Alongside the return of pub garden pints, it also signals the much-anticipated return to work for many businesses across the UK. Throughout lockdown, our spaces have stayed open to support our members who cannot work from home. Over the past weeks, we’ve felt the building excitement and anticipation across the innovation ecosystem, and (socially distanced) buzz in our breakout spaces again, with new members joining and familiar faces returning.
One of those Huckletree old hands is Huckletree Ancoats members, Regital. Founded in 2011, they spotted the potential power of programmatic marketing early on and have gone on to build a high performance team which identifies new customers and creates conversion for clients including Gymshark, Rixo, Dr Martens and Mediacom. As they begin a staggered, celebratory return to our flagship Manchester workspace, I caught up with Studio Manager Sam for the inside track on how they navigated the challenges of WFH, their perspective on the future of work and the big business challenge they’re tackling in 2021.
For many businesses, the almost-overnight move to working from home was a shock to the system - and systems (“Sorry, you’re still muted!”). Others, however, had already had a taste of hybrid working, as Sam shares:
"We are somewhat fortunate at Regital, as we've always been flexible and the team were used to working remotely and at home long before the pandemic. It was relatively straightforward for us to go fully remote, without operational impact. At first there were naturally some adjustments when everyone started working from home all at once, but we quickly found a rhythm for regular touch points to keep connected, and we got used to seeing temporary work stations on kitchen tables, living rooms and in sheds.”
Whilst the physical transition may have been frictionless, for many, the biggest challenge was isolation. In our 2020 survey of 200+ founders and startup talent, 89% reported missing their workmates whilst working from home - something that resonates with Regital’s experience. Culture is hugely important to the team (keep up with their new hires, birthdays and behind the scenes at HQ here) and they placed an emphasis on maintaining that bond, despite physical distance:
“We worked really hard in the early days of lockdown to reach out to one another. Sometimes that was planned, but it's also been great to see the team connect with each other informally and support each other with WFH Workouts, Virtual Meditation Sessions and other staff initiatives. Overall I'd say culturally we've become more respectful of each other during lockdown.”
It’s an interesting phenomenon of lockdown life. Whether it’s Zoom-background glimpses into bedrooms or surprise guest appearances from puppies/pets/housemates, we’ve all become more aware of our colleagues’ lives. A more nuanced appreciation of our workmates’ home life, and simply missing them, can definitely lead to more respectful working relationships. However, the intangible bond built by face-to-face time can’t be 100% replaced with virtual socialising. Sam shares:
“Some things we simply haven't been able to replicate as effectively remotely despite our best efforts. Wellness Wednesday is our midweek pick-me-up designed to focus our attention on health, happiness and work-life balance. It's a hugely important part of our culture, where we focus on communicating with one another and taking some time out. We've kept it going during lockdown, but it's very much a communal gathering kind of vibe, and something that will benefit hugely from taking place physically once again.
It's fair to say we're quite a social bunch, and while we've done the ubiquitous 'Zoom Drinks' and Virtual Team Building Socials (including a virtual magic show that was first-rate), I think we'd pretty much all agree that we're all looking forward to face-to-face get togethers being back on the agenda.”
As we hit one year in lockdown, the sentiment around working from home began to shift noticeably. Initially hailed as the future of work, with doomladen proclamations for the coworking industry, over the past few months, more employers are reappraising the benefits of in-person work. Just last week, 15% of JP Morgan staff returned to its London office, Goldman Sachs reportedly expects in-person attendance to rise to 20% within 6 weeks and Google brought forward the date for workers’ return to work. Crucially, the tech giant announced that any employees wishing to work from home for more than 14 days from September will need to apply to do so. A big shift in gear, but one that takes into account that there’s more to the office than desks and coffee on tap.
Working from home is brilliant for tackling deep work and solo strategizing. It’s for reflection, introspection, and requires a lower dial of energy. Our workspaces are about high energy, speed, impact and decisiveness. They’re spaces to come together, collaborate, creatively ideate and grow your team culture. Put simply: different environments suit different types of work. This is definitely true for Regital:
“What this past year has shown is that work is a thing you do - not where you do it. Maybe that's not the case for every business, but it is for us. The idea of ‘the office’ has changed and it’s no longer simply the place we go to work every day. That's why it's great to be based in Huckletree. As well as being in an amazing part of the city, there's a genuine community feel to the place. Moving forward we'll operate a mix of office and home-working. We want that choice and flexibility. It's good for our staff, the business, and our clients.”
2021 is the year to get stuck into it with renewed urgency, enthusiasm and optimism. Regital’s big challenge for the year ahead:
“Digital advertising is going to go through a seismic change this year, as we’re moving towards a more private web. Cookies and how advertisers track you on an individual basis are being phased out by Google. It’s huge news in our industry, and will change digital marketing forever.
At Regital, we’ve been planning for the demise of the cookie for a long time. Our data partner, (and fellow Huckletree resident), Skyrise Intelligence, is privacy-by-design without using cookies or identifiers, powered by mobile network data, so we are way ahead of the game on this one. 2021 will be a massive year for us as we help our clients prepare for the changes and to get in front, by integrating mobile telco-data into everything we do.”
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