Creature's 3:2 model can solve ‘remote working vs office’ dilemma

In the first in a series about reimagining the office in a Covid world, the founder of Creature discusses how his agency is striking the right balance.

After nearly six months of a lockdown that we confidently predicted wouldn’t last a day over six weeks (and even *that* seemed crazy), Creature will be returning to the office at the start of September. We won’t, though, be returning in quite the same way. 

To get the basics out of the way upfront, we’re adopting what we’re calling the 3:2 model (shamelessly inspired by the post-lockdown diet I’m now embracing): two days every week where we’re asking everyone to be in the office; and three days where folk can work from wheresoever they choose. 

The office in Hoxton will be there and accessible, so people who struggle to work from home, or who, for whatever reason, just don’t enjoy working from home, don’t have to – but on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, we will continue to be a remote-first business, as we have been since March. 

On Wednesday and Thursday, though, everyone will be in the office, hanging out, and enjoying the impossible-to-replicate buzz of being surrounded by other brilliant, fizzing people.

It’s a pretty simple idea in theory (which will inevitably prove slightly trickier in practice): and rooted in data and experience (and, because we’re us, a healthy dollop of empathy). 

See, while lockdown was tough in a whole heap of ways, it also opened up a whole heap of opportunities, and knocked down a metric ton of barriers. 

Creative reviews that couldn’t possible happen remotely? Turned out they could. 

Pitching without ever being in the same room as your clients? Been there, bought the T-shirt, and issued the press release. 

Client drinks, chemistry meetings, interviews? We built the Horse & Zoom, and made merry with varying degrees of professionalism.

And once you realise that the barriers you’d always assumed were insurmountable aren’t there any more, well, you realise that you have the chance to build something better. 

Something that’s fit for the world we live in. Something that actually works for everyone. And that’s what we’re trying to do.

Back in March, we had to make a pretty binary choice as to how we were going to run the business: micromanage, or a heady combination of clear briefing and trust. 

Needless to say, we went with the latter (apart from anything else, micromanaging is EXHAUSTING), and, to be totally honest, we were amazed at how well it worked. 

We thought lockdown would be a time of stubbornly surviving, and while there have certainly been moments of that, the vast majority of it has been spent watching people thrive. 

And much as I love being in an office – to the point where I’ve written about it in these pages – I, we, everyone started to realise that perhaps we didn’t need to be there all the time.

It turns out that if you empower brilliant people to get the job done in the way that works best for them, rather than the way the industry’s always done it, the job still gets done – often better than it did before. 

Our working theory is that happy people will be brilliant people, and going 3:2 feels like it will give everyone the best of both worlds.

As someone much wiser than I (possibly Danger Mouse?) once said, never let a good crisis go to waste: and we think that, coming out of a genuine global catastrophe, we have the opportunity to build something inclusive. Something progressive. Something exciting, with the people that make Creature what it is at its heart.

We know it’s not going to be straightforward. Clients all seem to like the idea, but the reality may prove more challenging. 

We think we’ve cracked the “who has keys” problem, but the proof will be in the pudding. 

And while we’re all relatively proficient in video-conferencing, there’s no way we’re not going to forget that we’re on mute from time to time.  

But the past six months have shown us that anything is possible if it has to be: and from where we’re sitting (which is, joyously, in lots of different places), building an industry that works for everyone, not just the people that have always worked in it, feels pretty close to an imperative. Wish us luck.

Dan Cullen-Shute is the chief executive and founder of Creature

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