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How can remote teams stay connected? St Luke’s says staff surveys are the solution

St Luke’s will still base itself from its office, which has moved to Covent Garden in London

Agencies across the industry are reimaging what work looks like. Will remote workers return? Can team cultures survive as long-distance relationships? And will agency bosses keep their promises? In the wake of the pandemic, we explore the different ways agencies are evolving to meet the needs of staff and clients in a changed world.

With competition for advertising talent hot as economies restart, staff policies at creative agencies are under more scrutiny. But for those businesses revising their ways of working to ensure they’re desirable places to work, how do you know which measures will be a hit with the team? For indie agency St Luke’s, the answer was easy: ask them.

Listening exercise

The company has used regular anonymous surveys throughout the pandemic to monitor staff morale and inform decision-making. According to managing director Ed Palmer, it will keep the practice in place indefinitely.

”When you’ve got some or all of your staff working from home, you have to make much more of an effort to stay in communication,” he says. ”Because the situation changes all the time... we ask questions like: how are you finding the situation? How’s it at home? What could the company do better?”

Previously, Palmer and the rest of the management team relied on the office itself to stay in the loop.

”In the office, things can be more organic. You can have passing conversations with people and it doesn’t need to be structured.”

While St Luke’s will be an ‘office-first’ company going forward, some staff will work remotely, some of the time. So the surveys are staying.

”We’re moving to a world where there’s going to be more hybrid working. It’s an office-first policy... but there will be more flexible working. We’re experimenting with three days in the office and two at home, when it’s safe to do so. That means there will be fewer people in the office and that means the need to check in with people more regularly will remain indefinitely.”

St Luke’s stages its surveys every two months, using the same set of questions in order to establish benchmarks. It’s already led to several staff policy changes.

”If you do a survey and you don’t act on the findings, then people quickly become disillusioned by it,” he cautions. So, when staff told them they felt safe in the office, but not on their commute, the agency provided cash to buy staff bicycles. When creatives habituated to raiding the stationary cupboard complained about a lack of writing and design materials, St Luke’s created a grant available for everyone. When staff told them working from home was uncomfortable, the agency gave everyone £200 to make their ersatz office space a better nest. ”We call it the ’Make yourself more comfortable fund’,” he explains.

Future of working

The surveys, and St Luke’s reaction to working from home, aren’t the only changes to its staff policies. It’s moving into new premises in Covent Garden, which Palmer says have been built ”the way we want it for the future of working”. He says: ”We’ve got co-working spaces, we’ve got private booths for ’deep work’. We’ve got places where clients can hang out; we’ve got a nice roof terrace. When people are going to come in, they want to come to a nice place.”

And while it still aims to keep the office as its hub, it will allow staff to work from any location for one week a year – time zones and wifi permitting – as an addition to staff holiday allowance. Palmer says it’s intended to be used ”if you want to stay with your parents for another week, or in Spain another week – just work during the day and party at night”. He’s already booked in his use of the policy, and will be using it to extend a family holiday to Dorset.

”I’ve got two young kids; to be able to stay down there for another week and have fun while I’m working will be great for them.”

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