Return to the office: did it go well, did you feel safe and do you prefer it or WFH?

Return to the office: did it go well, did you feel safe and do you prefer it or WFH?

Over the past two weeks, marketers have been returning to the office. So we asked a broad group of marketers across the UK: do you prefer WFH or the office? Did you change your commute and did you feel safe on it? How about in the office? And what have been the best and worst things about returning. Here are their experiences.

Kat Jackson, Associate Director, the Media Foundry

“The adjustment to initially working from home full time came as more of a jolt than our ramp up to being back in the office again. We’ve had the odd day in all together over the last 18 months spanning client catch ups and other quicker company updates. But this week was our first full ‘typical’ day back in together. It felt very natural, all being back together again and working side by side. Like many, we’ll be keeping a balance of in-person working and home work going forward. Obviously, it will depend on client work and we strive to be flexible, but our plans are to spend one or two days in the office together, while retaining some of the convenience of working from home, which we’ve found really works for us. There’s just some parts of our daily work which are better in person, like exchanging ideas and brainstorming. And there’s that all-important agency culture and buzz which is so hard to convey over a screen, especially with new team members joining. I’m also a big believer in ‘proper’ client face time – we learn so much from meeting our clients face-to-face and even talking ‘off topic’ of our upcoming work, about what motivates and drives them.

“Travelling into central London, I tried to avoid rush hour and came in a little later, but our working hours can be flexible like that. It didn’t feel unsafe. I get on the tube early enough that I can usually get a seat and everyone was reasonably spaced out. It got busier, and I did notice people without masks, but everyone was as respectful of each other’s space as you can be in a train.

Kat Jackson

“Being back in the office for the first time, the main feeling was how lucky we are. We’ve switched offices over lockdown and we’re in lovely surroundings. We’ve moved to a shared space but it didn’t feel concerning to be around other people. It felt normal. It wasn’t a busy space, and everyone was very respectful. It’s been long enough that habits of sanitising hands and wearing masks in the right areas have just become pretty ingrained – unlike the start of lockdown.

“We’re also lucky as, while we’ve had people affected by the virus over the last year, no one has personally suffered long term or experienced it acutely. Being around the team again in person felt great, 100% the best part of being back. There’s a dynamic with a close team that I think helped us to switch to remote work more easily, because we had that bond beforehand.

“But in person, especially when you’re a ‘PR people person’, it was less stilted, more natural. The hardest adjustment to the day was really the commute, which is saying something considering how it was never really a consideration before lockdown. I’ve got used to having two more useable hours handed back to me during days. This is why the right way forward for us at the moment is to keep that home/ office-based mix in the right balance. In person is so important for that intangible company bond with people. But at home is very convenient for me – luckily I can have a room to myself – and we’ve also all recognised the personal and mental benefits we get from having more time with our partners and families.”

Ahmed Tarek, Senior Global Product Marketing Manager, Vodafone Smart Tech

“I spent two days in the office the first week, three days last week. My aim is to continue working from the office 2-3 times per week whilst keeping the days flexible. Still, the frequency will be 2/3 days per week.

“It felt like the first day back to school actually! I was very excited, nervous, unsure of how my work routine would change. It was really good to see everyone in real life, and I’ve actually met a few colleagues who joined during the pandemic for the first time after speaking to them for months through Zoom and Teams.

Ahmed Tarek

“My pre-pandemic way of commuting is the same. I walk to the office as I live very close to it and it was the one thing I really missed; the 20 min walk in which I used to organize my thoughts in the morning and clear off my mind on my way home.

“I did feel safe in the office. Vodafone prioritizes our safety over everything else, all the safety measures are in place in the office, we have to wear masks in the common areas, etc, and I feel everyone is being cautious anyway at this stage.

“For me personally, it’s the human interaction which I really missed! As an extrovert myself I missed that part in my daily office routine. It’s being able to work with my team face to face. It’s the energy you get when you’re brainstorming and being able to share ideas in real life feels very different.

“In the beginning, the Tech set-up in the office was not ideal now we’re used to our home office set-up in which I have my screens, tools, Wi-Fi and everything else in place. It wasn’t easy for the first day to get used to the new transition of working from the office. But now I’m actually enjoying it.

“I like the hybrid model but if I had to choose one it would be the office for sure.”

David Silverman, Managing Director, Sixteen by Nine

“I spent three days in the office the first week: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. I worked two from the office the next week.

David Silverman

“I was excited to see everyone again in person. I didn’t change my commute. Public transport is not really an option for me as the train and bus routes just don’t play ball with my home and office location.

“I did feel safe in the office. We have all been double jabbed and the windows were all open.

“The best thing about being back in the office, was definitely being able to talk with colleagues face to face. And being able to get a coffee from our favourite coffee shop again! It was a little distracting at times in the office as I am now so used to silence if I need to concentrate.

“Given the choice, a hybrid approach works for me. I like to have the best of both worlds.”

Chris Sury, Senior Account Director, Brands2Life

“I spent two days in the office the first week and will definitely keep that up going forwards.

Chris Sury
Chris Sury

“At Brands2Life we can flex that up, and I’ve done some four-day weeks in the space. I’m a big fan of hybrid working as it gives me flexibility around my social life, and the opportunity to work in different spaces means more creative inspiration. And more coffee shops to be explored!

“I was buzzing to come back to the office and see colleagues again. Being in an agency and around people is one of the best bits about our jobs, and we’re in a great spot on the Southbank. The team has done a great job redesigning the office so we have more hubs and workstations – when I come in I genuinely feel like I’m going to have a fun, productive day and mixing up where we work is so refreshing!

“I want to keep the hybrid model of working.

“I’m a keen cyclist and I enjoy my commute to work, it wakes me up in the morning and means I don’t miss out on exercise. That’s how it was before the pandemic and since.”