It’s been close to 18 months now since I joined Man Bites Dog, making the 260 mile trip from Leeds to become part of the team in the Brighton office. Life was a fair bit different when I started. Excited by the promise of a city-centre working space, I’d turn up for work from Monday to Friday commuting via bike along the seafront. For the past 12 weeks however, much like the rest of the country, I have found myself working from home, having not seen my colleagues in the flesh and with no more bike rides to start the day.
As an avocado-on-toast and craft beer loving millennial, I carry many of the typical traits that made the idea of working for Man Bites Dog an attractive prospect in the first place; I enjoy flexibility, I’m environmentally-conscious, and I’m technologically savvy. Man Bites Dog values flexible working and is understanding of the challenges we face, not just in the workplace, but in our home lives too. We’re very much equipped with the technology we need to do award-winning work, and we are environmentally conscious, something that stretches far beyond our recycling efforts in the office, but to our work with our clients as well.
These company morals have meant that, fortunately, the transition from the office to working-from-home has been seamless, with only the odd technical difficulty and the popular feeling of ‘Zoom fatigue’ attempting to stand in our way. The attitude of the business has been to put our health and safety first, meaning that although a return to the office is under discussion, there’s no pressure on us to make an immediate decision.
As we pass the three-month mark of what has now very much become the ‘the new normal’, it’s given us time to reflect on how we like to work, and what we see the future of work looking like. Of course, there’s so much we miss about how our working lives used to look. As visitors to our Brighton office will know, it is a fantastic space to meet and collaborate, as well as being a great social space. Additionally, our office is home to plenty of ideas brainstorms, and importantly, office biscuits.
As the light begins to appear at the end of the tunnel, with a return to the office on the horizon, we have been reflecting on the last three months and what we have learnt from consistent working-from-home.
For my colleague Sabrina Mundy, a Senior Consultant at Man Bites Dog, no longer having to commute from home to the office has opened up hours of free time. “On average I probably have four hours extra a day, which has allowed me to do a lot more exercise - mostly running - as well as a lot of baking too!” That’s a fifth of Sabrina’s day that’s been freed up by the forced change to her working schedule, which is a significant amount of time that she has put to good use, even if we haven’t been able to enjoy her recent bakes just yet!
For Megan Reynolds, Consultant, who joined Man Bites Dog after lockdown had begun, working from home has brought her some surprising advantages. “It goes without saying that there have been obvious disadvantages to starting a job during such strange times, but home working has meant I’ve been able to settle into my new home and focus on getting everything ready for when we return to the office. Being able to start working in the office feeling settled and already a part of the Man Bites Dog team (thanks to many virtual meetings) means I can hit the ground running without all of the distractions that come with relocating and starting a new role.”
Man Bites Dog embraced home-working prior to the pandemic. Many members of the pack would spend a day or so at home, while others would be out of the office for longer stretches to cater for periods such as school holidays. On the flipside however, the majority of the pack chose to work from the office regularly, which was of course, encouraged. But with the forced shift in working patterns proving not only to be possible, but also practical, and the change to our day highlighting the potential benefits of working from home for staff, it begs the question of what new behaviours we’ve learnt and how we want to work moving forward.
I, for one, felt unsettled by the prospect of working from home initially, more for my comfort than anything else. With no designated spot to work from in my flat, and with my three other flatmates now also needing to work from home too, questions I’ve never considered since working at Man Bites Dog started to crop up, with the main one being “Where am I going to sit?”
With the help of our IT director Steve, and the luck of finding a sturdy desk free-to-a-good-home on the road a few doors down (I kid you not), I was able to set up my own little space to work, and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. It’s quiet, comfortable and efficient, and I’m enjoying the benefits of being able to cook my lunch at home rather than relying on eating out or packed lunches.
Although many of our staff are seeing real benefits of home working, others are not. For many, going to the office isn’t just a case of going to work, but a place to see friends, socialise and work collaboratively, where we can huddle in a room and scribble our ideas on the wall. The office also provides the perfect place to escape the challenges and distractions of home life, and find a place to focus.
Lauren Street, Principal Consultant, says that working from home and the shut down of the economy has brought new challenges. “Becoming a stay-at-home single parent as well as a full-time worker all at the same time was quite overwhelming at first. It's only due to the flexibility we have as a team and support all round, from the leadership team and from other colleagues, that I was able to make everything work. And now that my son has been able to go back to nursery it’s relieved pressures further. I am looking forward to being able to return to the office to have face-to-face interactions with colleagues again, and resume my work and home-life balance.”
For the near future, the office will of course not serve the same purpose as it did when we left it. Many restrictions will be in place, including one-way systems, hand sanitising stations at every corner, and restrictions on how many people are able to work in the office at once. But one thing is for sure, when the day arrives the reopening of the office will be a welcome boost for everyone at Man Bites Dog. Only time will tell what it’s purpose will be moving forward, but I, for one, look forward to working my way through those office biscuits again!