How to hybrid

The changing face of the agency office.

The migration to working from home has been a defining aspect of the pandemic. 

The shift has led to much debate on what the future of work will look like in boardrooms and living rooms alike. Are we as effective while working from home? Will we ever go back to the office full-time? Do we want to?

The answer is subjective. For some people, it feels like working from home. For others, it feels like living at work. 

We do know that working from home has made us more productive. According to a new study, despite mass uncertainty and disruption, the work-from-home era has caused a minor productivity boost of 5% in the U.S.

But working from home is not for everyone. Businesses including Goldman Sachs have made it clear they view the new normal as an ‘aberration.’ On the other hand, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have made work from home a permanent option.

For agencies, a hybrid model may be the best way to operate in the new normal, as it allows us to cater to the needs of staff, while providing a basecamp for colleagues to come together.

At Croud, we have operated on a hybrid model for ten years. As we’ve evolved and grown, we’ve accrued key learnings about how to strike the right balance to make the model work for you and your people.

You can’t wing it 

The initial pandemic hit was a true test of business ‘agility.’ But amidst the scramble for Zoom logins and Slack accounts, agencies demonstrated a remarkable resilience and ability to swiftly adapt. But don’t mistake this for a fool-proof plan. To make a hybrid model work, you need the right infrastructure to support your team wherever they are. 

Clients and employees will have different expectations once the world opens up again. They will expect the right systems and technology in place to manage projects, workflow, office rotations and all the other moving parts of business. At Croud, we developed our own proprietary technology, Croud Control, to manage remote staff properly. No agency can “wing it” anymore – all processes must be formalized. 

Recognize and reward staff first 

Your staff need to be properly recognized and rewarded for work — whether in the office or not. 

In a 2015 study from China, researchers found that while people working from home were 13% more productive, they had a 50% lower rate of promotion after 21 months compared to in-office colleagues.

A 2019 paper from the University of California revealed that being observed by others while at work resulted in positive outcomes for employees “because it is a strong signal of their commitment to their job, their team and their organization.”

People are not commodities. Agencies must recognize that all employees are shareholders (whether figuratively or literally) and reward every member of staff for their role, whether they are in the office or not. This includes allowing staff to recognize one another. We launched Croud Coin, a peer-to-peer giving system where staff can reward colleagues with coins each month that they can use to redeem prizes. Ninety-three percent of our staff receive these coins monthly. 

Equally, successful agencies will listen to  the new concerns and anxieties staff may have upon returning. Support your staff with benefit packages, particularly within healthcare and financial, as the past year has shaken people on these fronts. 

Change is the only constant

Agencies need to set themselves up for the unexpected — whether that’s losing a big client, winning a huge project or learning to work from home overnight.

If the last year proved anything, it’s that no one can plan for what’s around the corner. Agencies need to be able to move quickly, whether by outsourcing to partners for changing client demands, or creating systems to support teams when big projects come in. If your business model is not set up to think three steps ahead, then it will lead to overwhelmed staff and poor quality work. The Croudie network model, which allows us to scale up and down without putting too much burden on existing teams, was developed for this reason.

The only constant in business is change, and agencies need to be ready to embrace it. 

Kris Tait is U.S. managing director at Croud.

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