Atomic 212° is at the forefront of developments in workplace structure, productivity and flexibility. The media and advertising agency has spearheaded a multi-faceted approach that will see the business position itself as the ‘Workplace of the future’.
“We are gradually implementing dozens of small changes across the business, experimenting with unique ways of working in order to create a flexible work environment and hopefully foster creativity,” CEO Jason Dooris said.
“This isn’t about having all the answers, it’s about adopting a test and learn mindset. Just because people have been working a certain way for years, it doesn’t mean it’s the best way to work, or the most productive or efficient.”
Phase one of the agency’s productivity plan was the ‘Talk First’ Initiative, which the business rolled out in late 2015. This saw the agency ban internal emails, in a bid encourage staff to talk to each other rather than firing off emails constantly. The initiative was aimed at improving work-life balance and to stop staff members assigning tasks on weekends and outside of work hours.
“We implemented the ‘Talk First’ initiative in order to stop professional discourtesy, where staff would simply allocate tasks without actually talking to the people around them,” Dooris said.
The second phase of the plan has been implemented in recent weeks. Phase two was coined the ‘Fresh Air Project’. This revolves around flexible working environments. For example, Atomic 212° employees are encouraged to take lightweight tables and chairs onto the Atomic 212° wharf in Walsh Bay in order to generate creativity and bolster productivity.
“A change in environment can have a huge impact on creativity. We work in such a beautiful part of Sydney that is seems ludicrous to be couped up in the office, especially when we are supposed to be generating creative ideas.”
The agency is bringing the notion of a flexible work environment to life through a number of small changes to the office – these include standing desks, remote office strategies and hot-desking. The most senior staff in the business frequently relocate their work spaces within the office, in order to give junior staff access to the most experienced people in the business.
The agency also began introducing the Double Robotics telepresence robot in its offices to allow for a mobile, remote office experience. The Double device is a portable screen with video and audio capabilities, which can be controlled and manoeuvred remotely. This allows staff members to attend meetings and workshops from their home, or from different Atomic 212° offices around Australia and New Zealand.
The third phase of the plan relates to flexible work hours. “We haven’t developed a fancy name for this phase yet,” Dooris joked.
The agency has been a major supporter of flexible work hours since its inception. “There is a major issue in our industry with mothers returning to work – we have put flexible structures in place to encourage women to come back to work after having children, in an environment where they don’t have to feel guilty for leaving the office to spend time with their families. We have staff who leave the office a couple of times a week to go to university. We have staff who prefer to work from home on some days. We’ve always been very flexible.”
However, the third part of Atomic 212°’s workplace rollout will see this approach solidified in the agency’s business plan and performance indicators. “We’ll be ramping this up significantly in the coming months.”
Many of these changes were inspired during Dooris’ frequent business trips to Japan. “The flexible workplace model in Japan is very impressive. We certainly don’t want to replicate everything, but the flexibility strategies I saw were a real eye opener.”
Dooris was careful to point out that these workplace changes have not been designed to upend the entire office. “Banning internal email definitely took some adjustment, but the other changes have been incremental. It’s about creating a flexible work environment which caters for different people.
“Some people prefer the standing desks, other people like to sit. Some people have taken to working outside with gusto, whereas others are comfortable at their desks in the office. Some people like to take a couple of hours off in the middle of the day to do their chores or exercise, others prefer more traditional hours. We don’t want to be encouraging people to work ridiculous hours, but if someone is a night owl and does their best work at midnight, we want to allow them to work when they feel most productive. We want to cater to everyone’s preferences.
“This isn’t an entirely altruistic move. The idea is to create a more effective and productive workplace. We are testing and learning as we go along, but anecdotally the changes are already having a very positive impact on the business.”