Over the years Scaffold has, like many other companies, enjoyed the central draw of an office where everyone works together. It’s not something we particularly thought about, it was just the norm!
Then along came Covid…
For a period of 4x months we made adjustments to how we worked to facilitate the same discussions and collaboration that happened naturally in the office. We were initially surprised by how few changes we needed to make to achieve this, but overtime more subtle challenges came to the surface and we have tried our best to make lasting changes that improve the working lives of our team as well as the experience for our clients.
During the pandemic we needed to grow the team and this saw our first international team members added! Given that we were all working in a remote capacity it didn’t cause any real changes.
Throughout all of this, our office in Lisburn sat dormant, despite a few moments of use between Covid restrictions, this prompted a lot of discussion on what options lay ahead, looking at lessons learned from businesses that embraced remote working long before Covid. We found insights from 37 Signals in their book “Remote: Office Not Required” and the various blogs and general transparency offered by Convivo particularly helpful, and worth a read if you’re interested.
Ultimately what works for one business doesn’t necessarily work for another. So we started looking at what the office meant to us and how we saw it fitting into our future plans.
To make the decision around the office we had many discussions as a team to decipher what it means to have a central base? How successful do we feel remote working has been over the last 2+years? And overall, how do we see Scaffold grow and thrive over the coming months and years?
When we asked our team how they wanted to work post pandemic, the resounding answer was a hybrid setup with some preferring a fully remote scenario too.
What does hybrid mean?
We started to think about what hybrid working meant and what the advantages were. We settled primarily on the fact it was about getting people together, not for functional reasons, but for social reasons.
So, we experimented… During February 2022 we opened the office doors to encourage the team to make use of the space as they wanted and maybe ‘rediscover’ the office.
During this period we found getting people in the office to overlap on any sort of frequent basis to achieve social interaction just didn’t work out. One thing we did learn pretty quickly though was that merging physical and digital working spaces is hard! This is where equity comes in.
If you’ve looked into remote working vs in person in the context of collaboration one of the main stumbling blocks is how to ensure remote participants have equal access to and participation in discussion (equity).
We had some lovely moments with four of us looking for rooms to separately join a video call in order to avoid the dreaded echo. We invested in teleconferencing hardware to try and solve these problems. We found that didn’t work. Getting audio right for multi participant meetings is tricky! Very tricky!
In the end we found the best solution was to dial in separately and being in an office just complicated that and ultimately worked against the culture we were trying to harness.
Make a decision
We wrestled with the decision for quite a few months while we learned and experimented. We had invested into our office and there was an emotional reason to want to justify keeping it.
In reality the more time passed, the more obvious it became that for us, the way we work has changed so much that we couldn’t justify holding onto it.
Combine that with the fact that we added 4x remote team members to Scaffold during the pandemic, a 2,000 mile commute to the office just isn’t going to happen.
So where does that leave us?
The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new
Change can be scary, but this change is exciting. Scaffold 2.0 will build cultural foundations on a digital HQ model with a team spread across the world.
This affords us many opportunities, but primarily facilitates an exciting chapter that will allow us to continue to grow internationally and use a ‘work from wherever’ approach to give team members flexibility.
We love our team calls when we hear what someone got up to in Slovenia at the weekend, what the weather is like in Nigeria today (it is always sunny) and talk about cultural differences between Albania and Northern Ireland. It excites us to continue adding variety to the team. It truly adds a different dimension to team calls on a Monday morning.
Where we have a hub of people together we will utilise coworking spaces to get those people together from time to time, right now that mainly means our team in Northern Ireland and we have started this with a membership to the wonderful Ormeau Baths in Belfast. We’re looking forward to making use of this space between one or two of us working from Belfast a few days a week to local team days where we work together and enjoy the social benefits of getting together!
Ormeau baths also provide a great space for us to welcome clients to meet whether discussing opportunities, workshopping ideas or reviewing prototypes and demos. As members of the Irish tech hub, we will also gain access to 5 additional co-working spaces across Ireland including Dublin, Cork & Kerry as well as access to the UK network of 30 sites with Barclays Eagle Lab! Not to mention it is a super cool space for creative and collaborative industries – like Tech.
We wanted to say a big thank you to our wonderful clients at home and further afield who have been on this remote collaboration journey with us.
We look forward to welcoming you to in-person meetings at Ormeau Baths, in your offices or online meetings soon!