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Frank and Fearless: Future of the workplace

From work life balance to work-life brilliance: how Wavemaker are focusing on the future of the workplace to provoke growth for our people and clients.

Like many businesses, Wavemaker have invested significant time and care into planning how we’ll work once our offices fully reopen, hopefully at some point later this year. We’ve taken time to listen to our people, our clients, and our partners to hear their goals and aspirations for how they want to work in the future.

While many things feel extremely different to how they once were, many things in our business remain the same. We need to:

  • Attract, develop and retain the best talent
  • Positively provoke our clients to find new growth
  • Demonstrate care for our clients every day
  • Build our reputation and profile in the industry to help keep and grow every client we have today, and continue to add new clients tomorrow
  • Build excellent collaborations across the media industry, our global network, WPP and beyond
  • Grow top line revenues and profit
  • Build relationships with one another and ultimately have fun

So, taking all of this into account; how will Wavemaker be working in the future? Much has been said about a ‘hybrid’ model and two days in, three days out (or vice versa). But we‘ve taken a different approach.

Well actually, that’s not quite true. We have the same approach, the same approach we had pre-pandemic. We ask every Wavemaker to ask themselves one simple question; ‘where is the best place for me to do my job brilliantly today?’.

Once they’ve identified where that might be, whether it’s Sea Containers, Bass Warehouse, Red Lion Square, a client’s office, a media partner’s office, at a location where you can learn more about an audience/category or at home. We then ask them to be confident that choice of location works for their line manager, the people they line manage and their clients.

While this is the same approach, I think it will be lived very differently in the future. I believe that for some, in the past, presenteeism crept in and some line managers maybe didn’t trust their team to be as productive working from home as they were in the office. Well, if the past 16 months has shown us anything, it’s that this belief was unfounded and in almost all cases untrue. I don’t think we’ve ever worked harder than now.

I also think we now know what tasks and challenges are best solved together and which are best solved alone, and this I think is the key. We’re encouraging all Wavemakers to look at their diary every week and classify what they have on into one of three groups:

  1. Keyboard mode: writing emails, decks, getting things done and personal thinking time
  2. Avenger mode: Wavemakers coming together to harness our individual and collective powers; solving for clients, pitching, innovating and creating, embracing and building culture
  3. Coffee mode: one to ones, team meetings, status meetings

Whether at Wavemaker or in another business, new ways of working will likely require everyone to plan better and to look ahead in their schedule and organise their time. What someone has on in any given week should determine where they’ll spend their time. I don’t think our choice of environment will be definitive for the entirety of a day; in the office for the morning and elsewhere for the afternoon is perfectly reasonable. It’s about what works best for our Wavemakers.

Why is this so important? Well, some time ago I’d have said it is important because everyone wants a work life balance. I’d like to challenge that with a phrase I heard a few years ago:

“Nobody wants work life balance, we all want work life brilliance”.

I agree with that with a couple of additions. To achieve a work-life brilliance, I encourage all Wavemakers to think about a work life blend. I think the days of 9-5 are over and we’ll chunk our days up differently, enjoying a blend of work and non-work activities most days. For some they may start early, go to the gym mid-morning if it’s quieter, work again over lunch and then maybe pick the kids up from school and check back in again after dinner and bath time. For me, I’ll be sure to find times in the day to enjoy a run or a swim which always helps keep me in a positive growth mindset.

I also encourage all Wavemakers to think about work life boundaries. One thing I know many people have missed is the markers of the workday starting and finishing. That moment when you hit G on the lift, walk out of the office and hopefully switch off, refresh and recharge before going again in the morning.

I hear stories of Wavemakers walking around the block in the morning and re-entering their own home ten minutes later to mark the start of the workday and making sure to do the same at the end of the day. Others simply close the laptop and put it away out of reach and out of sight. I don’t think it matters what you do, but I do encourage you all to adopt behaviours that help mark those critical boundaries.

I’m sure all businesses will have been working on this over the past few months, many of whom will have the same insights and actions. It’s been reassuring for us to reflect and think back to 2018 when we launched our new flexible working approach and realise we were onto something. I’m proud that our approach has proved to be anti-fragile despite everything that’s been thrown at us over these past 16 months.

One thing I’m absolutely sure of is that we won’t get everything right when we do open up our offices to significantly greater capacities. How can we? What is critical is that we assume positive intent at all times, share how we feel and feedback on how things are working.

Together we’ll find work life brilliance.

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