As the co-founder of a business born in the midst of lockdown, a big decision within our leadership team has been whether we move into an office once ‘lockdown parameters’ allow.
Although there are key factors (operational and financial) that can result in a hard ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response to that question, the reasoning that you could return to the office doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
The infamous March 2020 global shift to ‘working from home’ revealed the positive and negative realities of a remote workforce. Of course, there had been organisations that had allowed a level of remote-working pre-covid, but it was very much the exception, not the rule. This overnight upheaval created an unprecedented but mandatory experiment as to how quickly organisations could accommodate, or even embrace, change. The result of which was an acceptance for some businesses that a wholly remote or hybrid option of working was, in-fact, preferable for them.
Additionally, employees had a sense of freedom not felt before and the chance to work in a new way. A 2020 TalkTalk study found that 58% of workers in the UK felt more productive whilst working from home. To the contrary, other workers felt the effects of a new phenomenon, ‘zoom fatigue’, and lack of focus due to being removed from the collaboration and culture of a workplace.
So, what is best for your business?
Office-based, strictly working-from-home, or a hybrid approach? The decision can impact profitability, scalability, productivity, and company culture equally in either direction depending on your unique set-up and how you proactively manage the route you take.
Consider the non-negotiables –
Can your team operate remotely?
Critical evaluation number one is whether your business could even operate remotely.
Typically, a remote model is suitable for marketing, IT, customer service and sales operations opposed to manual roles, e.g., manufacturing, engineering or lab-based positions, which cannot be transitioned away from a physical workplace.
Can you afford a permanent office?
Secondary is whether you can actually afford to have an office or permanent location.
If you are pre-revenue or a lean start-up, you may not have a cashflow that accommodates the significant impact of an office and all that comes with it (rent, insurance, utilities, etc). Until you have raised investment or reached a level of profitability, committing to an office prematurely may cripple your business.
If your response to question one was that you do in fact NEED a physical location, then you must work to factor this into your financial planning and even consideration into how much investment you need to raise. Low-risk and low-cost options are now readily available for growing businesses in the form of shared offices and contract manufacturing.
Are you unsure what costs your business can afford? Check out Runway’s piece on financial modelling.
But… what about X, Y and Z?
Our business, like many others, was in the lucky position that could operate remotely and could afford an office… but hadn’t yet landed firmly on either side of the fence.
The decision is rarely straight-forward (as with many business decisions), and you now must face more subjective variables.