Long has the office been the physical embodiment of a brand’s identity.
But times are changing. When the Institute of Directors (IoD) surveyed UK company chiefs in September 2020, more than half said they planned to cut workplace use long-term as their teams shift to working from home more permanently.
Companies that do embrace a hybrid or fully-remote model going forward should think about how that cost saving could be passed on to the employee by making sure their home workstations feel as comfortable, functional and connected to the brand as possible. Brands that do not will not only compromise their professionalism in front of clients, but their competitive advantage with talent - the lifeblood of our brands.
How we come across on zoom calls, and how well our microphone and camera work, affect how others view our brand. I really believe it's the company's responsibility to supply staff with the right high resolution webcam and the right audio equipment to ensure professionalism.
All it takes is a dodgy internet connection or a pixelated camera to take away the level of professionalism you would always have in person. So I think companies have a duty to ensure their people can present cleanly and seamlessly to maintain in-person standards.
Beyond the functional side of things, branding can play a huge part in connecting people to the spaces and the companies they are part of. We want our staff to feel proud and enthusiastic about working for us, and a lot of that comes from the connection they feel to the brand ethos, the story, their teammates, and so on. Having purpose and feeling part of an organisation is essential to our teams’ motivation and happiness.
When everyone in your company works from home, you are effectively operating out of isolated offices. So it's really important to visually and physically reinforce your brand to maintain engagement. That could be something as simple as making sure that everyone company-wide uses a Zoom template with the company logo in the corner to add consistency to meetings. Everyone is seen in the same light, no matter what their role is within the business, and there is a clear brand standard.
Things as small as branded notebooks and mugs aren’t expensive, but can also make a huge difference in terms of creating community feel. When we closed our office, we ordered branded mugs for team meetings. It's so nice to see everyone rocking up with their Quadrant Design mugs in the mornings, and that’s something that’s then portrayed in every other Zoom call they have too.
Before Covid 19, I didn’t have a home working space. I always preferred going to the office and being around everyone at work. However, when working from home became a fixed staple last year, I, like many of us, had to quickly set something up. I set up a little desk under the stairs, but working for a couple of months like that made me feel really sad, to be honest.
I was in a really dark room with no natural light. I didn't have the right home office equipment or set-up - I didn’t have a proper desk or chair. It was almost like there was no separation between day and night.
That experience really got me thinking about how important it is for us to feel connected to our workspace. There’s so much we need to do to ensure our employees are comfortable. But there’s also so much we have to do to maintain a strong brand.
Our office is located in a Victorian town house above a barber shop which oozes character through the building. We’ve also embezzled the office with lots of art prints and adorned the walls with colour.
I was fortunate. During the first lockdown, I moved house and gained a spare room. The first thing I did was turn that spare room into a functional home office space that felt like me, as well as the company.
For me, feeling like the company was mainly about adding colour because we don't work in a white empty space. I used a really simple and inexpensive DIY hack: I panelled the wall behind me with MDF batons and painted it a deep ink black. I also added my favourite prints to the walls and plants throughout as we have loads of plants in QD Towers. Making the space feel familiar has been really important for me, not only for having a cool Zoom background, but also for getting in the zone.
Obviously, not everyone has the luxury of being able to have a spare room that they can paint and decorate. But really simple things - like having plants on our desks and around us - makes a huge difference to how we feel every day. Surrounding our spaces with things that inspire us - whether that is artwork or a branded pen pot from the office - is crucial for happiness and motivation.
None of this is to say that the office doesn’t have a place in future branding strategies. Far from it. The office will just play a different role.
I see brand HQs becoming inspirational hubs and working like pop up stores for retail brands. When we visit retail pop up stores, we don’t necessarily know anything about the brand. The transaction doesn't happen there, but we engage with the brand here. We fall in love with the brand, learn about their ethos, and leave a fan.
And I believe offices will end up being just like this. Rather than being places where hundreds of employees come to do their work everyday, they will be hubs that accommodate social interactivity, meetings, collaboration, dreaming, and so on. Offices will also be where new staff and recruits come to find out about the company and understand what the ethos is. And it will all be about that brand experience and bringing people together, rather than the physical nine to five working.
Connect team members to your company ethos from the day they join. Hofy helps you deliver custom-branded onboardings, in a couple of clicks.