Ep. 17 – Hybrid Working
An interview episode with 6 creative thinkers looking at hybrid working practices.
This season I’m exploring how the pandemic has changed the way they work, the things they’ve done to support their wellbeing and productivity, and where they see things headed with the future of work. In this first episode, we’re looking at hybrid working practices.
Any resources referenced in the episode are listed below the transcript.
Season 3 features the following people:
Catarina King is a dynamic and passionate community builder, and one of the co-founders of coworking space called Society1. https://www.society1.co.uk/
Rashmir Balasubramaniam is an executive coach and strategic advisor to current and emerging female leaders of social innovation and systems change. https://www.rashmir.net/
Amy Young is a senior account manager at ICG, a well-established, award-winning creative agency in the North West of England. https://www.icg.agency/
Garth Dew is a video producer and business owner who helps brands and companies to create marketing and event content. https://www.gdvideo.co.uk/
Ed Matthews-Gentle leads a creative business support programme in Lancashire, and he’s also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. https://www.creativelancashire.org/
James Taplin is an ecologist and innovation consultant for a national innovation agency https://www.ukri.org/ and a writer and bladesmith. https://www.broadcloth.co.uk/
Creating Cadence Transcript – Ep. 17
This is the first episode of season 3 of the Creating Cadence podcast, and I’m experimenting with something new for this short series.
As we slowly start exiting the confines of the pandemic restrictions, I’ve canvassed for thoughts, experiences and opinions from a few people in my network. I was curious to know what people think of distributed or hybrid working, how the pandemic has affected their work, their wellbeing and their productivity; and where they think we may need help to ensure that where we’re headed supports us better than where we’ve just been.
To start, I invited input from 6 people who work in a variety of different sectors and situations. Their connecting thread is that they are all creative thinkers and most work in creative industries.
I asked this panel a specific set of questions, and each episode is a compilation, focusing on their responses to one or two of those questions.
You are going to meet the following people during this series:
Catarina King is a dynamic and passionate community builder, and one of the co-founders of coworking space called Society1.
Rashmir Balasubramaniam is an executive coach and strategic advisor to current and emerging leaders of social innovation and systems change.
Amy Young is a senior account manager at a well-established, award-winning creative agency in the North West of England.
Garth Dew is a video producer and business owner who helps brands and companies to create marketing and event content.
Ed Matthews-Gentle leads a creative business support programme in Lancashire, and he’s also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
and James Taplin is an ecologist and innovation consultant for a national innovation agency.
Please note, these conversations and responses have been recorded in real-world situations, so you may hear the sounds of traffic or roadworks, people chatting in the background, creaky chairs, rustling headphones or random internet connectivity issues.
In this first episode of season 3 of the Creating Cadence podcast, we’re looking at the broader picture and the current trends driving our future of work.
To start, I asked my interviewees for their thoughts about our future of work, based on their context and experiences.
Specifically, I was interested to know where they see things headed in terms of hybrid or distributed working trends? And how these trends are likely to affect both them and the workplace landscape, as well as the way we do business and our working styles.
First up is Rashmir, who considers the need to shift industrial work mindsets to more purposeful ways of working and the lag between companies leading change, and governments and communities being slower on the uptake.
Rashmir is a coach and advisor to women who want to change the world in the way that they uniquely can while doing it in a way that works for them with more flow, joy, impact and fulfilment.
My name is Rashmir Balasubramaniam. And I basically enable those that are leading local, global and cross-sectoral efforts to make our world better in various ways, lead change from the inside out. And also to make the shift, at least what I call to make the shift from force to flow, so that they can be more effective, more creative, more impactful, and also more fulfilled personally and professionally.
So this is an interesting one and because a lot of people are talking about the relative short to medium term, as far as remote working in hybrid working goes. And we’re definitely seeing more and more companies and organisations embracing that, partly because people are demanding it, partly because there’s a business case there for it. And also, partly because in certain industries and sectors, there’s this competition for talent. And of course, you know, wellbeing and mental health have also risen on people’s agenda.
So there’s definitely, I think, some short to medium term trends that we’re seeing, that will continue for some time. The thing that really interests me, though, about the future of work is: is this short term, medium term stuff that we’re seeing is really a stepping stone into a very different way of working.
