Detected Culture: Beyond the office - Navigating the future of work

Mar 22, 2024
Mar 25, 2024
min read
Ben Ainslie

Recently Steve Mason, IT Operations at Detected, attended the Wales Technology Leadership meetup on "Beyond the office - Navigating the future of work' discussing the merits of both fully remote working and office (full or hybrid) based work. 

Steve works at Detected in a full-time capacity from home; however the company operates a remote first hybrid model, with various teams  adopting a mixture of working patterns. Joining Steve on the working from home side of the panel included Alex Kavel and Joseph Seddon. The panel supporting office work was made up of Amy Taaffe-Evans, Drew Evans and Claire Farren.

We sat down with Steve to ask him about the event.

To start off, can you summarise the best parts of the evening?

It was a fantastic experience getting the chance to debate within a lively and constructive panel. The audience fielded some excellent questions. I think what is especially clear to me now is that everyone has their own personal preference for how and where to get work done; there’s so many pros and cons for office, hybrid or remote work but ultimately it comes down to the individual. The phrase “Work from home, not work alone” really captured the essence of both the opportunity and challenge.

Steve, centre with white shirt, alongside the panel and guests.

Let’s start off on your side of the discussion, what was one of the main positives about working from home?

One of the big benefits from a completely remote setup is the additional time you get to spend with your family, or pursuing your own interests or simply doing chores. For me personally, having just started a family, working from home means more quality time with my family as my child is growing up - I never miss those moments that many would miss by being in the office. Work is important but family is the most important.

And to even things out, what was one of the main benefits of hybrid work that was discussed?

A lot of time was spent discussing water cooler moments. Brief, informal, interactions between teammates are done much better in person and help promote positivity, understanding of each other and ultimately benefits how well a team can work together. These events simply don’t take place when you’re working from home.

However, my side of the panel pointed out that while these physical interactions are impossible, there are still ways to keep in touch with your teammates easily. Short video calls and readily responding to any news in the company’s internal communication platform still keep you involved. Although I do appreciate that this requires proactiveness and still doesn’t perfectly replicate the simplicity and ease of getting to know people in person.

What do you see as one of the negative aspects of full office work that offers little flexibility?

When office work is mandated it can be argued that this is a sign of distrust and unnecessary control. This, of course, is not the case for the vast majority of companies that operate out of offices, but in some instances, especially those with bad cultures, it can be more malicious than you may expect.

Our side of the panel argued that in a time when there is so much flexibility over where people can work it seems unnecessary to impose these strict restrictions on employees. Professionals should be trusted to be able to do their tasks and as long as they are adding value to your company, then it doesn’t matter where or even when an employee completes their work. There must be balance, respect and compassion.

What about when working fully from home, what are the downsides?

When you work from home there is, of course, the physical separation between yourself and your coworkers. This means that if a team member is struggling with their workload or even personal matters it can be harder to notice, reach out and help them. It can be easier for an individual to put on a ‘brave-face’ or have their camera off for a short video call but it’s harder to keep that up for a whole day in an office alongside other people.

However, I think criticisms of working from home often get associated with the thought of somebody working in a small dark corner of their house, clocking in and out on the dot and not interacting with the team unless absolutely necessary. I believe that this is far from the truth for the majority of home workers; they still want to interact, enjoy and be involved with the rest of the team just as much.

This was when I accidentally coined a new phrase “work from home, not work alone”’ which effectively means in companies where employees do work from home, there must be measures in place to ensure that meet ups, team building and other activities are still arranged - whether they be virtual or office based.

The panel discussed the merits of both office and home based work, fielding some great questions from the audience too.

In terms of development how does remote work versus office based work impact an individual?

This was one aspect that was strongly contested with both sides of the panel making some great points towards what setup was best for an employee’s development.

The office based working side argued that when new people join your team, the learning curve is much easier and quicker in person - it’s simply easier to teach someone in person. Additionally not everyone has the same equipment, internet speed or technological know-how which may impact their success when working from home. Being in an office environment allows questions to be asked and a general awareness of the company’s culture and operations to be soaked up.

However, my side of the panel saw what a great opportunity working from home is for those who possess great skill sets but are located in a place which isn’t the forefront of technology. By working remotely your skills can be used globally; where you live shouldn’t be a factor of how well you progress in your career. 

Thanks for all the insights Steve, personally, what are you taking forward from this debate?

Ultimately, everyone came to a consensus and agreed that communication was an important part to play no matter what team structure you have. That value should be brought to both the company and the employee to make it a mutually beneficial agreement.

While there are options for how people choose to complete their work, human interaction is still essential and must be arranged by the company frequently enough and in convenient ways for their employees.

Finally, I also really enjoyed attending and taking part in the debate and hope that I can do more events on topics, like this, that hold particular importance to me. 

To read more about the evening’s discussion points and the considerations and ideas that were put forward for both office work and remote work please follow this link. 

Article by
Ben Ainslie

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