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Frank and Fearless: Empowering our Wavemakers to work purposefully through three modes of working

There’s no other way of putting it, the last 20 months have had a devastating effect on many individuals, families, and businesses. My thoughts are with everyone who has been impacted by COVID-19.

As a leader, I believe that I owe it to my team to learn from the past 20 months and try to create a better business for our people and our clients than the one we had before the pandemic. I want to embrace the many positive learnings we have had among the horrors of the virus, for example:

  • People care and show up for work every day regardless of where they are located
  • Presenteeism is outdated and not productive
  • Technology can transform the way we work for the better
  • Working remotely makes it easy to spend our time in ‘task’ mode and not invest time in ‘individuals’ and ‘teams’
  • There are many things we do in this industry that are simply better and more fun when we are together

It is this last point that I want to focus on here.

At Wavemaker we are different to traditional media agencies and will not be dictating a set number of days for office and home working. Instead, we believe in being purposeful.

We believe that Wavemakers will lead their teams, their clients, and our partners to more purposeful work by choosing the right mode of working. We have identified three modes of working and believe strongly that each week every Wavemaker will be in all of them at different times. This means that every week every Wavemaker will experience a mix of in home and in office working to enjoy the most purposeful working experiences.

The three Wavemaker modes of working are:

  1. Keyboard mode: writing emails, decks, getting things done and personal thinking time
  2. Coffee mode: 121s, team meetings, status meetings
  3. Avenger mode: Wavemakers coming together to harness our individual and collective powers; solving for clients, pitching, innovating, and creating, embracing, and building culture

For us to be successful individually and collectively it is down to every one of us to take personal responsibility for how and where we work. Of course, the simple model above suggests sometimes we are best working alone but at many other times we are better being together. This is a creative industry, an industry where humans and machines come together to do brilliant things. We must all demonstrate flexibility, resilience, and collaboration in location of work to thrive.

To this point I want to reiterate the importance of being together and that when we come together, we have more energy, we develop better ideas and solutions for our clients, and we have more fun. I’m yet to have a conversation with any Wavemaker, client or partner after an in-person meeting that hasn’t gone along the lines of “wow, that was so much better than shouting at a screen, I really enjoyed it. We’d never have got to that outcome if we weren’t in the room together”.

But it’s not all about coming together, it is about the blend. I love the days when I get to walk Penny, my Hungarian Vizsla, before turning on my laptop as I don’t have commute time. I love the evenings when my wife and I cook together as we aren’t just trying to refuel after a long day and journey home. But it’s not just about work life brilliance, it is more purposeful than that. On these days I can consolidate all of my weekly keyboard mode tasks and clear my head space so when I head into Sea Containers, I am liberated by a full inbox of keyboard tasks and can give my full attention to individuals and teams whilst in Avenger mode. I must admit that the days I love the most are the days when I am in a room full of brilliant Wavemakers positively provoking growth for our people and our clients.

Currently we have empowered our teams to decide where they work each day by considering the three working modes outlined earlier, looking at their diary and categorising what they need to do into one of the three modes. I desperately hope that our teams use this model well and take responsibility for where they are every day and find the optimal blend to deliver maximum growth for our clients and our business and the most career enhancing experiences for themselves. We have so far resisted a top-down split in home working vs office working, and I desperately hope we can avoid this as I believe that through empowering people we will get to better outcomes for all.

I think now is a critical time in the recovery from the pandemic. The country has pretty much opened, the vaccine roll out is scaled, and I think we are all ready to start living more purposeful lives again. From a Wavemaker perspective I encourage everyone to find a way of being more purposeful and work in the right mode at the right time. If we can’t, then I fear we may need to behave like all the traditional agencies in town and have the number of days in the office stipulated. And that wouldn’t be very provocative of us, would it?

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