09:00, the entire digitalwerk team has been in home office. We are proud that the transition was so smooth and that our 30 new locations from Carinthia to Burgenland to Bratislava are working so excellently and professionally."
Those were the first lines in the internal digitalwerk Channel even before the official lockdown that followed on March 16, 2020, and left Austria's economy holding its breath. A lot has happened since then. Not only has the world around us changed significantly – so have we as an agency. With a new structure and a New Work philosophy, we have found a contemporary, flexible approach to respond to developments and needs.
In concrete terms, this means more freedom and trust for and in everyone: we have freed ourselves from fixed attendance times (with the exception of important client appointments and presentations in person). At the same time, the agency structure was reduced in its complexity and the management of daily business was transferred to a newly established operational management.
The office is dead, long live the office!
The office has had its day, office space is being given back, workplaces are being shared, the public has been talking for months about new work approaches, efficiency, home office as a winner and the "death" of the classic office. We wanted to find out more and conducted an anonymous survey at digitalwerk.
We asked our employees:
At digitalwerk, 59.1% prefer a mixed model of home and office. We can make this possible at digitalwerk thanks to strict hygiene and COVID-19 testing procedures. Of course, we also asked about the reasons for this – here are excerpts from the answers:
What’s very surprising: only 4.5% want a pure home office arrangement. Social contact with the team is an important factor – for all the love of video calls and the possibilities of digital communication, personal interaction remains the glue of an agency. Interpersonal relationships and a high degree of freedom and flexibility are the most important aspects of a modern company culture. Of course, this part comes as little surprise to us.
We were a bit surprised by the answer to the question of where work is more efficient: 45.5% work more efficiently in the office, 36.4% in hybrid mode and only 13.6% in the home office. "Less distraction", "direct exchange" and "more creative work" are the votes for the office. The fact that the first point in particular depends strongly on the life circumstances is shown by the reason given for the hybrid solution in second place: "Concentration at home is higher after all".
There are different work types that are influenced by a variety of factors. One's own health, long commutes, full public transportation can be a reason to feel more comfortable in a home office. Clear separation between private and professional environment, short coordination paths, the social contact and the fun in the common teamwork on the other hand are reasons for the office. As an employer, you could argue for the solution that involves the fewest distractions and the fastest processing of to-do lists. But we do not live such a corporate culture. Therefore, a universally suitable solution can only be one: let the employees make their own decisions. We are convinced that this is the best way to achieve results. For our employees, but also for our clients. True excellence comes from dialog, discussion and personal contact. And especially in times of Corona, personal contact with colleagues has become a social highlight.
Another important component is the agency's technical equipment – and we don't just mean laptops or cell phones. It's about using current technological possibilities to organize teamwork in such a way that everyone benefits from it, both technically and socially. From agency software to kitchen equipment, from the right coffee to the choice between Apple or Windows/Android hardware. Of course, not everything is perfect in a new office. Indoor climate and temperature control is one of the bigger challenges for our office technology. But we are (very) satisfied with over 90.9% and more than happy.
New work also means new structure with a downsizing to three teams: Creation, Digital Marketing Management and Account Management. Breaking down old silos allows us to work more agilely and efficiently. A diverse management team runs operations, while the founders focus on internal consulting and providing the right infrastructure and framework.
The evaluation of this question shows us that the direction is right, and our decision meets with broad approval with over 70% – but of course must be seen as an ongoing process that requires a lot of commitment and perseverance. As in any transformation process, you don't reach your goal overnight, and we too still have room for improvement in communication and the allocation of roles and resources. An agency is a "people business" and the topic of "leading and coaching" as well as our own "OKRs – Objectives and Key Results" will be essential topics in 2021 in order to be able to live planned scaling.
After one year of Corona, we see our New Work approach confirmed and were quite surprised that the office is not dead in 2021 – on the contrary: the hype around the home office could at least be disproved for us. The new freedom to create an optimal working environment supports personal responsibility and trust in the system and the employees.