We're learning: How Mother is going back to school (office life)
A view from Chris Gallery

We're learning: How Mother is going back to school (office life)

It's back-to-school season, and Mother's partner explains how the agency is trying to bring more joy to the return to the office.

It’s that time of year. Back to school. Summer’s over. The traditional rainy August Bank Holiday weekend has signified the end, and a new beginning. I’ve packed my school bag. Laptop fits in snugly and I’ve got my new uniform, facemask included/essential.

I always have thought of Mother a bit like school. All my friends are there. There’s usually an impending exam looming (read: pitch). The teachers are annoying, but the lunches are pretty good.  

We were sent home six months ago and I miss my friends, and even some of the teachers. I’m ready to go back. I’m sick of being home-Zoomed and I miss the buzz of the corridor and the bits that happen between classes.

I’ve actually been back for a month. I missed it so much I have been trialling office life through August. So far I’ve learned a change of scene from home isn’t a bad thing. Meeting people in real life is energising. Social distancing works fine in a massive warehouse office space. Having lunch made for you and not having to wash up after is a revelation.

We reopened on 3 August for our test and learn phase. We did all the things that a responsible employer should do – the health and safety audit, checks with our insurers, physical changes to allow for social distancing, one-way systems, and a lot of organic, fairtrade hand sanitiser (Hande, if you fancy supporting a social enterprise while killing germs). But we did it with a little fun, from the way we’re asking people to obey the one-way system, through to making sure the lunch queue didn’t require bouncers, everything made me smile.

I have walked out of the front door the wrong way a few times but in honesty the office has felt like a safe space and people have respected the safety guidelines and parameters.

What’s next? We’ve adapted well to life over Zoom. We’ve done shoots, made global campaigns, hosted social-distanced drinking experiences and we’ve won some pitches. We’ve even done yoga.

We can work virtually. More accurately we can make it work virtually.

But we don’t want to spend forever making it work. We want to enjoy work and thrive, not just survive, and that means finding a balance.

We aren’t going to make any bold claims about the future of work yet. But the right now of work can start including some IRL work experiences.

We aren’t going to all of a sudden bring everyone back in, but we do want everyone to try one day in the office. Over the course of September we’ll be hosting team days where groups of departments will be assigned office slots, using those days to see their colleagues and friends in real life again. New joiners can see their Mother’s pic on the wall in reception, and everyone can realise how unfit they are when they climb the 870 steps to the second floor.  

It’s back to school, with a little less homework.

Chris Gallery is a partner at Mother.