By Ross Berthinussen, President, 72andSunny ANZ
I was a bit disappointed when Elon Musk entered the fray recently on the work from home debate. A memo mandating a return to office for Tesla employees leaked online and Elon backed it up on Twitter essentially saying if staff don't like it they can "pretend to work somewhere else".
It felt like an old fashioned view from one of our most progressive minds.
Whilst there are many clear benefits from in person interaction there are a wealth of studies that report, for many, productivity is higher working from home - as is sense of well being, with the two closely correlated.
The debate will continue to rage on as it's clear there isn't a one size fits all answer, one of the reasons being is that personality plays a key role.
There's an exceptional book - Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain - that unpacks the human experience for introverts and extroverts. In simple terms, extroverts get energy from being around people whilst introverts thrive working with space to think.
This is particularly interesting for our industry. It’s proven that creatives are more likely to be introverts whereas company leaders are more likely to be extroverts. This begs the question, who are we designing the agency experience for?
From the conversations we’ve had, it seems that a lot of agencies are settling on a hybrid model with some days in, some days remote - the stance Google has taken.
At 72andSunny ANZ, we worked this way pre-Covid but now WFX (work from anywhere). We let our people choose where they work best. So while we have a studio space that team members can use, we design for a remote working experience.
One of the biggest benefits we see from this, and something that is overlooked in the debate, is how it opens companies up to work with talent from anywhere.
Our current team are in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and New Zealand. And in the last 12 months we've collaborated with talent in Byron, Tasmania, USA and Singapore.
Yes, you can do this with a hybrid or in person model. But we found team members who weren't physically present struggled to interact with the group and overall felt excluded from the company.
Designing for a remote experience allows agencies to access a wider talent pool and bring more diverse perspectives and experiences to projects. This diversity, we believe, is critical to delivering world class creative solutions. WFX isn't just good for talent, it has a direct impact on the work we make for our client partners.
There are challenges to overcome. Building a team culture virtually, for example. Creating in person away days a few times a year for the team to really connect. Tax is holding us back - it feels like countries need to catch up to the modern world and change policies so we can be global citizens, working and living wherever. Time zone is another hurdle, we’ve overcome this by making the team responsible for delivering tasks vs mandating set working hours. Then there is availability for in person meetings, though we’re finding these are less frequent, and having someone on the screen if they can’t travel for a meeting is often acceptable.
WFX also opens us up to clients from anywhere. We’ve recently done assignments with client partners in the USA and Singapore.
We haven’t got all the answers but we’re excited about where WFX could go. Imagine if you could hire, work from, partner with people from anywhere. Imagine a true borderless company.
Maybe it’s not right for Elon but it's working well for us and for Airbnb, which just reported more than one million people have visited its job page since announcing its permanent ‘work from anywhere’ policy.