Matt Wheatcroft, managing director at digital agency Purpose Media explains why he believes it is important to keep offices open for employee wellbeing and space.

Work from home, if you can” seems to be the defining UK business quote of 2020. And whilst I fully agree protecting our health and playing our part is important, I can’t pretend that the overwhelming number of businesses with offices fully closing that base isn’t concerning for an MD to a team of 25, that’s quickly growing. 

LinkedIn, sadly, over the past few months, has been an array of business owners proudly boasting how they’ve sent staff home and shut up shop. But to me, this just screams: “we don’t value our employees’ mental health”.

I think one of the reasons we have been able to safely adapt and keep the space open is due to my initial investment in a large office space (6,000sqft over two floors) three years ago. Our awareness of company culture existed then, and wanted to give the staff the best possible workplace to keep them stimulated, help us retain and attract new staff, and likewise help us impress our clients. The offices were designed around our staff based on their feedback and exactly what they wanted in a collaborative office environment.

I think for other growing teams, and those debating remote vs office-based models, this is key in future-proofing your business! Be forward-thinking and consider your office now. If there’s no space to swing a cat and colleagues sit shoulder to shoulder, then it doesn’t work for collaborative and creative inspiration, let alone comply with social distancing regulations. 

This office investment has paid off massively during the pandemic with social distancing rules in play. It works in a very different way because of covid-19; breakout spaces for collaboration or quieter zones now have become safely-distanced spaces.

Even if we were a smaller agile team with a smaller space, I would still have an open office policy and ensure the smaller office was spaced out, to enable that option in a safe way. 

I never questioned the decision to stay open during the second lockdown and throughout tiers. It was always going to be an option for my team as I hire people I trust from day one. Trust builds two-way respect and I’ve always found this boosts productivity. 

Some of my team house-share with friends, meaning a literal five days in a row working and sleeping in one room. Others have the chaos of children and interruptions that make creative or technical digital work near impossible to focus on enough to complete. But it’s not about unique situations to me, I believe having an open office should be an option for all, if we want our workers, to come out of this pandemic feeling positive, resourceful and content, with their mental health unscathed by the forced WFH situation.

We know the impacts this pandemic is going to take on mental health and for HR teams in months and years to come. Spending the best part of a year working from our homes and without the usual office camaraderie, creative collaboration and social interaction that an office offers is not conducive. 

All business owners, HR managers and team leaders have a responsibility, in my opinion, to consider safely opening an office and having it as an option for their employees. We work now on an office capacity figure to allow several team members to come in at once; and they do this for themselves which is impressive. The bottom-line is you can never know what that escape can truly mean, or in turn what that can do for their job satisfaction, productivity, and access to tools and equipment to do their job well.

Purpose Media is a full-service marketing agency in the Midlands – https://www.purposemedia.co.uk

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.