With lockdown restrictions hopefully easing, a hot topic amongst all business owners is the question of ‘Do we need an office?’ Working from home for over a year has created a new normal for employers and employees alike.
Some companies have implemented the change better than others, and some staff have struggled to adapt to the home environment easily. Whilst the idea of having no commute is joy to people’s ears, are we downplaying the purpose and social necessity of what an office brings to our daily lives?
There is a clear divide of owners that feel strongly about maintaining an office space that holds business values, whilst others wish to cut their costs and provide employee morale in other ways. We spoke to CEO of Absolute Translations, Sergio Afonso. As an owner of a translation company, he has seen the business excel during a tricky year and has decided to hand the keys back to his office, invest £200k into automation and make staff 100% remote.
We found out his rationale behind the decision and the future for the company:
How did your business deal with the shift to WFH?
“Absolute Translations, before the pandemic, was employing 25 staff members in offices based in Hammersmith. Due to the increasing amount of stress from the pandemic, we decided to close our offices one week before the national government lockdown was announced. Up until this date, I have never had any staff members working from home, and from implementing new processes to setting up specialist software, it was all very much from ground zero. As with anything as new as this, there were challenges and teething problems. However within a few days, all staff members were up and running working from the comfort of their homes.”
Did you face any challenges?
“One of the main challenges for any owner is the possibility of less productivity. However, with the use of technology, we have been able to implement basic monitoring systems, keeping everyone happy. In fact, Absolute Translations have found that productivity is higher with team members working from home, which was totally unexpected!”
How do your employees feel about never returning to the office?
“After taking a poll, I was very surprised to find out that 85% of my team prefer to work two days or less from the office. The flexibility of not having to travel to work, seemed to be one of the main factors. During the pandemic, flexibility has allowed some team members to temporarily be working from home in other countries. This option gives the team members a bigger sense of freedom and with the trust I give them, our working relationships have improved.”
How will you operate WFH full time?
“We have invested over £200,000 in upgrading our software and systems, which allow for more flexibility. Online working environments tend to be faster with high-level security and better screen resolution for end users. This experience allows team members to work more efficiently and with less stress and IT issues – something we had a lot of in the offices!”
How will you maintain company culture and boost employee morale remotely?
“This is the best part! Historically, Absolute Translations have enjoyed Christmas parties abroad, from places such as Copenhagen to Morocco. This was a great opportunity for team building and provided me with the idea to execute this more. The international adventures are now at the forefront of the plans for the new working environment.
The budgets for office rent, will be directed to taking staff members on work retreats in different European countries! This will boost team morale whilst showcasing the Absolute Translations brand. Imagine one month visiting the team in Paris and the next Turkey – it’s much better than dreary daily commutes on a rainy morning.”
Are you excited for the future of the company?
“Yes! The world has changed, and we truly believe that will never go back to exactly how it was before. We can either labour the fact of the inevitable or push forward and innovate. Technology, customer demands, and working environments are changing so fast, that if you blink, you may miss it. Businesses need to think about the bigger picture here – different doesn’t mean wrong.”
Sergio Afonso is CEO of Absolute Translations.