Head in the #workcloud

By Martin Brooks, CEO, Work Club

With predictions of Olympic meltdown at London Bridge (our local tube station) we thought this could be a good time to test whether a creative business really needs a physical hub… or could it be run in the cloud?
Work Club is a 6o-person digital creative agency with clients like Heineken, BBC, Kraft and BT, made up of creative, designers, strategists, producers, techies and a bunch of other people who combine to come up with big digital ideas for our clients. Could they continue to work together, remotely?

As a digital agency focused on understanding how consumers embrace digital culture, it stands to reason that we at Work Club should walk the walk ourselves and demonstrate our own commitment to technology. It would hardly be the greatest leap in any case, as we were already well versed in using tools like Google Hangouts, Google Docs, DropBox and VPN as well as Gmail and phone.

So we decided to go for it, and during the first week of the Olympics we closed the physical agency, a 6000 square ft ex-hop warehouse near Borough Market and forced all employees to work remotely, either at home, or in a convenient spot that worked for them. The theory being that going completely virtual would free up peoples’ creativity. Less time stuck on the underground means more time having ideas.
We expected to learn a lot from this trial week, and we were open to failing a bit.
So, did it work? Yes and No.

The week shocked everyone in the agency (from finance people to creatives) into learning about, and using the tools fully and properly. It was great for task-based stuff (our office is open-plan so it can be very hard to concentrate). A hashtag soon made its way onto Twitter, with #workcloud featuring in tweets that bragged of comfy workstations, delicious home-prepared lunches and crucially, of productivity.

The general consensus was that concentration genuinely soared, people could focus better, and this meant faster and more autonomous working. Prizes were suggested for those who managed to leave the country without any discernible drop in productivity. And although no-one actually tried it, healthy competition on the most inspiring remote workplaces developed. The best “office” at the start of the week went to a trendy East London bike café.

Personally, I hated it.
I’m far from being a Victorian boss, but I think it’s really important to catch people doing stuff right as well as wrong. Agency life isn’t very structured – a lot of the best stuff happens randomly, and I don’t just want to see everyone’s focused on the right stuff, I want to see sparks flying, I want to hear smart builds on daft thoughts – and above all, I want to see passionate people smiling, sparring, shouting and shoving.

And funnily enough it looked like the club agreed, since slowly but surely as the trial week went on, mini work-clubs started to cluster in people’s kitchens and living rooms…
There’s no doubt that humans thrive and positive cultures grow when people share a creative space. We won’t be closing the office quite yet.

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