Basically, you know, right now, it seems to me that we still have a largely industrial mindset when it comes to work. And when it comes to industry and organisations and in the much longer term, I wonder whether we’re going to see organisations being much more purpose driven, and therefore having a much more fluid approach to staffing and teams, you know, one where they’re bringing people together for specific aims, but not necessarily maintaining large bands of employees or even contractors over long periods of time in the way that it has been done in the past.
And I guess I would add that the challenge with this, of course, is I think there are companies that get this, but I’m not sure yet that governments and communities get it. And we see that just in the way that governments have or haven’t really responded to and supported freelancers and people in the gig economy during the pandemic. But that is something that will need to shift, if we’re going to really see a major restructuring of our, our economy and our organisations.
Next we have Catarina whose thoughts focus on the need for flexibility and how businesses like hers can play a big role in helping companies to adapt to, and incorporate, a hybridisation of working styles.
Catarina King is one of the co-founders of Society1 coworking space in Preston, where she is passionate about fostering a friendly and connected community.
I’m Catarina King a cofounder of Society1, a coworking space in Preston. We strive to support our community with quality space and a platform through which our members can achieve their goals and be part of a supportive community.
Looking back over the last year, I definitely think it changed people’s perspectives on the possibilities of how we can all work. The old traditions of the 9-5 office have been challenged.
I’m interested in the idea that some of the styles of work, like working from home, may be here to stay. As well for many companies who had thought that a decentralised office structure were impossible.
I really hope that more employers with teams are able to offer their workforce more flexibility going forward, with things like a combined office model maybe, with some days in the office and some days at home or possibly in shared spaces like ours.
I think coworking could play a huge role in the new way of working. We have seen already that some businesses with small teams have taken the decision to give up their office completely and use Society1 as their office base, so they have a professional space to work in when they want to get out of the house or get together as a team or meet clients, for instance.
I think we can play our role in supporting businesses to keep a form of physical presence, so people who will now work completely remotely using a shared space such as ours, offers them a connection to other people and businesses in the real world, not just virtually.
Whilst the digital world of online systems and video calls is amazing, I think we need to balance out in person interactions for our health and wellbeing above all.
And now we have Ed, a champion of creative industries. Ed reflects on how his sector has responded to the constraints that we’ve faced.
Ed is a connector, a specialist creative advisor and the project lead for Creative Lancashire. He’s also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a champion of creative industries.
I’m Ed Matthews-Gentle. I’m the programme lead at Creative Lancashire, and the strategic lead for cultural and creative industries at Lancashire County Council.
We help everyone who has a creative enterprise, whether you’re a freelancer, whether you’re a large cultural organisation, or a micro-creative business, designer or agency. In Lancashire, we have lots of freelancers, lots of sole traders, lots of small organisations. So our work tends to focus more on developing the practice and careers of individuals.
I actually think that the creative industries as a whole have actually responded really well to, you know, to having to adapt, you know, and to and to have increased reliance on tech. And I do think that the, as a sector, the people who work in the creative industries have always embraced new ideas and technologies, and they’re often at the forefront of that as well.
So, I think, you know, alongside, you know, the obvious things like Zooms and Teams, you know, there’s also been the success stories around Mural and Miro, the virtual whiteboard platforms. And for us, you know, we there’s no way that we could have continued what we were doing in terms of business support, without working with our partners, who deliver the programmes, adopting, and also our users, our network, our audience, you know, being able to engage with those tools as well.
You know, and I think, in some ways, it was easier to do that, because we are the early adopters of tech. I mean, for us, it’s first really, it enabled us to continue a lot of our intensive and one-to-one type business support programmes and services.
Ed also flagged concern about the wellbeing aspect of hybrid working. Although the past year has given some people more quality time with their families, it’s also important to recognise the additional pressure that it has placed on individuals, parents, and particularly women.
In some instances with this new way of working, people have found themselves earning part-time salaries but working more than full-time hours.
In Ed’s words: “It’s important that we don’t just sleepwalk into future situations, where we’re going to find ourselves stressed, overworked, having deadlines and demands that we just can’t fulfil, something that’s really relevant to lots of micro and small businesses, which don’t have that capacity within their organisation to carry that big a load.”
