Carol Levine, CEO and Co-Founder of energi PR, shares her thoughts on the virtual workplace.
In a recent Ad Week article, Dave Lafond, co-founder and CEO of No Fixed Address talked about the company’s business model stating, “We report to client problems, not offices. We don’t care about opening up a city or an office, per se.” He also talked about the notion of “liberation” – about creating a dynamic where creativity and autonomy have free reign.
I thought about this in terms of my own experience as an agency co-founder and owner. In the day, my business partner and I saw ourselves as mavericks, expanding west of our hometown of Montreal and opening an office in Toronto without the safety net of a parent company. In those days especially, the price of admission to winning national and multi-national business were bricks and mortar and an address in the right part of town. We made the decision to expand to Toronto after feedback from a prospective client that we needed a local presence. That meant paying rent and hiring a local team.
Over the years we debated the importance attributed to physical offices, the numbers of employees and even revenue thresholds in assessing an agency’s reputation and street credentials. These elements fed into a commonly held belief that bigger was better.
Today, such metrics are meaningless to me as we remain stuck in the pandemic, and where a prestigious address doesn’t account for much, except for its squeeze on the bottom line.
The past 18 months have been an awakening in terms of what makes a business successful. I was curious about how it would feel to declutter what we do. Will the corporate Marie Kondo please step forward?
Who uses letterhead and envelopes anymore? The clunky copier machine and shelves of office supplies have laid dormant for more than a year and a half. Who needs all that stuff? I “see” clients more often on Zoom than I could have ever in person, though this is by no means an endorsement of the platform or my desire to avoid in-person meetings when it becomes safe. But in hindsight, did I really need to book a last-minute flight for one casual lunch meeting? Does that make our business better or appear more engaged?
On the subject of human resources, the world is now our oyster. Who cares if incredible talent lives halfway across the country? We can make it work! Flexibility and accommodation are the new normal.
Commuting a few hours from a distant part of the city, once a barrier for those wanting to work for a great downtown communications agency is no longer a deal breaker. Work from home has not only become acceptable but has proven effective. As owners and managers, we can build incredibly smart, expansive, and specialized teams in ways that meet the needs of our employees, our clients, and ourselves.
Some people find relaxation in a game of golf, meditation or on a beach. I on the other hand strangely seem to decompress best while purging and organizing kitchen cupboards, bedroom closets, even an entire storage locker. Just as I find freedom in decluttering on the home front, decluttering business, particularly after what I’ve observed during the COVID pandemic, has created the potential for psychological and tactical liberation, leaving more space for creativity and energi. A welcome relief in all the right ways.