Before Covid and lockdown, an office was seen as a sign of success, the larger the office and the more prestigious the address, the greater the success…but often the stress!
As the owner of a small and successful PR company that specialises in beauty and wellness, I have wrestled with the overheads of running a centrally located London office for the last fifteen years. The office is great, we love it, its spacious, it’s in the heart of the media district, it’s an expression of the team’s personality, tastes and success, its essential…. or is it?
The Flipside team varies between four and six members and our office, with its own meeting room, is just under 900 square feet, so it’s rather luxurious in terms of space and the location is enviable! But these perks come with a cost, especially with the escalating rent and rates situation pre Covid. It’s not that we can’t afford it, it’s more about what we could save and invest back into the business without such large overheads….and then lockdown happened!
I actually closed our office a week before the official lockdown was introduced. I think people thought I was a bit over the top, but I saw no point in putting myself and my team in danger when we could work from home. I had no idea how it would go but it very quickly became apparent that we could work from home efficiently and we adapted quickly, so much so, that within a few weeks it felt perfectly normal. Gone were superfluous emails, time-wasting meetings and travel plus we experienced the creative freedoms that come from not being constrained by the clock.
We frequently communicate with one another and our clients on Zoom and it make us feel more, not less connected and its very time efficient. It’s given us space to be even more creative and we launched our new website, conducted multiple new business meetings via Zoom, signed up some amazing new clients and took part in virtual seminars to help us learn new skills. We even recruited a new member of staff via a Zoom interview and we also reached out to trusted freelancers to give us additional support. Our working relationships with journalists and Influencers have grown even stronger and our press coverage portfolio would give larger agencies a run for their money!
At the same time, while we were adapting and growing and working very hard as a team to deliver an uninterrupted service to our clients, we were not given any relief from our rent or rates during lockdown. Despite the circumstances, the property management repeatedly hassled us for rent even though we have been a loyal tenant for many, many years and that really stung, especially when it was announced that our landlord is one of the richest men in the UK! It all seemed a bit unfair and unnecessary.
Clients care about what you provide and not where you work. Success is all about a team who have a great attitude and are able to learn and adapt quickly and we have certainly proved we can.
So, as we near the end of our current office lease, I wonder do we really need the overheads of such a large central London space? Sure, we need a space of some sort because we deal with products that need to be sent out to journalists and also, we are really looking forward to being back together as a team, but would it be better in the long term to join up with like-minded people who also want to cut their costs and share our underutilised office space? Are there other companies out there perhaps in marketing, SEO, design or web development, or even freelance PR’s who have a client roster but would like work in a more collaborative and secure business environment? It’s certainly hard to be freelance right now. Or maybe there are PR companies who specialise in different sectors that combined would be stronger?
If, like us, you are reflecting or pondering, then we would like to hear from you.
What would we consider? Everything and anything. Let’s start seeing if we can work more efficiently, save costs that benefit our businesses and our clients and be lean and mean in the new era.
Here’s to the next chapter!