Ampersand goes hybrid: what will our new normal look like?


You may have seen our LinkedIn announcement a few weeks ago about our decision to move to a hybrid working model. I thought I’d share how we arrived here and what our new normal will look like.

Covid-19 has been difficult for us all. There’s no denying that. It’s been a period full of uncertainty and unknowns. It’s not been an easy few months for Ampersand but we’ve adapted and started to think about what our new normal will look like. And for Ampersand, our new normal means hybrid. 

Before lockdown, Ampersand’s team was office-based. Our working from home policy was utilised when you needed a distraction-free day or had a fridge delivery, but it wasn’t something any of our team used everyday. We were hesitant to provide more remote working options because we cherished the team unity and the collaboration our awesome office space facilitated, and to be honest, we had no clue where to start.

Enter Covid-19

Following government guidance, like many, we started to work from home in March. To make the overnight transition as seamless as possible for the team, we implemented new tools such as Sococo, our virtual office workspace, and increased team communication and support, including the introduction of twice-weekly company stand-ups. 

Fast forward three months and the team was thriving. Two client sites had launched, new client work had been won and the team was staying engaged through Sococo, Slack and Hangouts. Needless to say, working remotely was working! And so began the conversation about a long-term hybrid option for Ampersand. And as with any change that happens at Ampersand, it started by asking…

What does the team want? 

I sent out an employee survey to gauge how the team was finding remote working, what they missed about the office, how long their normal commute was and COVID-19 aside,  what was their ideal way of working.

80% of the team wanted a mix of office-based and remote working, with a slight majority wanting two days in the office and three days working from home. The other 20% said that working fully remote was their ideal. So it was clear that a hybrid model was going to work for us.

The team raised four main challenges Ampersand would have to overcome to successfully implement hybrid working:

  1. Ensuring we maintain social interaction through socials, team days in the office, and compensating the little things we do in the office, such as celebrating birthdays;
  2. Ensuring communication is consistent and intentional for everyone in the business, even if some team members are remote and some are in the office; 
  3. Ensuring the space both in the office and in the team’s home office is sufficient for a hybrid working; and
  4. Ensuring the hybrid culture cultivates trust in all team members, no matter where they choose to work. High trust, high accountability.

Now that I had the data to support the shift, the next phase was to identify Ampersand’s overarching goal in moving to a hybrid model. I needed to find inspiration from the companies making it work, which begged the question…

Who’s doing this well? 

There were ten companies that really stood out to me as examples of what Ampersand should strive for when it came to successfully fostering a hybrid working culture: Basecamp, Utility Warehouse, Formidable, Novoda, Stripe, GitHub, Zapier, Aha!, Invision, & Balsamiq

The four key attributes they had in common:

  1. Office days are not mandated. I.e fully remote is an option; 
  2. Office spaces are varied with meeting rooms, break out spaces and quiet spaces to suit all needs; 
  3. They have a strong employer brand presence for colleagues and candidates alike; 
  4. Each company recognises the importance of clear communication, particularly in written form. 

Not only did these echo some of the challenges that the team had raised in the survey, but it provided a clear path on how we were going to make it happen. The next step was determining…

What is Ampersand’s goal? 

After reading about these stellar organisations, it was clear that Ampersand needed to think bigger. If we were going to make hybrid working successful, we needed to be truly hybrid, i.e accommodating all options, from fully remote to fully office based. And so this confirmed our goal: our hybrid mindset will be remote first, with an option to work in the office, but our culture and processes will be driven by a remote approach, eliminating division and isolation and facilitating communication and collaboration. We will have team days in the office for activities that are of high value face-to-face, for example company meetings, new starter’s first week, and project launches. 

What’s next? 

We’ve collected the data. We’ve explored the research, found some examples of best practice and we’ve nailed down our goal. So what’s the next step to make hybrid working a reality? 

An office makeover. 

The research suggests that a completely open office is the worst type of office to have when it comes to hybrid working. Ampersand’s current space is completely open plan… I’m talking “I could run laps around this office” and “this would make a great bowling lane” type of space. Without a more conducive office environment, hybrid working won’t be successful, which means we are starting from scratch. And so we’re bringing in some experts to build a space that supports our hybrid goal.

We will also be updating our internal culture touchpoints, such as our company handbook and company blogs, because the companies who are making a success of hybrid working, are also activating their employer brand through telling employee stories and writing company blogs about their new way of working.

Our new normal and you

As we look ahead to the remainder of the year and into 2021, our new normal will be defined by true flexibility, collaboration and transparency.  We’ll be sharing this journey to #ampersandsnewnormal, so stay tuned for updates on how we are making hybrid working a remote first reality for our team. 

And if this sounds like something you want to be a part of, check out our Careers page for our open roles.