Great businesses turn issues into opportunities. Michelle Cawley, Group Head of HR at Ticketer Group, explains how the leading smart bus ticketing and technology provider, has made the most of the post-pandemic return to the office.
When the government ordered everyone to work from home at the start of the pandemic, we didn’t know if home working would impact performance. Thankfully, we’re blessed with great staff, so we made the transition really well. Home working didn’t make any difference to performance and, in some cases, even heightened it.
With the government suggesting a return to the office in June 2021, we asked: “What should we do next?” Here’s how we’ve prepared our 87 employees across three locations for the future of work at Ticketer.
Exploring our people’s views
Instead of telling our teams how we’d all return to the office, we sent out a survey asking: “In the post-COVID world, how do you want to work? Where do you think you’re going to be able to do your best work? Do you want to go back to the office? And on what basis – 100% from home, 100% from office or a hybrid?”
The results were completely clear:
- 0% wanted to come back into the office on a full-time basis
- 40% wanted to work on a hybrid basis
- 30% wanted to work from home all the time
- 30% already had remote working arrangements
With this insight – and the proof that working from home was bringing additional work-life balance benefits to our people and had not impacted performance – we were in a position to move forward.
Keeping the lines of communication open
After the survey, we let our team know they’d been heard. We also told everyone that we’d been very happy with how most people had adapted to working from home. Because everyone’s performance had been as expected, we’d not let down our clients or each other. So we were going to make home and hybrid working work for everyone. The offices would open in September, and people could work wherever they felt they could be their best.
Obviously, it was important to point out that managers would ask their team to come in for a meeting or to collaborate. We didn’t put a formal policy in place because we like to take a discretionary, practical approach. Instead, we treated our staff like adults and asked our employees to be flexible about coming in as needed.
Minimising our London space and spend
Our London team are all mostly developers, and the results from this specific team were that they all wanted to work from home.
This – and the timely end of our office contract – gave us a chance to change up our office arrangements for this team. We downsized from a 60 person space to a ten-person WeWork office and made this team remote first. All we ask is that maybe once a month, they come in for team meetings. We’ll have a booking system for anyone wanting to book a desk for the day. And we have the flexibility to hire a meeting or board room through WeWork.
Optimising our Hungerford office
Our Hungerford office was a good space but a little old fashioned. So we’ve taken the opportunity to breathe new life into it. We’ve designed the office around a maximum capacity of around 20 people with:
- An open plan room with 20 bookable hot desks. Every desk has a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse so people only need to bring in their laptops.
- A room with desks so a team can come in and work together for the day – it can also be used as overflow if not booked out.
- A boardroom with our board table and some nice sofas for use of management or client meetings. Or, if it’s free, other teams can use it for inspiration and brainstorming days.
- A collaboration space with sofas for a more relaxed feel.
All our rooms will be branded with the Ticketer stamp so clients and employees know they’re in our home.
How we’ve remodelled our communications
At the start of the pandemic, we decided to communicate every week. We’re happy to admit that we don’t know exactly how a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic will go. And that we’re remaining flexible and constantly reviewing our approach to make sure it’s still working.
We’ve tried a range of different approaches including:
- Weekly, half hour ‘Cup of Joe’ meetings. Time for our whole team to get together for a cup of coffee. Initially, this was to check that everyone was ok and to support wellbeing. Now they’ve taken on their own personality and will continue to adapt as we get back to the office.
- Increasing meeting frequency by encouraging managers to hold more team meetings. I’ll continue to remind our leaders that communication is key because people will still be working from home.
- Having fun and helping people connect by spinning a wheel, selecting someone’s name and asking them ten random questions. This helped our new joiners bond with the team so it’s something we can continue in the future.
- Using multiple digital channels like emails, chat channels, informal catch-ups and daily stand-ups too.
- Taking a personal approach. Our managers regularly speak to their team members individually to find out how they feel.
- Holding global company meetings virtually. With our new office set up, we’ll be able to gather everyone together on the sofas in front of a big TV in the collaboration space or boardroom.
As we move to our new way of working, we’ll continue to monitor what’s working and what needs to be adapted.
The impact and benefits
As I write this, we’re just about to go back into our offices, so the jury’s still out on how this will go.
I’m sure that our flexible approach to hybrid working will help us support every generation. A lot of people have told me their work-life balance is better – they’ve saved on commuting time, and they can put their children to bed. And, for younger employees who crave being around other people and going for drinks after work, going into the office will benefit them too.
I believe that we should respect that our employees have lives and we should offer flexible work. The pandemic has forced us to be better at this and to trust our employees more too. And I think trusted employees feel like valued employees, which is exactly what we want.