Having been proud winner of a number of Best Places to Work awards, we’re no strangers to the flexi, working from home, worklife balance ethos at Liberty. Our teams have seamlessly transitioned their working days and weeks in this way for years – the combo is one which works for Liberty’s business and works for our teams. Our US lead, for instance, is based in LA whilst the wider team is located in San Francisco. 22 years ago, Liberty was founded in an office/back bedroom where the technology of the day enabled a good enough dial-up Internet connection to launch the agency, but also the early-stage, tech start-ups we represented from the get-go. It was the almost forgotten time of faxing or posting press releases and updating media contact lists by hand – but what made it work was a combination of working environment and advancements in technology to the point where most office bound services could be accessed from home. I found the only time I really needed “the office” was if a client flew in from the US and wanted to stop in for a coffee or a progress chat. More often than not, we met outside the office anyway, either over a pub lunch or at a wine bar for an early evening tipple. Even then, the concept of the traditional “office” had morphed and moreover, start-ups weren’t expected to lavish cash on floor space – it was the investment in great people that made things happen. It was actually liberating.
Today we find ourselves back in time – somewhat confined to working remotely as a team due to a global pandemic that caught most everyone by surprise. The difference this time is that it’s not a choice, it’s non-negotiable as we seek to protect ourselves and our colleagues, families and friends from infection. What is different is that technology of course has made this transition easy and whilst wifi connectivity and broadband services are not always ubiquitous, on the whole we can be predictably operationally successful whatever our day brings. New video conferencing tech has made it possible for us all to stay in touch visually as well as via email and all manner of communication apps I couldn’t have dreamed of back in 1998 help us to streamline workload and facilitate staying in touch.
We could argue that the pandemic has just brought forward a way of working that was already here or bound to come. Those of us who like to have variety in our working day are able to work from anywhere, whenever and however we like – nothing has changed in that respect – and the future of the workplace is really already here. We have so much to be grateful for in that advances in technology mean freedom in our lives and in our working world. The only real change is that COVID–19 has curbed our desire for sociability and our ability to physically meet without appropriately distancing – for now. Optimistically it might be good to think about what our lives today might have been like without the plethora of tech available to us – and it’s a reminder for me that even after two decades, working flexibly everyday was the norm then as it is today – it’s still really liberating!