When I started Agent99 over 13 years ago, I ran the business from home for 3.5 years. I had two full time employees working remotely and had all the server tech stuff sorted (yes, there was no cloud to speak of yet). And these were some of the happiest days I had running the agency.

It was certainly unheard of at the time.  The amount of pressure I got to “go on, get an office and run a real business already” from all and sundry, was phenomenal. You weren’t ‘somebody’ until you had a fancy/cool converted warehouse office space. 

But I have always been financially savvy and knew from day one that all that clients cared about ultimately, was that you achieved incredible PR and cut through results for them, and that you did it cheaper, faster and better than anyone else. So, I stuck to my guns and some of those clients are still with us today, over a decade on.

A mentor of mine at the time said, “Well, if you want to achieve ‘real growth’ and you want to attract talent, especially up and comers, you simply must get an office.” In his view, there was no way around it.  So begrudgingly, I found that fancy/cool converted warehouse office space and set up ‘a proper shop’…kicking and screaming all the while.

Lo and behold… we did actually grow. In fact, we doubled our team’s size in no time. 

In the back of my mind though, I still found it challenging to let go of what I thought was absolutely an ideal way to run a business.

Enter a 2020 COVID world… and the irony of professional workspaces now converting to home offices, alongside the contentment/productivity it brings, isn’t lost on me. By any stretch.

What can I say? I was a “visionary”.  Jokes!

I simply always loved working from home.  It made so much sense to me.  The flexibility, the amount of time it saved when no commute was involved, the focus it afforded you when there were no distractions, and the cost it saved, were the myriad of benefits I prescribed to.

Oh, and that nugget about not being able to attract young talent?  We’ve blown that one out of the water too recently.  During the height of COVID, we had two interns complete their Uni accredited internships completely remotely (and they did a smashing job of it).  And now, despite the fact that we have never met them (given we are still not back in the office), we have two new young and capable additions to our team.

I’ve always had a saying when it comes to my staff – “If you are achieving amazing results and your clients are singing our Agency’s praises, I genuinely don’t care if you spend half your week at the beach.” 

It’s about outcomes and your own reputation, as well as the agency’s. It simply comes down to trust and performance when given that sort of autonomy. During COVID, my theory has been forced into serious stress testing and I am so proud to say that my team passed with flying colours.  We have weathered the storm really well; our clients are super pleased, and we have a bright future ahead…. All from the comfort of our own homes. 

So, if you are a business owner like me, you are now grappling with what to do next as restrictions lift and everyone begins to head back into the office.  Here are the three options that are in front of you in this post COVID world:

Status Quo

We have a stunning office.  So really, there is no reason why we simply can’t just pick up where we left off.  Just go back and do the ol’ 9 to 5, which there was absolutely nothing wrong with – in fact, we have had the best two years in business thriving off each other’s energy, to the point where we were named PR Institute of Australia’s National and NSW Small Consultancy of the Year towards the end of 2019. 

Question is – do we want to?? And what does it mean for a team that has learned the benefits of working from home. Will we reconvene in the office as we always have and therefore, will productivity suffer?  Can we do it differently now?

Go Full Remote

This would be going completely full circle for me. Give away the fancy converted warehouse office and instead utilise cafes and client’s offices for meetings. Really easy.

But, would we miss collaborating IRL? We are very social beings after all, and there is nothing like human laughs and conversations.

And when the novelty wears off (it’s only been three months since we went into lock down, even though it feels like a lifetime), how would we feel then, and would we eventually miss each other’s creative energy?  And I know my team members feel very differently here – some LOVE it, would never go back if they could. Others on the team really miss the learning, especially if they are relying on training and mentorship from more senior members of staff. I (of all people) am not completely convinced.

Hybrid Office

Which leaves me with the final option.  A hybrid. One that doesn’t force the issue, but provides an option for interaction, collaboration, content creation… and all the other “actions”. Ha. (And sanity, which I am clearly starting to lose a bit of). It will allow us to look forward into a new future, and take the best bits of COVID life (autonomy, freedom, quiet thinking, ability to spend more time with family and friends and doing the things that make you happy), whilst benefiting from the goodness of our “old world”.

But how will this work?  When should you be there? How do you know when the others will be there? Should you pay for a big expensive office if the team is rarely there? Many questions that we will slowly have to work through as we find our way in the new world.

I hope I have given you some food for thought, because I know where I stand. 

So, I wish you happy deliberations… while I continue my hunt for new office spaces…

by Agent Sharon

Agent99 is an award-winning PR and communications agency based in Sydney. For more information about our services, contact us at info@agent99pr.com.

Further reading:
The biggest lessons I’ve learned in marketing during the pandemic
The biggest lessons I’ve learned in PR during the pandemic