An insight into the culture we are creating at Sphonic in the Covid era.
By James Gutteridge – Sphonic
Along with Covid-19, WFH was added to the Oxford English Dictionary this year. For many, like the team at Sphonic, WFH had been commonplace even before the pandemic hit. Nimble tech companies have been seeing the benefits of remote working for some time now. However, in this new pandemic era, WFH has become the new normal and we don’t need the Oxford Dictionary to understand that.
There are so many encouraging stats about working from home. Microsoft did a study on its workforce and found that meetings were shorter – 22% increase in meetings that were 30 minutes or less. Managers are communicating more directly and more often with their teams via instant messaging apps like Slack and working hours increased almost 40%.
At Sphonic we measured a considerable increase in productivity across the team during lockdown. In fact, a recent study shows that two thirds of employers reported increased productivity for remote workers compared to in-office workers even before the pandemic hit. The nature of the work we do at Sphonic is such that it lends itself well to WFH. When delivering new workflows for clients we are typically head-down in our laptops putting all the pieces together, so the ability to work from home without distractions and a complete focus works really well.
Returning To The Office
So, why have we gone back to the office when 83% of employees feel they do not need an office to be productive?
In a year that many are saying “doesn’t count”, we decided to use the end of lockdown as a chance to refresh what it means to work for Sphonic. Since lockdown lifted, we have moved into a new office, rebranded, injected a new energy into the team and doubled down on the learnings from our increased productivity during lockdown.
The new office is smaller and centred around collaborative working. We have devised a new office rota where Monday – Thursday are team office days, and Friday is a WFH day for everyone. On the team days, specific team members are in the office adhering to Covid era rules, using their time to work on projects collaboratively, rather than keeping their heads in laptops and working on individual tasks all day.
We see the new way of working as a chance to change what it means to work in an office. When we are in the office, we are now focused on team bonding and collaborative tasks. We treat each morning as a high energy sprint session starting with a breakfast meeting to go through the priorities for that team on the day. The time between breakfast and lunch is 100% collaborative and we try to go for 110% energy with everyone working towards the same project goals together.
By lunchtime we sign off on the priority tasks and head out together for a team lunch. This is something we never did before as it was never set in stone who would be in the office on a given day and we would typically grab lunch individually whenever we had a quick break in the day. Lunchtimes are now as important as the morning sprint session. We are putting as much emphasis on team social time as we are on team productivity.
The afternoons are left more open to allow people to complete any individual tasks and finish off any priority team tasks that they might not have been able to complete in the morning sprint.
At 4.30pm we all check-in to make sure that tasks are signed off and when we leave the office no stone is left unturned. The team will head out for a few well-earned drinks by the Grand Union canal near our office in Paddington if our brains are feeling particularly fried!
The best thing about this new way of working is that we have flipped the idea of flexible working on its head – for Sphonic at least. During lockdown the novelty of WFH quickly wore off, with no option to pop to a coffee shop and no end in sight.
The new rota at Sphonic means that we all now look forward to the days we are in the office with our teammates. They are fun, high energy days, which channel the focus and ‘head-down’ mentality that is essential to our work at Sphonic and amplify it by bringing full teams together to tackle tasks 100% collaboratively.
By breaking the week up into team days, we all still get the much needed WFH days at different points in the week. While everyone works from home on a Friday, we all have at least one other WFH day during the week, which allows for that individual, head-down in laptop time to get personal tasks done.
The Future Of Sphonic
It’s not pushing it to say that Sphonic feels like a different company after lockdown. We have been one of the lucky ones that managed to keep business ticking along during the difficult months. Our refreshed way of working has been accompanied by new branding and, very soon, a new website with a big push into producing thoughtful content for our clients and the wider RegTech market.
We are looking forward to sharing more updates about our company with you and we hope you find it interesting to see how other companies are dealing with the pandemic. We believe that going back to the office has been very positive for Sphonic and we are proud of the new energy we have injected into our team during difficult times.