From Lockdown to Flexibility


Career, ryan-orton


What does a flexible working policy look like at Orbis?

Flexible working is whatever you want it to be, so ‘flexible working’ for you could involve going to the office five days a week, whereas ‘flexible working’ for me, could mean being at home every day.

It's our choice.

We still have a structured working day, depending on what region we're focusing on. When the office space becomes available again, our plan is to have complete flexibility on where you do your job with compulsory end of day meetings, assuming you're available.

There are weeks where I would like to work from home, and somewhere I would like to work from the office. There are certain characters that will be in the office more than others, and certain characters who work better from home.

Giving people the choice, I would expect to see a mixed bag and I would expect our office to be 30% to 40% on any given day. There will be certain days that I would expect to be busier than others.

I'm equally prepared to be completely wrong on that, that's not an expectation, that's just what I think.

It will be what it will be, is the simple answer.

As a leader within the business, do you have any fears about the flexible working policy?

One could be the lack of a full office; the team might want a culture where everybody's in the office five days a week.

I think that that would worry me slightly.

Is there something that we can do as a business to combat that?

Even the most hardened, committed, office-based worker would honestly admit there are days when they don't want to go to the office. I think the reality is very different. I'd encourage the team to find colleagues who feel the same, then create that environment together.

When you enjoy the office environment, you don’t enjoy the entire day, you enjoy the patches of the day when there is the buzz and the energy. We can coordinate activities across the business, different divisions and different teams, when everyone's got a focus and encouraging those people to come in and do that together during the course of the working week. So, you’re getting that fill of energy that people talk about, which may define part of our culture. You're still getting your fix, therefor you don't miss it as much.

Personally, I think anything you're made to do on a consistent basis, leads you to resent it. Whether you liked it or not in the first place. We've already had experience with people who are really missing the office, however when we've allowed those people to go back into the office, they didn't go in every single day of the week.

How is it going to affect our culture?

Maintaining the culture isn’t the question, it’s ensuring that we continue to improve our culture as opposed to maintain it. We’ve retained values like collaboration and the human approach.

As a group we socialise on occasions and these occasions are more special. Productivity has improved and I don’t feel any less connected to anybody in the business, I feel more connected to everyone. That’s also the case across the board and most noticeably cross borders. From the US to the UK and managing Europe.

Originally I thought it was interrupted by the time difference, but looking back on it, it was actually our communications. We would use the phone whereas now we’ve enhanced our tech and we use video. I feel I have a closer working relationship with the US team, so much so, I don’t feel like they’re in a different country anymore.

How would you define our culture?

Culture is how we communicate, how we work together, how we celebrate our successes. I mean, culture isn’t how often you go out as a collective group and have beers.  Then again, just because we have a flexible working policy doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate success. It doesn’t mean we can’t meet each other or enjoy lunch club and incentives. We can still enjoy the benefits.

One size doesn’t fit all and what might be justified as a great culture to some people, isn’t for others.

We have lots of company meetings, cross divisional meetings, cross geographical meetings, account meetings, and any one person is part of two or three meetings. For an individual in the business, a week of meetings will involve a collection of different people, which means they're gaining exposure and experiences of working closely with more people.

In order to be effective, we've adopted new ways of working, flexible working being one of them and I see much more positives than I do negatives.

It prevents cliques because the right people are involved in meetings, regardless of whether they have more social interaction or less social interaction with those people.

When you're in an office, there is a danger that people will segregate themselves. You’ll have one group go to lunch together, and another go to the gym together. This new way of working has put that to a stop. I’m sure those people can still maintain their friendships, but it’s not at the extent of leaving other people out. I feel this creates a more inclusive environment.

It's improving people. I’m seeing people with better work life balance, better energy, being more insightful and creative. It's not to say that I don't like office space working, I love the opportunity to go into the office and see people, but I look forward to it now.

We're rethinking what good culture looks like in this world and then asking questions about what makes our culture great.

How is it going to affect individuals?

I think it shows people up for who they really are. You get a better view of who they truly are and what they truly want to be and how hard they truly want to work. Simple as that really.

We all need a pat on the back, we all need a strong word every now and then, but not being in the office doesn't eliminate that.

Within the office environment you can drag people along, but you can't drag people along in this world. It would feel highly intrusive for me to constantly video call somebody to see where they are and what they're doing. I don't want to have to do that. It becomes magnified when you put it in a remote sense.

You have to make sure people understand what flexible working is and that it's going to suit them. They have to ask themselves some questions, like how hard would they work?

When you're working from home, all you've got is the evidence of your outputs. When you're in the office, you can just appear very busy.

Are there any negative connotations with flexible working that you would agree with?

I think this might lead to other things, but I'll leave it here… I love the city of London and if everybody moves to a flexible working model, the city will disappear as it exists.

We’ll move back to a much more community approach and there will be smaller pockets of the industry, in terms of localization. We’re moving away from big city type hubs back to a more community-driven type of world, which has got a further reach, a lot more knowledge and a lot more capability. I'd be very sad to see the city disappear as a culture.

That’s from a personal perspective, some people won’t miss the city at all. Some people will be glad to see the back of it! I’ve enjoyed the city and all it brings.