Early in the Covid-19 lockdowns, questions of “returning to the office” typically revolved around proposed dates and mask protocols. But as the pandemic has continued through its second year, the nature of work has become a highly complex and potentially volatile topic at companies around the world.
For many organizations, it’s no longer about a “return to normalcy.” It’s about defining a new normal—and finding the sometimes elusive balance between productivity and your team’s emotional well-being.
That’s why Adweek is launching a regular interview series we call Open Plan. In each Q&A, we’ll ask company leaders how they’ve changed the way they think about offices, remote work and the many transitions ahead. Want to suggest an executive for this series? Email me at email@example.com.
For this installment of Open Plan, Olga Starichenko, CEO of Serviceplan Russia outlines some of her views and ideas on what has changed and what could be to come for the agency’s employees.
Adweek: How has the pandemic changed how you view workplaces?
Olga Starichenko: The workplace is no longer about one concrete physical space anymore. If you are equipped with a working mood, energy and a laptop—you could be even more efficient working from home than in the office.
How have you changed the office environment since the pandemic started?
Safety is vital. We have agile teams now with only a limited amount of people who could visit our office at one time and they need to check blood temperature at the entrance, use masks/sanitizers and keep a social distance. Two tables distance between each person is a must.
Are these temporary or permanent changes?
It looks like a new reality today. But as we all now know—we never really know…
How has it changed your view on working hours and what will you do to implement that?
On the one hand, working remotely shows that our people have started to be even more productive than in the office, but on the other working hours should be fixed and shouldn’t be blurred.
Do you believe in flexible working and if so, how do you define it?
Working hours are team hours when everybody should be available, count on each other and support one another.
What has been the biggest challenge about remote working?
We were much more prepared than we thought, but initially thinking about how to connect all our servers and ensure a good connectivity speed looked like it could be an issue—it’s great that it was not.
What benefits has the agency experienced from remote working?
We recalled what our family members look like! Of course, I’m kidding… Moscow is a huge city and two-to-three hours on one way from our homes to offices is not just stressful and expensive but also time-consuming. These days people spend these two-to-three hours on a good night’s sleep, so they feel better and happier and are therefore more productive during working hours.
What have you missed most, if anything, about working from the office?
Chatting next to a coffee machine for sure as small talk is important for team spirit—an energy exchange is far more efficient face-to-face.
If you could change one thing only about how the industry works—whether about the office, working patterns or anything—what would it be and why?
I wish I could make two hours from one every time it’s needed. Our industry is always on high speed, and online has sped up even more. While we should always remember that the times have changed, we all have only one mind still and should respect each other’s time.
How do you plan to do this?
I never give up on this thought.