How to Support Your Team's Return to the Office This Fall
This fall, many leadership teams are navigating the tricky decision of whether or not to return to in-person work. The past year and a half of working remotely has put into place the necessary processes to support virtual teams and many employees have grown to appreciate the added flexibility that working from home offers.
While we do see a return to office spaces, the ways in which teams are using these offices have drastically changed. There are several models for flexible office spaces.Office hoteling is one way in which companies are maintaining agility and flexibility while offering resources and amenities to support their employees.
Building a Business for Remote
Justin Wedes is the CEO of Flow Video, a full service creative video production and live event company based in the metro Detroit area. Flow Video produces short films, advertisements, commercials, and fundraising videos. They can also support virtual events and hybrid events with their live streaming services.
As the head of the company, Wedes has navigated bringing his team back to the office. He signed up for an office membership to provide a creative and innovative space for his team to gather and network with like-minded creative professionals.
Wedes started his own marketing agency in New York City before moving back to Detroit in 2014, just as the city was coming out of bankruptcy. He saw a lot of potential in the city for entrepreneurs who were looking to build their businesses, and for community activists and organizers who wanted to ensure that the city was a better place post-bankruptcy.
When he brought his company to Detroit, he connected with Amanda Lewan, the founder of Bamboo, and joined as a coworking member in the downtown Detroit location. During his time there, he met a lot of people and expanded his network.
A few years later, Wedes was invited to join Flow Video as a Director of Growth. He brought a marketing and design strategy background to the video production company. Wedes loves video as a way to tell stories and believes it is the strongest marketing tool that companies can leverage.
Like many companies, Flow Video was initially caught off guard by the COVID-19 pandemic that caused companies across the world to alter the way they conduct business. The question of how they could continue to film and produce videos for clients while keeping everyone safe, remained.
Fortunately, the company had always had some remote employees across cities, so having the team go fully remote didn’t require a major shift in work. Flow Video has remained fully remote since the start of the pandemic and has no plans to require a 5-day, in-office schedule. Fittingly, as a video company, the whole team feels comfortable with conducting business remotely over video platforms.
Finding Creative Solutions
While the Flow Video team felt comfortable embracing a remote work environment, one barrier remained: most of the video production work required in-person interaction. Following the start of the pandemic, clients were still interested in finding ways to safely produce video content. Thus, the Flow Video team needed to find some solutions.
They started by creating a protocol to identify the best practices for video production within the constraints of the pandemic. This involved shipping out broadcast kits, including microphones and lighting equipment, to clients who wanted to film from their home. Once their clients received all of the equipment, the Flow Video team explained over video how to set everything up.
During the pandemic, they also started a remote talk show (The Flow Show) that included a full HD camera set up. The show was a multi-person live talk show that lifted people’s spirits during a time of isolation. Clients started asking about how Flow could help them do something similar to connect with their customers remotely.
Using Video to Overcome the Limitations of Social Distancing
Suddenly, everyone wanted to livestream. The pandemic had presented a new business opportunity for Flow Video who experienced an uptick in demand for their services. In response, Flow Video built out a new branch of business focused on live streaming that has become one of the fastest growing products for the company today, even as companies start to return to in-person gatherings.
For many, live streaming provides an opportunity to expand their reach and ensure accessibility of events. Hybrid events are on the rise and have become one of Flow Video’s most popular products. Flow Video works with their customers to produce both the live elements of events (including audio, sound, and lighting) as well as the livestreaming to ensure that virtual attendees have an experience that is just as good if not better than attending in-person.
Returning Back to the Office
Returning back to the office part-time was a natural desire among employees seeking a space to gather safely. Wedes surveyed his team about getting an office at Bamboo. From the survey, he quickly realized that their old space wasn’t serving the needs of the team.
Mostly, the team needed flexibility. They wanted the flexibility to come in and out of the office whenever they needed, to pick up and return equipment, and to meet with people in well-designed spaces that aren’t boring or drab. Providing this kind of flexibility was very important for Wedes because he understood that finding a work life balance is hard enough, let alone amidst a global pandemic.
As a leader, it is important to conduct surveys and to ask team members what their needs are, rather than assuming you know what’s best. By asking outright how you can support your team to be most productive with returning to an office, you will be able to make informed decisions regarding space.
As a father in a young family, I know that work and life balance is already hard enough, and with a pandemic, it’s even tougher. So I wanted to make it easy for my people to work remotely or come into the office on their own schedule.”
Providing a Flexible Solution
The Flow Video team has the choice to come in to the office when needed, but it is never required. Employees are welcomed to attend meetings remotely or in person.
Wedes loves the surprise of seeing who is in the office and the variety of seeing different people each time. As people develop their own routines, he trusts they will do what they need to be productive.
While some people love the flexibility of working from home, others have grown to miss the in-person experience of working with colleagues in an office setting. Wedes recognizes that some people, who like the routine and familiarity of being in a certain space, do better in an office setting. As the team grows, Wedes remains open to expanding their office footprint as needed.
“I want to serve the needs of my team members so they can serve the needs of our clients. Bamboo has helped us to accomplish that”
Overall, the Flow Video team has responded very positively to this flexible work solution. One of his team members mentioned how refreshing it is to get out of the house and be creative in a new space. Generally, providing an office option has lifted people’s spirits. Having an office out of Bamboo has provided Flow Video with a bright, dynamic, centrally-located and friendly environment to be creative, to meet with clients, and to collaborate.
“The world has changed and our company is better for it. We collaborate more and spend more face time together over video chat... we have social gatherings to get the team together informally to connect”
Building Culture for Hybrid Teams
While in-person gatherings are important for building company culture, they shouldn’t be forced. Wedes has found that the company culture actually improved during the pandemic. Team members had to be creative and find new ways to intentionally connect.
At Flow Video, there are three core values: integrity, excellence, and joy. For Wedes, joy is the most important piece. When you can find joy in your work, it isn’t work any more. Wedes checks in with his team members weekly and challenges them to find joy in their work everyday. He wants them to feel supported and to know early on if there’s an issue that needs to be fixed.