Next is James, who considers how the world might now be ready for localised hubs, a concept he first researched many years ago. He also raises points about how mindsets can change when unexpected constraints are imposed, and what we gain and lose when it comes to distributed working.
James is an ecologist, innovation consultant, connector, writer, bladesmith, swineherd, dreamer, and firm believer that there should be beauty and poetry in everything.
So, my name is James Taplin, I’m an innovation lead in the urban systems team at Innovate UK. So what that practically means is, Innovate U is the UK Business Innovation agency, and it’s my job to try and look at what future living looks like in cities, and how do you improve quality of life for citizens.
The future of work is quite interesting. One, I think it’s probably changed over the course of the last year, I think, a year ago, people would have said. So before it started, everyone thought was impossible the way that we’re working. And that it couldn’t be countenanced. And in our organisation, for example, we’ve had conversations about that, and there was a whole section of the organisation that just couldn’t, it wasn’t possible, that’s not the way it was done wouldn’t be, you know, couldn’t be done.
And then all of a sudden, now overnight, effectively, everybody had to be remote working in distributed working that term out that people could do that. And so I think then, and then for a while, I think everyone thought, Oh, well, this is a really nice way to work. And so let’s keep doing this. And we can all work from home. So why not keep doing it that way.
And I think over the course of last year, there’s been a bit of a shift as people have … they’ve enjoyed it, but they’ve also realised kind of what they’ve lost and what you don’t get.
I think there will be a lot more distributed working. But I think, I think there’s something around the interactions that you need from people and sort of serendipity that means that there’s probably some sort of halfway hybrid, as well.
And whether that’s whether that’s people going into owned offices. So for smaller organisations, I can imagine you wouldn’t have an office, but people aren’t going to want to work at home all the time anyway, what they probably want to do, you probably want to work from some sort of coworking space hub where you can have some degree of sort of human interaction, which you wouldn’t otherwise get at home.
So I’ve been working in sustainability, I guess, for the last 20 years or so. And there was a project we had with HP many years ago, about how to develop some kind of rural working hubs. And it never really took off. because there weren’t enough people, and there wasn’t enough of a reason for it. But now I think there probably is enough a reason for it.
I can now see that being small distributed work hubs, in towns, cities, wherever else it might be. So you don’t have to do the long commute, you can still get the benefit of working together in a kind of a communal or shared space one way or another. Although not necessarily with your own kind of work colleagues. But working in that space, you get the benefit of some sort of coworking.
So I think it will be a hybrid system, but quite how it plays out yet, I think that that story isn’t done yet, which we’ll see when we come to the end of this how people are going to feel. As I say it’s shifted already and I think it will probably shift again.
James also shared some interesting thoughts about innovation and how the pandemic has affected that, which we’ll touch on in a later episode.
Next up we have Amy Young, who shares perspectives from the viewpoint of working in a creative agency and the changes her agency is making to support their team better.
Amy is a Senior Account Manager at Preston-based strategic marketing agency ICG. She has a passion for all things related to the retail industry.
I’m Amy. I’m a senior account manager ICG. ICG is a full service marketing agency, based in Preston. And my role is very client facing. I deal with a number of clients in various sectors covering retail, education, house builders, and kind of you name it, we deal with lots of sectors, we don’t specialise in one sector.
And I’m kind of like the client contact and I liaise with the teams at ICG in terms of delivering our services which which could be anything from creative, branding, digitals, websites, social media and PR, it’s quite a broad spectrum of services that we offer.
Well, I personally, like love being in the office. Like, I think the industry that we work in at ICG, kind of that collaborative process that we have between kind of staff and clients, you know, I do love being in the office. But that being said, having worked at home as well, there is kind of like benefits on that side of things as well, from a, from a kind of getting things done point of view, and also that kind of benefit from, you know, having the option to do more things that are outside of work as well, that kind of like, you know, that flow in with the day.
ICG actually has taken the decision to introduce hybrid working, which is something that’s not been done before, as you know, for the company. And, and that’s kind of been a, been a process that’s being collaborative with, like with staff, and you know, kind of based on like, our needs and requirements that are you know, as we’re coming out of kind of like, you know, post COVID, coming out lock downs and things.
