Over a year since many companies first told their staff to work from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic, a Welsh independent advertising agency has decided to embrace the model of the future, by moving to a ‘blended working’ policy full-time; allowing its people to work from a mix of home and the office moving forward.
While the pandemic posed initial challenges for S3 Advertising’s workforce of 34, the team quickly fell into the flow of remote working, delivering stand-out creative advertising campaigns, virtually.
Based on this success, S3 – which has recently undergone a rebrand and revealed its new brand identity, ‘Where the Little Bite Big’ – carried out an anonymous survey with staff in the middle of 2020 to gather feedback. Its results revealed a huge 80% imagined their work/life balance post-COVID to include more flexibility.
“We felt it important to show that we value work life no more than our people’s personal lives, so acted immediately,” says S3’s Managing Partner (HR & Operations), Mel Matthews.
“Our people are the life and soul of the agency. Without them we wouldn’t exist, so they, of course, have to have a voice in the key decisions we make.
“One of our values is staying true to yourself, so as a diverse bunch, coming from all walks of life, we recognise that a 9-5 doesn’t suit everyone.
“Therefore, the first step was to stretch flexible working hours from 7am to 7pm, while also introducing a robust sick pay policy and strengthened private medical insurance plans which include mental health and wellbeing support.”
What became clear from the results of the survey was that S3’s people were relishing the benefits of working from home; including saved time and money on commuting, more time with loved ones and the feeling of trust to produce work as and when it suited them.
But they also hugely valued the benefits of a shared, creative office space, seeing it as a place to collaborate with the rest of the team, share ideas and bounce off each other – traits which are the lifeblood of S3’s high-energy, creative agency set-up.
“The staff feedback was refreshing to see. We are a close-knit team with a stand-out ambitious, down-to-earth culture, so it was no surprise that people still valued having a space to come together and create.
“However, hearing how working from home benefits the team led me – and the rest of the agency’s Managing Partners – to consider what the best working patterns and office setup of the future will look like.
“Rather than wait to see what a COVID recovery would have in store, the introduction of a ‘best of both’ blended working policy was a no-brainer.
What S3’s Blended Working Model means (once COVID restrictions allow):
“When we say S3 Advertising is ‘Where the Little Bite Big’, that’s exactly what we mean; We identified the external trends in the changes of workplaces and acted on them before many others. Ahead of the game in the ‘adland’ world, we strive to continue this when it comes to our staff.”
The change means S3 will permanently leave Cardiff’s Central Square development, which has been its home since 2016, later this year.
The agency wanted to ensure before the policy was introduced that everybody had the ability to work from home just as effectively as they could from the office. Therefore, it invested in new technology including laptops, screens, desks and chairs to make remote working as comfortable and effective as possible.
Now the business is on the hunt for its next home. Remaining in Cardiff city centre, it wants a creative space where staff will be able to come to collaborate with their colleagues and spend time together. The new space will reflect its bold ‘Biting Big’ personality, in the way that it looks and feels.
“The decision has led to a happier workforce and we truly believe we have the most loyal and invested people any organisation could ask for.”
This belief was cemented by S3 winning ‘Employer of the Year’ at the 2020 Cardiff Business Awards and being listed as ‘One to Watch’ by Best Companies.
Mel concludes, “Since introducing blended working, we’ve taken on some new, exciting clients, and seen current clients stay with us long-term.
“I think it goes to prove, it doesn’t matter where, when, or how you work.
“Furthermore, blended working not only reduces our carbon footprint, but also strengthens our commitment to diversifying our workforce – allowing us to recruit the very best new talent and continue proving you don’t need to go to the ‘big smoke’ – and pay London price tags – to get work that bites big.”