By Mark Kelly

There’s lots of discussion in agencies about when’s the right time – and in what format – for businesses to fully return to the office. I’ve been part of some of those discussions myself with agency clients. Whilst there are some examples of long-term remote working agencies, I believe that there’s no substitute for face to face meetings and the culture that builds from having a permanent physical space as a company hub (even if everyone isn’t in there all day every day). A hybrid approach may be the way forward for many, certainly in the near future. Whatever the scenario, everyone needs to feel comfortable with what’s next as a business.

The themes above were discussed in the recent (excellent) MPA Big Debate ‘are you fit for work?” See the recording of the event via Your FLOCK on YouTube. A couple of take outs from the debate struck a chord with me:

  • Meeting with others in person (not via video) has a way of freeing up conversation – those ad hoc exchanges that develop with no fixed meeting agenda can lead to serendipitous moments and spark creative thinking
  • Self-care for leaders is as important as their caring for the team

The intersection of these two insights resonated with me because of the Agency Walk and Workshop sessions I was running, before COVID and lockdown put them on hold. The half or whole days are about taking coaching / sounding board support out onto the hills and then wrapping it up with a sprint-like workshop session back under cover (with coffee or beer to hand). Feedback showed that getting away from the office really helped the owner or senior team to work (walk?) through issues they had been wrestling with.

So, I’m biased in saying that there’s no substitute for the outdoors to help you think through what’s next, to get the team bonding again, to tackle any thorny problems. But there’s lots that’s been written elsewhere about the benefits of walking (and talking) to generate ideas and encourage the connectedness of a team: being outside is good for us and our businesses. For example, Arianna Huffington does a great job in extolling the virtues of energising your thoughts with a walk. Even on a grey cloudy day, a good walk works wonders for blue sky thinking, ‘Solvitur ambulando’ (“it is solved by walking.”) as Diogenes, 4th Century BC philosopher is believed to have said.

There are other folks running different combinations of group or individual networking (netwalking) or coaching sessions, two that spring to mind are the excellent Fresh Walks (I’ve enjoyed a few of these, always a great trip out) and Good Footing over in Yorkshire, check them out if you haven’t already.

So when you do return to the office, in whatever format, check that the plants have survived, then turn around and hit the hills.