Thought Leadership

“The less we’re together, the more together we try to be.”

Snap London on embracing change, throwing the rule book in the bin and the importance of human interaction

Oliver Lewis-Barclay

Managing Partner

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Zoom is the future. Agencies won’t have offices anymore. Prêt will go bust.

Most of the predictions about life after the pandemic were wrong, of course. All part of the panic that turned to excitement that turned to deathly boredom. Now here we are, more or less back where we started.

Except that, for Snap, the pandemic was just the (very big) thing that happened right before we moved into our new office in sunny Hoxton.

We know that everyone will turn up to work even when they don’t turn up at work

Oliver Lewis-Barclay is Managing Partner at Snap London

The move was part of an agency reset we’d been planning for some time. Not that we were miserable or fed up. We just thought we could find a way of working together that was more enjoyable, more productive - more us – and that would deliver even better work for our clients.

Our thinking was based on three simple beliefs.

Ironically, for a reset focused on moving offices, the first is:

1. WORK IS AN ACTIVITY, NOT A PLACE

This is something we’ve secretly known all along, right?

But, as most agency leaders will admit, it’s oddly comforting to see creatives in glass offices, feet on the desk, staring out of the window, chewing their black Pentels, having ideas – working. The fact that they may have no ideas for days on end, and then one pops into their head when they’re choosing toppings at Five Guys on a Sunday is neither here nor there. So, possibly the best consolation prize lockdown has given us is trust.

Suddenly agencies were at the mercy of their employees’ unobservable hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute decisions about how to spend their working days. We trusted them before – of course we did, kind of – but now we really had to trust them. And lo and behold, people chose not to take the piss. We all still did the work – on our balconies, in bed or lying on our tummies with one eye on the cricket. Often we did even more than usual. Because we were relieved of the faffy side of work (travelling, getting food, getting dressed), it was easier to think, to get shit done. Even if it wasn’t much of a laugh.

Now we take that trust as read. We know that everyone will turn up to work even when they don’t turn up at work.

Nonetheless, for practical manageability reasons, we do have regular days in the office (like many in our industry we are a bunch of TWaTs*). But that’s very much a guide not a rule. Why? Because:

2. ONE SIZE DOESN’T FIT ALL

Some people love Mondays in the office. No one loves Fridays. Or maybe they do. I don’t know, I’m never there.

Flexi days and flexi hours give people the chance to arrange work around their lives more than ever before. So we’re less stressed, and less resentful when we’re working ridiculous hours on a pitch. Turns out people work much better when they’re allowed to manage their own work/life balance.  

‘Deskcraft’ was much discussed. Hot desking vs having your own set workstation. But of course, it’s not binary. There’s a whole spectrum there if you’ll allow it.

Some people still like a place to call home, where they can spread out and retreat to between meetings. Fair enough. But lockdown – being forced to work from a child’s bedroom or in the queue for Waitrose - has loosened most people up a bit.

So having an office space where it’s easy to escape (from noisy co-workers, or their playlists on the Sonos) was key to the design of Snap Towers. We have lots of different spaces – the usual rooms and sofas and ‘The Snug’ (a weird, caged mezzanine space with, yep, sofas) inside, as well as picnic tables out in our suntrap of a yard-cum-garden – to go and do your thing in, your way.

In short, we’ve found warm desking is the way forward.

3. HUMAN INTERACTION (STILL) MATTERS

We’re not all working in the same space as much as we used to, so when we are together in person we now prioritise social interaction even more than we did before. And yes, I do mean we go to the pub quite a lot. But not just that.

There’s a thing called ‘Ladders’, where a group of high intensity people go and do high intensity interval training in the local park. Shower facilities are available.

For the less intense, our yard has a basketball hoop in it. Because we’re very very cool. And it’s on a proper high wall, not a wobbly stick, so people actually use it. There’s soon to be an all-weather table tennis table. There’s talk of table football. Not sure about that. Great game, but jeez, is it noisy. Decisions, decisions.

Basically, the less we’re together, the more together we try to be.

[* TWaT = Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday]

Guest Author

Oliver Lewis-Barclay

Managing Partner, Snap London

About

Oliver Lewis-Barclay is Managing Partner at Snap London. He studied English at Cambridge before starting his advertising career on Persil and NatWest at the ‘university of advertising’, J Walter Thompson. Oli graduated to the then way-too-cool-for-school BBH, running Audi and Sony, before starting a creative agency called Hooper Galton in the noughties, which actually did some cracking campaigns. It was acquired by VCCP in 2012, where Oli ran Just-Eat, Macmillan and Aunt Bessies, before helping found Snap in 2016, where he runs the Vitality, Landsec and AllPlants accounts. He lives in East Sussex with his two daughters (when they feel like it) and Skye, the dog (ditto), plays the piano and does a bit of comedy acting on the side.