So, I guess we’ve we’ve had to adapt as a business in some, you know, in a number of ways.
The hybrid style of working for the team is kind of it’s been well, it’s been well received, from kind of initial discussions that we’ve had at the agency. And we are trialling three days in the office, and kind of like two days at home, but one of those days at home is still optional, as well.
So there’s quite a lot of like flexibility with, with the process that we’re kind of looking at. And we appreciate that there’s kind of like not one size fits all, in terms of probably how we’re going to be working moving forward. Everyone has got different needs.
And we’ve really got to take in, obviously, we take into account the business practicality side of things. But also there is like the wellbeing side of things as well, which is like really key and, you know.
You know, I live at home, I’ve got a family that some people live on their own, or, you know, people’s different circumstances kind of come into effect with it as well. So hopefully, the balance that we’re going to be offering, of being in the office and being at home, will work for people, you know, in a number of ways that suits them.
Amy also mentioned that adopting this new hybrid way of working appears to be creating confidence in the approach for their clients too. Some of their clients are quite traditional and work in sectors where this style of working previously wouldn’t have been considered. But seeing companies like ICG employing these methods is giving them the confidence to give it go themselves.
Last but not least we get Garth’s point of view on the hybrid approach to working and how it’s likely to support the growth of the gig economy, as businesses change their staffing structures. He also shares a personal perspective on what both has and hasn’t worked for him as an entrepreneur and micro business owner during this time.
Garth Dew is a father, video producer and the owner of GD Video. He also enjoys reading and exercise.
I’m Garth Dew, I run a video production company called GD video. We create commercials, documentaries, and live streams for brands, agencies and platforms.
Personally, I’ve always worked on my own, from being a freelancer through to now running a video production company. And so nothing changed, particularly for me during COVID.
I’ve always used other freelancers to help with my workload and help grow my company, I have not had employees. So in that regard, I was already very bought into remote working prior to COVID.
Obviously, there was less filming out and about. So that meant that I couldn’t work for prolonged periods of lockdown. And because of that, I’ve now moved into live streaming, because I think hybrid events are going to be a big thing in the future.
So it’s made me pivot a little bit that way.
I think just a small thing for me is pre-COVID, a lot of clients would want to meet face to face to go through briefs and to go through production schedules and that type of thing. That is now done via video call. So I’ve found that’s great, because I used to maybe spend half a day going out and meeting a client. And now that can be a one hour call.
I think for a wider perspective. My partner’s a lawyer, you know, for her to now work from home five days a week gives her a much better balance. But I think she’s missing that office, sort of company and seeing people face to face.
So I think where we’re going now is a hybrid situation. I think employers are going to have to respect what people want. So people are going to want to work at home and in the office and everything’s going to be a lot more flexible.
So what I was doing prior to COVID was working with remote freelancers. And even before COVID, what I could see happening was the world going more towards a freelance and subcontractor type of work situation. So I think a lot more people are going to work for themselves. I think what will come from that is people will value work life balance a lot more.
So you can see that although my interviewees contexts are very different, there’s a general consensus that a hybridisation of working styles is here to stay and that there are opportunities here to make positive change.
If hybrid working is to become the adopted norm, key considerations will be the need for flexibility, opportunities for connection, and perhaps most importantly that it supports our wellbeing better than old ways of working.
It’s clear that businesses and organisations of every shape and size are affected by these changes, and the need to make change, as there’s no going back to what was.
So it’s also encouraging to see that people and organisations are thinking about, and experimenting with, what’s possible.
In the next episode of this 3rd season, my panel will be looking at the lessons they’ve learnt in respect of their wellbeing and productivity during this time, and the changes they had to make during lockdown which they’re going to continue employing going forward into this next part of life and work.
If you have thoughts about this episode or you have a question relating to productivity, wellbeing or remote work, then I’d love to hear from you. You can write to: hello at growthsessions.co
Thanks for listening. If you’re liking the Creating Cadence podcast, I’d really appreciate it if you could leave a review via ratethispodcast.com/creatingcadence … it helps other people like you to find the podcast.
Until next time, please take care out there. Be brave, think big and be open to change, so you can keep moving forwards, one step at a time.